Thrown Chairs, Resignations, And An Envelope Full Of Cash Follow Exposure Of 2-Man PD's Acquisition Of $1 Million In Military Equipment

from the Thetford-Popcorn,-LLC dept

A lot has happened in the small community of Thetford since we last covered the two-person police department's acquisition of $1 million in military gear through the 1033 program. It's not all MRAPs and weapons, though. Apparently Police Chief Bob Kenny was grabbing anything that wasn't nailed down, including a tractor, two Humvees, ATVs, a forklift, and any other supplies the federal government was agreeable to parting with.

The PD ran out of room to park/store everything, so it began dumping equipment "off-site:" on the private property of agreeable landowners. Things began to unravel when the town supervisor started wondering why the police chief had decided to turn the town into an episode of "Hoarders."

The Genesee County Sheriff's Department was called in to perform an audit but soon found it couldn't do anything because there was apparently no paper trail. That appears to have been a case of the Thetford PD playing keepaway with documents, because the Sheriff's Department decided to step things up in late April.

Officials with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant Thursday afternoon at the Thetford Township Police Department as part of an ongoing investigation into surplus military equipment.

Township Supervisor Gary Stevens confirmed April 26 investigators were "checking files and things" at the department as part of the search warrant.

"Files and things" are super-useful during audits. This decision to forcibly seize the paper trail was perhaps prompted by town residents' sudden disinterest in acting as off-site storage for Chief Kenny.

Township-owned military equipment that was being stored offsite, including a Humvee, were left at the Thetford Township Hall over the weekend by a resident who was storing them.

Township Supervisor Gary Stevens said he knew about multiple pieces of township-owned military surplus equipment being dropped off outside the building on Sunday, April 22.

"I heard it was coming down the road," said Stevens after a spirited township board meeting Monday night that included an exchange between the supervisor and one of the men -- Eugene Lehr -- who dropped off the equipment acquired by the township police department.

Spirited town meetings are now a regular occurrence. The first week of May brought the public resignation of one city employee (and two employees informing the town supervisor they could not work "under these conditions") during a meeting featuring hurled invective/furniture.

A dispute that allegedly included threats and a thrown chair caused the township hall at the center of an investigation into surplus military equipment to close 30 minutes after it opened Monday morning.

The town supervisor claims Kevin Bloss handled his public resignation with "some profanity." Bloss disagrees, stating he only said something that town supervisor Gary Stevens might have found personally offensive.

"I quit. You are an idiot and a deceitful person, I can't work for you," Bloss said he told Stevens.

At least one town employee has retained an attorney, which suggests litigation may follow the threats and insults.

The latest development casts even more doubt as to the legitimacy of the town's PD and the guy running it.

Officials will discuss the future of the Thetford police chief after an envelope of money was discovered within township-owned military surplus gear being stored at an off-site location.

The possibility of reprimanding or firing police Chief Robert Kenny is set to be discussed after Supervisor Gary Stevens called for a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 2, after Kenny was unable to attend this week's regularly scheduled gathering.

Kenny claims to have found an envelope of cash while moving 1033 equipment from someone's private land. The envelope had "LESO" written on it and that Chief Kenny claims he has no idea how much cash it contained. He also didn't seem all that concerned about claiming it. The town has turned it over to the Genesee County Sheriff as possible evidence in its ongoing investigation. Maybe it was destined for the acquisition of even more equipment, but the chief misplaced it in the piles and piles of 1033 equipment he'd already scattered across the town. It's hard to believe the "LESO" on the envelope stands for anything other than the federal government's Law Enforcement Support Office, which handles the paperwork for 1033 program acquisitions.

Meanwhile, town supervisor Gary Stevens and trustee Stan Piechnik have both been cited for criminal trespass as a result of their apparently uninvited visit to resident Eugene Lehr's farm. Lehr had drawn the attention of town officials for his sudden return of PD/military equipment a couple of months prior -- the stuff he dumped directly in front of city hall. Lehr claims he's being harassed by some town officials and has spearheaded a movement to have the two men who trespassed on his farm recalled.

This small town of 6,800 may indeed have other issues that need to be dealt with, but the town supervisor appears to feel a 2-person police department currently under investigation for amassing more than $1 million in military equipment is just something to be gazed at in the rearview mirror.

"I'm like everyone else. I want to get through this and get to the real issues that the township needs to be taking care of," said Stevens.

Quite obviously, Stevens is not like "everyone else." This situation has exploded from questionable to contentious and now involves an investigation involving another law enforcement agency where a search warrant was obtained to secure records the Thetford PD apparently didn't feel like handing over. To get everyone to move forward with their lives, the PD -- and its support in town hall -- need to be reined in and every dollar spent or earned accounted for.


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  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 29 Jun 2018 @ 12:40pm

    Monorail...monorail...monorail...

    This situation totally warrants a Simpsons reference.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2018 @ 1:03pm

    I can see Barney going

    for this stuff. But Andy? No way! Aunt Bea would burn his backside.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Jun 2018 @ 1:04pm

    "A dispute that allegedly included threats and a thrown chair caused the township hall at the center of an investigation into surplus military equipment to close 30 minutes after it opened Monday morning."

    For more sensationalism and impact you could have written "HALF of all chairs were thrown..."

    Oh wait, it wasn't in the PD. One third?

    Ahem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    michael, 29 Jun 2018 @ 1:17pm

    Kevin Bloss

    It might have been useful had this article mentioned who the hell Kevin Bloss was before talking about him quitting.

    (BTW, he's just a township employee with an unspecified job.)

    This isn't the first Techdirt article to throw a bunch of names at us without first telling us who those people are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Agammamon, 29 Jun 2018 @ 1:36pm

      Re: Kevin Bloss

      I don't think it really matters in this case. Dude could have been a dogcatcher for all the difference it would make to the story.

      I have no opinion on whether or not it was needed in other articles though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Spartacus, 30 Jun 2018 @ 5:09am

        Re: Re: Kevin Bloss

        Kevin Bloss was the groundskeeper/maintenance person and is the father of Thetford Township Clerk Leann (Bloss) Pennington. Let that sink in.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 29 Jun 2018 @ 1:35pm

    I'm thinking that if your local police force is a two-person operation - then you most likely do not need a local PD *at all*. That's not even enough for a full-time presence.

    Contract with the county.

    But then again, the sheriff is probably not going to be amenable to your arguments about why you need a traffic enforcement officer on the single road through your town that drops from 55 mph to 25 with no warning 5 miles before the town starts. Gotta pad that budget somehow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 29 Jun 2018 @ 1:43pm

    Something fishy...

    > Meanwhile, town supervisor Gary Stevens and trustee Stan Piechnik have both been cited for criminal trespass as a result of their apparently uninvited visit to resident Eugene Lehr's farm. Lehr had drawn the attention of town officials for his sudden return of PD/military equipment a couple of months prior -- the stuff he dumped directly in front of city hall. Lehr claims he's being harassed by some town officials and has spearheaded a movement to have the two men who trespassed on his farm recalled.

    Sounds like Lehr is trying to hide something... something more than just military equipment. He's trying to direct attention away from whatever else is on his land, hoping they'll be satisfied with just returning the surplus. Dumping the stuff in front of city hall and filing charges against anyone showing up at his place is more than suspicious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2018 @ 2:11pm

      Re: Something fishy...

      Under what authority could those two individuals search his land. They are not qualified inspectors, and have no more right to wander about his farm than any other private person.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 29 Jun 2018 @ 3:34pm

      Re: Something fishy...

      Whether he has something or they just think he does, yeah, their poking around on his farm after he returned a bunch of stuff does seem rather suspicious, and it would be interesting to know what they thought they would find(though I suspect they wouldn't be too eager to answer that).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Spartacus, 30 Jun 2018 @ 5:19am

      Re: Something fishy...

      The "trespass" occurred over six months before the dumping of items in the township hall parking lot. The two township board members went during business hours to view items on an asset listing specifying "offsite" location. The two traveled to the Lehr property, knocked on the door of the residence to ask and were granted permission from a woman who answered the door. Later in an apparent questionable conflict of interest, Mr Lehr contacted the Police Chief and made a trespass complaint. The complaint was rightfully dismissed (with prejudice) by the township prosecutor at arraignment. Only a few months after the Genesee County Sheriff began investigating irregularities with the police department's LESO participation did many of the offsite items show up unexpectedly in the township hall parking lot on a Sunday, one day prior to a scheduled township Board of Trustees meeting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 30 Jun 2018 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re: Something fishy...

        Ah, that makes more sense. This part of the story could have been explained better. But it's still a little suspicious that after the story breaks, he dumps all the stuff on City Hall. Any regular person would have called the police chief to come get his junk and not bothered with it himself. Not as bad as it seemed, but still a tiny bit fishy.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2018 @ 11:56pm

        Re: Re: Something fishy...

        Thank you sir for doing Cushing's job.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 29 Jun 2018 @ 2:28pm

    He who dies with the most toys, and throws chairs, wins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 29 Jun 2018 @ 4:43pm

    greedy

    What's crazy is that if the PD had just slowed down and not gotten so greedy the purchasing probably would have stayed hidden for a long time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Jun 2018 @ 6:16pm

    Just a few bad apples.... supported by people who enjoyed those bad fruits until the bill came & suddenly they are outraged at what happened.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 30 Jun 2018 @ 11:49am

    dont think to hard...

    "Lehr claims he's being harassed by some town officials "

    I wonder how many..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cenobyte40k (profile), 1 Jul 2018 @ 8:49pm

    Color me not surprised

    Oh look police acting like the police. Unethical and criminal. Never met a cop that wasn't one the other or both.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2018 @ 6:05am

    The Warrant

    I wonder what would have happened if the sheriffs department had executed that as a no-knock warrant. Two groups licensed to kill by the state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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