By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
NASHVILLE — In 2011, the Wartburg Police Department seized a BMW sedan after arresting its owner on narcotics charges, and, according to an audit, the police captain’s wife used it at her house.
Tennessee law says the captain’s wife, a reserve officer, wasn’t supposed to use the car for anything other than drug enforcement purposes.
This was one of two key findings in an audit that state Comptroller Justin Wilson released this month. Wilson also stated the department was guilty of nepotism, as the police captain serves under his own father, Police Chief Earl (Teddy) Bales.
Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson
Bales didn’t return Tennessee Watchdog’s request for comment before publication.
Mayor Joey Williams, however, said he knows nothing of the criminal case that prompted police to seize the car. He also said he knows nothing about the person police arrested or if he or she ever went to trial, much less the outcome of it.
“We don’t abuse the laws here,” Williams said. “There’s never been any issues with any seized vehicles in the past. It’s always been pretty straightforward.”
According to the audit, police didn’t abide by their own policy on seized vehicles in 2011, which required that they sell them as promptly as possible. Police, however, didn’t sell the car until March 2013, the audit said.
“The reserve officer advised that she primarily used the vehicle for fundraising events and the purchase of supplies, but did occasionally use the vehicle to commute to her full-time job when she was volunteering her evenings at the Wartburg Police Department,” according to the audit.
City Alderman Jonathan Dagley told Tennessee Watchdog, however, that she and other officers often used the car for police business.
“That vehicle was then owned by a pawn shop, and we used it as a sting operations vehicle, and then there was maybe some misuse of the vehicle,” Dagley said.
“The vehicle was sold, and I was the one who made the motion for it and it was removed from our inventory.”
As for the comptroller’s finding of nepotism, Williams told Tennessee Watchdog the city’s previous captain died in the line of duty.
“It was kind of a bad time,” Williams said. “We just kind of went on with business as usual and we didn’t make the appropriate changes that we needed to. And in a small town it’s just kind of difficult to find good officers.”
Williams said city officials will now abide by their own nepotism policy.
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