A Huron police dispatcher found himself on the wrong side of the law.
David Michel, a long-time dispatcher, resigned last week after he admitted stealing $5,200 of municipal funds. Michel was pocketing cash he collected as fees for fingerprinting services provided by the Huron Police Department, chief Randy Glovinsky said.
Michel resigned Thursday, city manager Andy White said. Michel agreed to make complete restitution and turn himself in to the Erie County prosecutor on a theft charge.
"He received payments as they came in and apparently destroyed any internal receipts, and the money was stolen in that regard," White said.
The thefts occurred from May 2007 until June 2008. Bills for the fingerprinting service were intercepted by Michel and destroyed, White said.
Michel, who worked for the city 19 years, handled dispatch chores and also serving as Glovinsky's secretary, the chief said.
"He's a very good person. He just made a bad error in judgment," Glovinsky said. "The guy probably was voted dispatcher of the year four or five times in his career here."
The theft was discovered after Glovinsky was contacted June 27 by a representative from the company that installed the city's electronic fingerprint equipment and informed the chief the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigations would shut down the city's fingerprinting for lack of payment, Glovinsky said.
When first questioned by Glovinsky, Michel said he had not received any bills from BCI. Further investigation by the chief revealed the city's finance department had not received any money for fingerprinting. A city finance clerk could not recall seeing "any money designated for fingerprint charges" according to Glovinsky's internal investigation.
When Glovinsky questioned him again, Michel "admitted he had been stealing the fingerprint proceeds" according to the investigative report. Michel apologized and said he was the only one aware of the theft, the report said.
Michel did not say why he stole the money or what he was using it for, Glovinsky said.
"You'd have to ask him," Glovinsky said.
Based on the investigation, White planned to terminate Michel at a July 3 pre-disciplinary hearing. Instead, Michel tendered his resignation and agreed to turn himself in to the Erie County Prosecutor for the theft charge and pay $5,200 back to the city, White said.
Michel will pay some of the money back with funds owed to him by the city for accrued leave benefits including vacation, holiday and compensatory time, White said. Michel will pay the rest back after receiving money he contributed to a state pension fund.
In his resignation letter Michel apologized for his actions and said he was not truthful when first questioned because he was "scared to death."
The Huron police investigation was turned over to the prosecutor's office, White said. Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter did not return a call for comment. A clerk in Baxter's office said the prosecutor's office had not received any information on the case.
The city is instituting new checks and balances to prevent a repeat of the theft, White said.
"We've set up an internal committee to review not just the police department, but every department in the city regarding collection of cash," White said.
It's been a tough year for the safety services department in Huron. Earlier this spring a firefighter and police officer were suspended without pay for 45 days for their roles in manipulating a blood pressure test to qualify for a "wellness" credit under the city's health benefits plans. Fire Chief Paul Berlin was suspended for three days without pay in June for failing to follow established protocols and improper supervision.
"I think good people make bad decisions. I think in the last several months in the city you've seen a few people caught up in that," White said.
White said the incidents should not reflect poorly on the city employees as a group.