City worker charged with theft of surplus property

By Thomas Wilson

   A Hampton man and former municipal employee has been arrested by Elizabethton police involving the alleged theft of surplus scrap metal from the city of Elizabethton.
   Elizabethton police have charged a Hampton man with the theft of property last month that allegedly occurred while he was employed with the Public Works Department of the Elizabethton city government.
   Troy Lee Blevins, 39, 126 Sciota Rd., Hampton, was arrested Wednesday by the Elizabethton Police Department and charged with theft over $1,000 after he allegedly sold more than 6,500 pounds of brass components from water meter dials listed as surplus property for more than $2,500 cash.
   The arrest stemmed from a probe by the EPD's Criminal Investigations Division into three sales of scrap brass material Blevins allegedly made to Elizabethton Herb and Metal Company on April 15 and 16. The total weight of the scrap metal was 6,527 pounds according to police.
   According to the arrest warrant filed in Circuit Court by EPD Investigator Matt Bowers, Blevins allegedly sold three loads of brass for $626, $514.80, and $602 on April 15. He allegedly sold two additional loads for $518 and $330 on April 16 bringing the total cash received to $2,590.80.
   Police met April 20 with the city's senior accountant, Larry Clark, who told police that a city employee told him the previous day that a dumpster located at the City Garage at 720 S. Sycamore St., containing old water meters parts was found empty. The employee also told Clark there had been brass taken from another scrap metal pile at the same location. Clark reported at that time that two other city employees approached him on April 19 and made the same complaints of missing water meter parts.
   Clark told police he discussed the incident with City Director of Finance, Brad Moffitt, and then spoke with Joe Smithdeal at Elizabethton Herb and Metal Company. Smithdeal said Blevins had brought two to three truckloads of brass to the facility to be recycled. He said Blevins told him that his supervisor had instructed him to bring the brass in and get cash in return.
   Smithdeal produced receipts of the amount allegedly received by Blevins. He said Blevins claimed he needed cash for these sales because "his boss was going to buy office furniture", according to police. The investigation revealed no money received from the sales had been turned into the city.
   Bowers said Blevins told city employees to remove the metal based on authorization from City Director of Purchasing, Gene Deloach. Bowers later interviewed Deloach who told him that he had not given Blevins any authority to remove the brass.
   City Manager Charles Stahl said Thursday that Blevins had been terminated as a city employee. He said the city government maintained a "zero tolerance" policy when any allegations of illegal use of public funds is involved.
   Deloach told the Star Thursday that city policy required payment by check for any transaction involving the sale of surplus in an amount over $100. Checks are typically written to the city of Elizabethton.
   "We prefer, almost insist, a check made out to the city of Elizabethton," Deloach said. Checks and receipts for the property are then turned over to the city's finance department to substantiate the sale.
   Deloach said each city department submits a list of surplus items for auction or sale to his department. Surplus property such as city vehicles or large machinery are typically sold at advertised public auctions or sealed bids. Items such as water and sewer meters or old car parts primarily valued for scrap metal are sold to scrap metal dealers like Elizabethton Herb and Metal, he said.
   Blevins is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court today.