Suspended town marshal resigns

For the Daily Reporter

INGALLS — A week after Ingalls suspended its town marshal, Ricky L. Martin, for five days, Martin resigned.

The town council voted unanimously to accept his resignation and appointed Capt. Chris Thompson interim chief at an emergency meeting last week. Martin had been the town’s marshal for nearly 14 years, officials said.

The council had suspended Martin based on a three-page disciplinary report listing 14 complaints against him. The five-member council signed the report, which listed actions described as conduct unbecoming an officer, neglect of duty and violation of standard operating procedures.

The report focuses on the marshal allowing a reserve officer to purchase police cars the town could then lease from him — obtaining a municipal discount and avoiding having to pay sales tax — without the council’s permission, according to the complaint; since those purchases were made, the town has not received lease agreements for the cars despite having paid for their insurance and license plates, the report states.

Martin also “abused (his) discretion)” by allowing officers to drive department vehicles for personal use outside the county without reimbursing the town for fuel, “despite the clear directive” from the council, the report states.

Council President Tim Green said the panel met in executive session Feb. 21 to discuss issues with the marshall’s leadership, then met in regular session and voted to suspend him.

The complaint provided by the Ingalls officials involved the purchase of a new Dodge Charger from Kahlo Chrysler Jeep on Oct. 8, 2010, and a 2013 Ford Interceptor Police Vehicle from Don Hind Ford June 9, 2012.

Green said the issue came to light after one of the police vehicles was involved in an accident outside of town. When officials attempted to turn in an insurance claim, the town learned the vehicle had been omitted from coverage; that prompted a review of insurance held on all town vehicles.

That was when council members saw the 2010 and 2013 police vehicles and questioned where they were and who authorized them, Green continued.

In the disciplinary action, the council accused Martin of improperly providing a friend, John Graham, who has been a volunteer on the Ingalls Police Department for about six years, with information and official town stationary to make the purchases, though “nothing associated with this transaction was authorized.”

The town of Ingalls was listed as the buyer, the vehicles were licensed with municipal plates by the town, and Graham was named as a lien holder.

Graham said the arrangement continued an earlier program he offered the town of Ingalls.

Graham said the town didn’t have a vehicle equipped with a great deal of crime scene investigation tools, and he did. He agreed to lease the car that he owned privately to the town for a dollar.

But that lease agreement ended within a few months, Green said.

Graham countered that in 2010, there was an agreement for the purchase of the newer car he paid cash for. He said it was licensed as a municipal vehicle, and he held the lien. When it was used by officers for business other than that of the town of Ingalls, the gas and maintenance was taken care of through his private business. The 2010 vehicle was used to help pay for the purchase of the 2013 car, Graham added.

Graham owns and operates Capricorn Security Co., and Martin was a part-time employee with Capricorn.

Graham said the council voted to approve the lease at its Feb. 11, 2013, meeting.

Minutes from that meeting do not include a discussion or vote on the lease agreement; minutes included a request to the marshal to provide the leases.

Town officials turned the matter over to the Indiana State Police for investigation at the suggestion of town attorney Gregg Morelock, Green said. Since then, the case has been passed among several departments.

ISP Sgt. John Bowling, public information officer at the Pendleton Post, said the investigation was conducted by the Special Investigations Unit in Indianapolis, and results of the probe were turned over to the Madison County Prosecutor.

Stephen Koester of the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office said the case was reviewed, and it was determined that if a crime had been committed, it happened outside Madison County. Such a case should be investigated by the Indiana Department of Revenue, Koester said.

On Friday, Green said he plans to contact the Department of Revenue to see if the town is now responsible for the sales tax on the purchases.

“I just want to know what our obligation is. We’re responsible to oversee this kind of thing for the taxpayers,” Green commented.

Graham said he is willing to pay the sales tax on the vehicles if necessary. His intent was not to avoid paying sales tax but to assist the town with use of equipment the town might not have access to, he said.

“It’s a common practice for smaller departments,” Graham commented.

Attempts to reach Martin for comment were unsuccessful.

In the complaint, Ingalls listed at least six instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer; six cases of violating the town’s standard policy and procedure for officers; two instances of fraud; and three counts of neglect of duty.