Leader Blues

Monday, July 09, 2007

TOP STORY >>Beebe official arrested for theft

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Beebe’s former code-enforcement officer was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with felony theft for allegedly keeping more than $2,500 in city inspection fees that he collected in the last three years he worked for the city.

Allen Ridings, 66, was fired in June 2006 after state auditors, acting on a tip from another city official, found that receipts for utility-permit inspection had not been turned into the city clerk.

Sources say Ridings, who also ran an inspection business that was independent of the city, would often ask builders for two checks, one for the city and one for him.

If convicted of the Class B felony, Ridings could face punishment of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The auditor turned in this report about Ridings: “Utility-permit, inspection fee receipts of $3,370 were not properly remitted to the city treasurer for the period January 1, 2004 through June 19, 2006. Former Code Enforcement Officer Allen Ridings was responsible for collecting and remitting permit fees to the city treasurer. Also, Mr. Ridings stated he improperly destroyed permit records evidencing receipt of city revenue prior to September 2005.

“The city reimbursed Mr. Ridings $8,282 for personal vehicle mileage documented by expense claims reporting 19,870 consecutive city-related business miles driven without any allowance for personal and commuting miles, during the period January 1, 2004 through June 19, 2006. Mr. Ridings was unable to determine the correct mileage for which he should have been reimbursed for conducting city business.

“Internal controls relating to inspection fees and mileage reimbursements should be strengthened.

“We recommend the city seek reimbursement for the undeposited inspection fees and for non-business mileage reimbursements improperly received by Mr. Ridings.

“City management has re-sponded that policies and procedures have been implemented to strengthen internal controls relating to inspection fees and mileage reimbursements.”

Mayor Mike Roberts-on, who was on the city council when Ridings was fired, said Thursday that the investigation that led to the felony charge against Ridings did not include the money the city paid him for mileage because former Mayor Donald Ward had signed off on the payment.

Robertson asked Ward late in 2006 when the audit report came out if the mileage problem had been resolved and Ward responded that city employees now must turn in odometer readings to collect for mileage.

Beebe Police Chief Don Inns said Det. Wendell Gines with the Arkansas State Police conducted the investigation that led to Prosecutor Chris Raff filing charges against Ridings.

Inns said he arrested Ridings and took him to the county jail where he was booked and then bonded out for $2,500. Currently, no court date has been set.