July 2, 2023
A state audit found that former Kensett Police Chief John Pollard received payroll overpayments of more than $66,000 over the last three years, while there were "no confiscation reports" filed for more than $7,000 "received and disbursed for drug buys" and his department had nearly $7,000 and six seized firearms missing from the evidence room.
Pollard was placed on administrative leave by the city March 30, according to Mayor Allen Edge, and terminated by letter May 12. An investigation by the Arkansas State Police reportedly has been completed, but the case file had not been submitted to the 17th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney's Office yet. Bald Knob Police Officer Dillon Chandler has been hired as the new police chief and is expected to start Wednesday.
The audit, made available to the public Wednesday by Arkansas Legislative Audit, also shows "payroll discrepancies" involving district court clerks and city clerks.
"During 2021 and 2022, I spent most of my time at a full-time job at Ridout Lumber Co. in Searcy. I had complete faith in my police chief and my prior city clerk to carry out their duties," Edge told The Daily Citizen on Thursday. "I had trust in them and did not suspect any wrongdoing in our city. I am now retired. I pay close attention to what goes on in City Hall. I check time cards and expenditure reports regularly and I'm heartbroken that people I trusted took advantage of me and the city."
He said he was "very excited" about the new police chief starting. "I think he is going to do good things. I talked to him a few times in the past couple of weeks and I'm ready for him. I'm real excited for him."
The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee found in its report, for 2021 and dated May 10, "noncompliance with state law and accepted accounting practices" in the offices of Edge, Pollard, Recorder/Treasurer Julie Whitney and Kallie Jackson, who was appointed on July 15, 2021, and Christina Alberson, who resigned July 15, 2021.
Pollard's payroll records showed "that his time sheets were not approved and he received overpayments totaling $5,624, $35,711 and $25,441 in 2023, 2022 and 2021." The report showed that the overpayments were from "salary payments that exceeded budgeted amounts, vacation leave without a policy [and] excessive holiday compensation."
"It should be noted that the police chief was compensated at 'time and a half' for overtime hours paid within the pay period worked at the regular hourly rate for accumulated compensatory time paid at a later date upon his request, with the exception of 30 hours paid at the regular hourly rate on Feb. 16, 2023," the report said. "In addition, the police chief was paid for 524 and 271 hours of unused compensation time in 2022 and 2021, respectively, in excess of available balances and without an authorizing policy."
Concerning the department's "Drug-Buy Fund, maintained as 'cash' fund," the report showed it "indicated $1,000, $3,300 and $3,000 received and disbursed for drug buys in 2023, 2022, and 2021, respectively; however, a review of the Arkansas Drug Director's Asset Seizure Tracking System indicated no confiscation reports were filed by the police department for these years. ... The police chief is custodian of these funds."
According to the report, the police department also found Sept. 29, 2020, that "seized currency of $6,723" was missing from the evidence room. "After conducting an investigation, Arkansas State Police were unable to determine the individual(s) responsible for the missing cash and requested that the department conduct an internal audit of the evidence room. The subsequent report, issued by the department in November 2020, revealed six seized firearms were also missing."
The city clerk and district court clerk position's "payroll discrepancies" included salaries exceeding budgeted amounts "by $3,409 for two individuals who served as district court clerk and by $5,142 for three individuals who served as city clerk."
The report also showed that the district court clerk "was paid $1,510 for unused vacation leave without an authorizing policy" and "documentation of approved compensatory time totaling $637 was not maintained for the district court clerk."
For the district court clerk's office, the report also noted that "the ending bank balance was not identified with receipt numbers for cases not yet adjudicated and payments made on all unpaid individual time accounts."
The findings for the mayor's office stated that "the governing body did not review the prior year report at the first regularly scheduled meeting following receipt of the report" and "the budget was not adopted by ordinance or resolution," both of which are required by state law.