River Falls mayor arrestedPublished 5:44pm Wednesday, October 10, 2012
River Falls Mayor Mary Hixon was arrested Wednesday after investigators determined nearly $150,000 in town funds were missing – including $525 paid as alleged hush money.
Hixon turned herself in to the Covington County Jail shortly after lunch Wednesday and was charged with one count of theft of property I and misuse of office for personal gain. She was held on a $40,000 bond.
Covington County District Attorney’s office investigators began digging into town finances after a Star-News article in August chronicling Hixon’s sale of the old town hall property, without council approval, to Richard Moss, a man who lived in her home for more than a decade.
Search warrants were served at town hall, Hixon’s home and her place of employment, HCH Development, on Aug. 28, as soon as the polls closed in municipal elections. Hixon was re-elected to office that day, continuing her 30-plus year career as the town’s mayor.
“After this news article printed, Sgt. Kevin Chance with the Opp Police Department and I started an investigation into the matter at the request of the district attorney,” stated an affidavit by DA investigator Gary Hutcheson. “During our investigation, and after numerous records were received either by searching the residence and work office of Mayor Hixon, or through several subpoenas of local banks, it was determined that (Hixon) has taken and/or misappropriated monies belonging to the Town of River Falls.”
All the allegations were confirmed and supported by Hixon, the affidavit stated, after a concerned citizen, wearing an undercover audio and video surveillance system confronted Hixon about the allegations.
“During the conversation, (Hixon) admitted to the illegal conduct and instructed the concerned citizen as to what he should tell the police if he was interviewed,” the document stated. “She then paid the citizen $525 to ‘keep him quiet.’”
Because of the statute of limitations on theft, investigators were able to go back three years and documented $148,196 in missing town money, which included:
• $19,970 in salaries to Horace Peacock, an employee at HCH Development, who admitted that, on rare occasions, he repaired water lines for the town, but that the checks he received were for work done at HCH Devel-opment;
• $8,680 in salaries to Charlie Calloway, an employee at HCH Develo-pment, who admitted he did no work for the town;
• $3,053 in electric bill payments for Conecuh River Feed and Bait, Moss’ business;
• $10,325 in electric bill payments for a Sunnyside Street home rented by Moss;
• $20,333 in checks written to River Falls residents, cashed and the funds returned to Hixon. Copies of the checks were kept by one of the citizens and are now in the DA’s custody, the affidavit stated;
• $80,298 in salaries paid to Moss for work he did not perform as a “nighttime policeman.” From Oct. 11, 2009, to the present, Moss was paid $452.50 per week, even though he did not work for the town in any capacity;
• $790 for two auto repair bills for vehicles owned by Hixon’s employer;
• $2,500 in salaries paid to her daughter for water bill billing, which is a violation of the state ethics law, because it deprived the town of the use and benefit of the monies expended for the salary; and,
• $1,722 paid to the Coffee County Commission in June 2010 for repairs to a patrol car Moss used while employed as the Coffee County Jail administrator. Moss claimed the car was hit by the town’s garbage truck; however, no police report exists documenting Moss’ allegation, and the River Falls garbage collector, David Mitchell, denied the incident. It is unknown how the vehicle was damaged. At this time, Moss and his son lived with Hixon.