Attorney: Moss was Hixon’s pawn

Published 12:07 am Thursday, December 6, 2012



An attorney for the man allegedly paid more than $80,000 for work he didn’t do in River Falls said Wednesday his client was a “pawn” of the former mayor.

In October, Mary Hixon, then the mayor of River Falls, pleaded guilty to the theft of more than $200,000 from the town. Her crimes were discovered after The Star-News’ reported in August, that Hixon, 91, sold the old town hall property in 2008, without council approval, to Richard Moss, a man who lived in her home for more than a decade. Hixon had served as mayor for more than 30 years.

In October, District Attorney Walt Merrell said the illegal sale of the Sunnyside Street property was the first piece of “a massive scheme to pilfer money from the town’s coffers.”

Since then, Hixon has pleaded guilty to the theft/misappropriation of $201,611 from River Falls, and Moss has been charged with accepting salaries for work he did not perform as a “nighttime policeman.” Moss was indicted by a grand jury on four counts of theft of property in the first degree and one count of theft of property in the second degree. He is now free on a $135,000 bond.

In November, the town council announced Moss was to deed the old town hall property back to the town.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, a small discussion on the property ended with a verbal purchase offer of $50,000 from River Falls resident Billy Morgan and the news that no word had been received from either Moss or his attorney, Joe Hubbard of Montgomery, about the transfer.

On Wednesday, The Star-News contacted Hubbard, who said that Moss paid “I think $5,000 in installments” for the property.

“Mr. Moss intends to make clear with respect to the property,” he said. “Richard’s understanding was that the council had voted to sell him the property, and he does hold the deed.

“Right now, we’re working on the best way to go back to status quo and give the deed back,” he said. “It is more difficult than it appears at first blush.”

While Hubbard didn’t elaborate on the reason, he did say, “what happened in River Falls was an absolute tragedy.”

“The behavior, going back to (Hixon), had been going on for decades, and it’s taken information from the last three years to bring it into the light,” he said. “And we have more information.

“(Hixon) had taken (Moss) under her wing to introduce him as part of the community,” he said. “Unfortunately, he got caught up in her plans. He was a pawn for some of the underhanded things she done for decades. Everyone wants the town to get back to right, and seeing River Falls made whole is our priority.”

Hubbard said he believes the town council could face a problem if they choose to sell the property. He said while there would be a clear deed to the property, there wouldn’t be a clear title.

“It’s an old well site for the town,” he said about the property. “Some years back, Mrs. Hixon entered into a bond service to fund the water system. There is some question as to whether or not that property, since the well is part of the water system, I’m not sure they can sell the property. Maybe if the town can get the title cleared? My understanding is the title is encumbered by the bond issue.”

Hubbard didn’t say how long it would be before the property transaction is recorded. While no trial date is set, Merrell said discussions are ongoing in the case.

Hixon was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution to River Falls.