CLEARFIELD – A Boggs Township Supervisor will stand trial for allegedly making purchases at a local auto repair store that were not for his municipality’s use.
Ricky Allan Droll Jr., 45, has been charged by Clearfield-based state police with theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property, both first-degree misdemeanors.
Both charges were held to the Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas by Magisterial District Judge Jerome Nevling following a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
The hearing was held in Courtroom No. 2 at the courthouse instead of during centralized court at the jail, so that a large number of people could be in attendance.
Assistant District Attorney Warren B. Mikesell II presented the case on behalf of the commonwealth. Droll was represented by defense attorney Gene DeBoef, Esq. of State College.
Supervisor Denise Dobo testified first on behalf of the commonwealth. Dobo also serves as the township’s secretary and treasurer.
She said Droll was on the township’s board of supervisors and also a part of the work crew that repaired the township’s roads and equipment.
According to her, Boggs Township has an account with Napa Auto Parts in Decatur Township. Droll, along with other officials and workers, can purchase items there.
She said when officials and workers make purchases, items are rung up and the store prepares invoices, which are signed off on and then those are turned in at the township office.
The township later receives a monthly billing statement from Napa. She compares it with the individual invoices returned by township officials and workers.
Dobo said she then prepares the check, which is presented with the invoice to the supervisors, for review and approval. She signs the check as well as two supervisors.
In early 2017, Dobo was in the process of reviewing township records and itemizing repairs and their costs for each piece of equipment.
She discovered a thermostat had been purchased Oct. 24, 2016 at Napa for $18.25. It was for a 2007 Ford F250 truck and the township owns a Ford F550.
She brought it to the attention of Supervisor/Roadmaster Bill Dickson, who didn’t remember the thermostat being changed in the truck. She said the abnormality in this invoice caused her to look for others.
She identified purchases of masking tape and 3-M2 sanding discs, totaling $62.99 on Sept. 22, 2016; rubberized undercoat, sealer, UltraPro body seal, and cut-off wheel, totaling $75.23 on Oct. 3, 2016; WD40 spray can and 3-in-1 oil and gun oil, totaling $20.87 on Dec. 7, 2016; and a quart of gloss black chassis, totaling $46.60 on March 12, 2016.
She testified that these items were not used by the township and not located on the township’s property. She also recognized Droll’s signature on the store’s invoices, except for the one dated March 12, 2016.
However, she noted while she didn’t recognize it as Droll’s signature, his name did appear on the invoice in print, and he was also among the township’s officials who gave final approval for that particular payment.
She also said the March 12, 2016 invoice stood out to her because it was made on a Saturday. She went on to explain that the township’s business hours are Monday through Thursday, and employees don’t usually work Saturdays.
In her capacity, Dobo is also aware of the work schedules for the township employees. She said Droll wasn’t scheduled to work for the township Oct. 3, 2016 when he made a purchase at Napa.
She said Dickson took the township’s Ford F550 truck to three, different garages. She said mechanics at all three confirmed that the thermostat hadn’t been replaced and was still the original.
Later in her testimony, Dobo explained the reason for having multiple mechanics look at the truck’s thermostat. She said they didn’t want to rely upon one opinion or have people think they were making it up.
Dickson said he was first made aware of an issue when Dobo called his attention to the purchase of a thermostat for a Ford F250 at Napa on Oct. 24, 2016. He said the township didn’t own one but Droll did.
According to him, road crew workers perform equipment repairs together, and he didn’t recall replacing the thermostat in the township’s F550 truck.
He asked Droll if there had been any problems, and he replied no. He said if there had been any problem, it should have been reported to him since he is the roadmaster.
Dickson later took the truck to three auto shops, plus had one mechanic come to the township garage, and all four told him the truck still had its original thermostat.
Dickson was presented with five invoices, and like Dobo he recognized signatures on four of the five as being signed by Droll. He was unable to identify the signature for the March 12, 2016 purchase.
Dickson also testified that Droll performs mechanical work privately aside from being a township employee. He said he’s hired Droll to work on his vehicles.
In early October of 2016, he said Droll took time off from the township to work on his (Dickson’s) vehicle. Dickson paid Droll for the work.
A mechanic, Thomas Emigh, from Emigh’s Garage testified that he looked at the township’s Ford F550 truck. He said he’s familiar with this series of trucks, and its thermostat was the original, not a replacement.
In his closing, DeBoef said the commonwealth’s witnesses didn’t recognize the signature on the fifth invoice, dated March 12, 2016, for $46.60. He said no one knew who signed it, and there wasn’t sufficient probable cause in regards to it.
He said items purchased on three other invoices aren’t typically kept after being used, and there wasn’t any proof that they weren’t used for the township. “You don’t keep an empty can of WD40,” he argued. “You throw it away.”
Finally, in regards to the thermostat purchase, DeBoef said the Ford F250 and F550 can use the same one. He also implied that the Napa employee could have easily hit the wrong button, which would cause an error on the invoice.
Mikesell countered and accused the defense of trying to “muddy the waters.” He argued Droll picked up items at the store, had the bills sent to the township and he used them personally.
He said officials had the Ford F550 truck looked at by four different mechanics, and all of them determined it had its original thermostat.
He said the items from the other purchases obviously weren’t found on the township’s property because they never made it there.
He pointed to the fact that Droll made purchases on March 12, 2016 and Oct. 3, 2016 when he wasn’t working and for items the township doesn’t use.
Although both township supervisors didn’t recognize Droll’s signature on the March 12, 2016 invoice, Mikesell said Droll approved payment and if it wasn’t his signature on the invoice, he should have been the first one to flag it.
After deliberating briefly, Nevling sent both theft charges to county court. However, he did strike the fifth invoice, which reduces the total amount stolen to $177.34.
Nevling set bail at $5,000 unsecured since there hasn’t been any issue with Droll showing up for his scheduled court dates.