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Monterey Aldermen Welcome TBI Investigation

Monterey Aldermen Welcome TBI Investigation

By Phil Williams. CREATED Jul 3, 2012

MONTEREY, Tenn. -- How did a Middle Tennessee police department get a bulldozer that ended up on the police chief's land?

That's the question that some folks in Putnam County are asking following an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation.

As a result of what we've uncovered, District Attorney General Randy York has called in the TBI to investigate.

Among the questions that investigators will be asking: did Monterey police mislead the federal and state government when it obtained that piece of surplus equipment? On top of that, town leaders also want to know if they were misled about the bulldozer.

"In the last meeting, we specifically asked and the question was avoided six ways from Sunday without an answer," Alderman Rebecca Iaquinta noted during a testy town meeting Monday night.

Monterey police ordered the U.S. Army surplus bulldozer and had it shipped to a piece of land in another county. That land is owned by Monterey Police Chief Kevin Phillips.

The bulldozer was free, but the $5,100 shipping cost was paid out of the police department's drug fund.

"Y'all agreed to pay the $5,100 just as well as I did," Mayor Jeff Hicks insisted in response to Iaquinta's questions.

"It was not in the bills that we were presented," the alderman responded. "We asked you specifically. You said you didn't know anything about it. You said, 'I'll have to get back to you at the next meeting.' We are at the next meeting, and I am waiting."

Afterwards, Iaquinta told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that she's frustrated.

"It causes me concern to see city equipment in another county on private property wherever it is -- without authorization of the board and the town knowing exactly why," she explained.

When we tried to track down Chief Phillips last week, he not only avoided our questions, he also called the cops to come question us.

But at last months town meeting, Mayor Hicks told the board he didn't know where the bulldozer was.

More recently, he has said that it was his idea for Chief Phillips to take it to his land in remote Overton County to work on it. The mayor claimed the town just did not have the equipment to lift the bulldozer's blade into place and attach it.

"You can see that we did -- you have the photograph yourself, you took it," Iaquinta told us.

In fact, video from Sky5HD shows a second piece of town equipment that had also been taken to the chief's property, being used to hold the blade up.

So what does Iaquinta think that means?

"I think that means this board has been deceived," she answered.

There are also questions about how Monterey police got the government surplus bulldozer in the first place. They filed a document with the government, claiming they needed it for "construction of a police department firing range."

But former alderman Richard Smith drove us to the range, which had already had quite a bit of work done before the Army bulldozer ever arrived.

"If you look around, it's cleared off," Smith added.

That's why some in Monterey are now glad that the TBI is going to investigate.

"This is about answers," Iaquinta said. "This is the taxpayers' money, and they are getting ripped off."

Mayor Hicks is also on tape from the June meeting saying that the gun range was almost done.

So that's one of the questions that investigators will be asking -- did Monterey police really want the bulldozer for the gun range or did they really have another plan up their sleeves?

Still, the mayor has told locals that it's still a good investment, that the town could hang onto it for a year and then sell it for a profit.

It's not clear whether the military will appreciate its surplus equipment being used as an investment.

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Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.