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Records show Heflin clerk ‘misappropriated’ $14k

Smith repaid money after resigning, including charges to personal credit card

Shane Smith

Heflin City Council Meeting. City clerk Shane Smith speaks. Photo by Bill Wilson.

HEFLIN — Heflin’s former city clerk used taxpayer money to cover more than $14,000 in charges he made on municipal and personal credit cards, according to public records obtained by The Star.

The former clerk, Shane Smith, reimbursed the city when he stepped down in September as part of an agreement with city officials after the financial irregularities were discovered by the city’s accounting firm, according to the records. City officials have forwarded the findings to the state’s Ethics Commission.

When Smith resigned Sept. 17, city officials would only say in a written statement that “internal control procedures were not followed.” After requests for public records by The Star, including one earlier this month that showed thousands of dollars of charges in personal spending including two trips to New York City, Mayor Rudy Rooks said Tuesday that Smith used taxpayer money to cover personal charges totaling $14,050.18.

On Sept. 18, Smith gave the city a check for $14,050, according to a copy of the check provided Tuesday in response to The Star’s request.

Smith has repeatedly declined to comment for The Star’s stories on his resignation, except to say that he’d paid for all personal charges. The documents obtained by The Star show he did so only after being confronted by city officials and forced to resign in September. Smith again declined to comment on Wednesday.

“We realized where our error was at. We’ve made corrections to make sure that never happens again, and we just want to keep moving on and stay positive for the city,” Rooks said on Wednesday. 

The documents provided by the city Tuesday show that in addition to using a city-issued credit card for personal charges, Smith used city money to pay off another card not issued by the city. Rooks said Tuesday that card appears to have been Smith’s personal American Express card.

“The auditors revealed that city funds were directed by him to pay for an American Express that was not associated with any accounts,” Rooks said on Wednesday. One document provided by the city shows taxpayer money spent to pay charges on that card totaled $7,952. 

Rooks also provided a copy of a letter he wrote to the Alabama Ethics Commission dated Sept. 26. The letter says Smith had been paying back his personal expenses but started to fall behind 11 months before his resignation.

Credit card policies put in place by the city’s CPA firm required that if any incidental personal charges were made by city employees, those charges had to be paid back “at the time the bill was received or shortly thereafter,” the letter said.

The city’s CPA firm spent two weeks in September going over accounts, reports, credit card statements and receipts for “more than the past year” and concluded funds involved totaled $14,050.18, Rooks wrote in the letter.  

According to documents provided by the city, Smith incurred charges of $4,822.13 on his city-issued credit card and $1,276.05 on another American Express card for City Hall. 

Another document provided by the city is an agreement signed by Smith, Rooks and the city’s lawyer establishing terms for accepting Smith’s resignation. Among the terms is a requirement that Smith repay the $14,050.18 in charges.

Rooks said that Smith provided the check within 24 hours. On Wednesday, Rooks said he hopes the city can soon put the affair behind it.

“This is not the first city this has ever happened to,” he said. “It’s not the first time it’s ever happened in Heflin; there’s been other issues. I just hated it happened under my watch. I take this job very serious. I want to do what’s right, make it right by the proper authorities and let’s rectify anything that’s been done wrong and then move forward.”

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.