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Augusta fire inspector accused of stealing fees

Employee allegedly stole fees, audit says

Monday, Feb. 6, 2012 4:27 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012 1:45 AM
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The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is investigating allegations that a city fire inspector was stealing inspection fees, authorities said.

The investigation stems from an internal audit of fire inspection fees, according to sheriff’s Investigator Dan Ferrel.

Brenda Carroll, of accounting firm Baird and Co., told police that Lt. Lenston Melvin Harris is suspected of taking at least $1,360 from businesses in payment for fire inspections between January and December 2011, according to a sheriff’s report filed Monday.

Ferrel said the businesses paid Harris in cash, and he failed to turn in the money. He said it was fire department policy to accept only checks or money orders for fire inspections.

“They do not accept cash at the Fire Marshal’s Office,” Ferrel said.

Ferrel said there have been no allegations that Harris took cash to expedite inspections or overlook violations. Harris was placed on administrative leave Jan. 30 and an internal investigation was launched following allegations of professional misconduct, according to a statement issued Monday by Augusta staff attorney Jody Smitherman.

Augusta-Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James said Harris resigned four days later on Friday, but would not comment further.

“This is still an open investigation,” James said Monday.

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Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 02/06/12 - 05:42 pm
0
0
Is there anyone honest

Is there anyone honest working for the city or county?

BuckeyeInGA
114
Points
BuckeyeInGA 02/06/12 - 05:48 pm
0
0
He resigned? Ain't that

He resigned? Ain't that special. He belongs in prison - not jail - but prison.

faithson
5157
Points
faithson 02/06/12 - 05:54 pm
0
0
policy; money order or

policy; money order or check. what business would roll out 20's to pay for the inspection when a check that documents the transaction for tax purposes is in order. Something fishy on both sides of this deal.

BuckeyeInGA
114
Points
BuckeyeInGA 02/06/12 - 05:58 pm
0
0
Faithson, you are right and I

Faithson, you are right and I didn't think about that. Any business paying cash in such a manner raises the prospects for bribes. Geez, you hear about that in the nation's largest cities but Augusta?

Sweet son
10372
Points
Sweet son 02/06/12 - 05:59 pm
0
0
Oh, I love it!

Oh, I love it!

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 02/06/12 - 06:08 pm
0
0
Just curious: Does this mean

Just curious: Does this mean yet another job has come available for the Augusta Prison Outreach program?

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 02/06/12 - 06:47 pm
0
0
See how an auditor can

See how an auditor can uncover wrongdoings.

faithson
5157
Points
faithson 02/06/12 - 07:20 pm
0
0
1360 is cost for

1360 is cost for inspections... wondering how much more was pocketed for that 'passing grade'. Next investigation should be on the 'payee's'. If found in default on fire code, full extent of the fines should be imposed.

BuckeyeInGA
114
Points
BuckeyeInGA 02/06/12 - 07:21 pm
0
0
If convicted, will this loser

If convicted, will this loser keep his city pension? From what I heard earlier, this guy has been a city employee long enough to receive something like 80% of his salary for the rest of his life!

allhans
23626
Points
allhans 02/06/12 - 08:09 pm
0
0
A good rating means cash in

A good rating means cash in the palm.

my.voice
4811
Points
my.voice 02/07/12 - 12:33 am
0
0
It's time to clean house in

It's time to clean house in Augusta. This character should be in jail NOW. the paper says no inspections were faked, but that's next! And does his resignation somehow make this right?

The whole dang City needs to be outsourced!

allhans
23626
Points
allhans 02/07/12 - 12:40 pm
0
0
"Ferrel said there have been

"Ferrel said there have been no allegations that Harris took cash to expedite inspections or overlook violations"..
Not yet, perhaps.

showboat
336
Points
showboat 02/07/12 - 12:47 pm
0
0
No where but augusta,
Unpublished

No where but augusta, ga.***********************

specsta
6505
Points
specsta 02/07/12 - 01:32 pm
0
0
Allegations are just that -

Allegations are just that - allegations. Let's wait for the investigation to be completed before throwing Mr. Harris under the bus. According to reports, he worked for the city for decades - let's make sure he gets a fair review.

Sweet son
10372
Points
Sweet son 02/07/12 - 02:57 pm
0
0
Time to go back and reinspect

Time to go back and reinspect all of his inspections. Riverman you are right about the audits but make sure the city does not audit itself and make sure an outside fire inspector goes behind Mr. Harris to check his work!!!

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 02/07/12 - 03:21 pm
0
0
2-3 years ago there was the

2-3 years ago there was the bar-restaurant on Gordon Hwy, now defunct, that always had the highest health inspection rating in the county. I don't put too much stock in Richmond County inspections of any kind.

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