PIEDMONT, W.Va. — Ralph Rice, former chief of Piedmont Police, doesn’t understand why the council made an issue out of his delay in returning the 911 center radio and the three packages of police equipment.
“The radio is not the city of Piedmont’s property. I never confiscated the radio and I notified someone that I had it,” said Rice, who noted that he did lose the radio for a little while but turned it in to a deputy with the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department. “I think they are just trying to smear me because I was a witness in the FEMA trailer investigation.”
The Mineral County Office of Emergency Management didn’t pursue charges and the radio was returned to them by the deputy, according to Rice.
Bill Hentosh, Mineral County Office of Emergency Management director, told Paul Karalewitz, current chief of police, that the radio was turned on and off.
“I did turn the radio on and off but I didn’t use it,” said Rice. “I wouldn’t do that.”
During a special meeting Tuesday, the council also voted to drop the issue of hiring a criminal attorney to prosecute Rice for allegedly failing to return the radio.
“The radio has been recovered, the city has had no loss and it’s official no crime has been committed,” said Ray Hall, councilman, during the meeting. “Yet, you want to hire a criminal attorney to prosecute Chief Rice. This is not worth pursuing.”
Also during the special meeting, the council voted to hold off on a civil suit against Rice involving the packages until they could get more information. Rice asked the company for return mail slips for the packages and the company didn’t send the slips, he said. Rice indicated that he was told by the previous administration the city wasn’t paying to return the packages if the company wasn’t willing to send the slips.
“I was told by the previous administration not to send the packages back,” said Rice. “I haven’t done anything that I would be embarrassed of, deceitful or illegal.”
Town Foreman John Shingler was indicted by a grand jury on six felony counts of embezzlement of government property and one felony count of making a false statement in regard to the Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers. The case is in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg and involves allegations of fraud with six FEMA trailers that were purchased in 2009.
Contact Elaine Blaisdell at email@example.com.