Officer loses job over car purchase

INGALLS — After nearly a decade, a questionable transaction involving property and funds belonging to the Town of Ingalls recently came to light. Although there will be no criminal charges, the incident has cost an Ingalls reserve police officer his job.

After researching a past purchase of a town police car, Ingalls officials have fired a reserve police officer. They also consulted Madison County Sheriff’s Department, who said the incident is too long past for pursuing criminal charges.

In 2008, reserve officer Joe Puig approached the council about raising money to start a K-9 program for Ingalls. According to Council President Tim Green, Puig started a non-profit organization — unknown to and not approved by the council — possibly in relation to the K-9 proposal. However, the K-9 program in Ingalls was discontinued when the dog was biting people.

In 2011, Puig approached Clerk-Treasurer Kip Golden requesting $3,500 to buy a police car from Purdue University at a dealership in Noblesville. On Sept. 9, the vehicle, which could only be purchased by a municipality, was sold by the Trustees of Purdue University to the Town of Ingalls, represented by Puig’s signature.

According to Green, Puig told the town he advised Golden that the money was for a car, but Golden said he was instead told the money was for “training.”

“I don’t know who is telling the truth,” Green said. “But obviously, there is something wrong here.”

Thirteen days later, Golden signed a bill of sale transferring the title for the car to Puig in the amount of $3,500. Both parties signed the document.

“I don’t know if the money came in through contributions or from his own pocket; it doesn’t matter,” Green said. “The town bought a police car, and it was owned by the town of Ingalls. Anything owned by the town cannot be surplussed unless the council by vote surpluses the vehicle. Someone may have bid $5,000; we don’t know.”

“Monies were taken and inventory was disposed of; we did not surplus it. We did not even know about it,” Green said.

It is unclear if the transaction resulted in any loss of funds to the town.

“I can’t tell you if the car was insured (by the town) for that period of time,” town attorney Greg Morelock said. “I think you’re going to find, and I could be wrong, that the sheriff is going to say one of two things: We are beyond the statute of limitations, there is no criminal intent … and there could be a criminal act. It’s possible that (Golden) was defrauded.”

The town was told that, because the incident took place more than five years ago, the statute of limitations prevents any criminal charges from being filed.

“They (Madison County) said it was over five years, so they weren’t going to look at it any further,” Green said. “They didn’t say whether it was criminal or wasn’t criminal, but it wasn’t proper.”

Green and others pointed out that the purchase of the police car was never brought before the town council for approval.

“There is nothing in the council minutes saying any of this was OK,” council member Tonie Caraway said.

Golden confirmed that he issued the check to Puig when he brought $3,500 to the clerk’s office. He said Puig made no mention of purchasing an automobile.

“He (Puig) one day brought in $3,500 to me,” Golden said. “He said it was to put back for the animal fund and for training. And that he was going to do this training thing at Purdue University. I said, ‘Fine and dandy;’ it was money in and money out. I just wrote out the check and didn’t question it. I didn’t learn anything more until just recently what had actually happened.”

Golden said he will be more diligent in the future with requests for funds from town officials.

“From now on, I’ll try to make sure what’s going on and find out a little more about it,” he said.

Puig, who was terminated as of Friday, had been a reserve officer for Ingalls since 2006. The Ingalls Police Department declined to provide Puig’s contact information for comment.

In other business:

-The council gave preliminary approval for the voluntary annexation of 32.5 acres adjacent to the Summerlake addition. Under a proposed development of the land by Gradison Land Development, 110 cottage-style single-family homes will be built on the land, with prices ranging from $180,000 to $200,000. The development would connect with the west side of Summerlake via Lantern Lane. Final approval of rezoning and annexation will take place at a public hearing Monday, July 10.

-Caraway said the June 26 meeting was her final one; she has accepted a job transfer to South Carolina. Residents interested in her post can contact Madison County Democratic Chairman Ludy Watkins or Ingalls council member Georgia Parker.

-Interim Town Marshal Chris Thompson introduced Tony Keogh as a part-time police officer hired by the town recently.

-Thompson also told the town he is researching costs of a proposed bicycle patrol. He believes such an addition to the force would be beneficial to the town for outdoor events.

-Green said this week that he hopes to name a new town marshal at the July 10 meeting, but he declined to comment further about the candidates.

Author photo
Rob Hunt covers news, sports and other happenings in South Madison County. He can be reached at rhunt@pendletontimespost.com or (765) 778-2324.