(WORTHINGTON) - Worthington Town Marshal Dennis Conaway has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the alleged misappropriation of funds, according to a final report released this week by special prosecutor Barry S. Brown of Bloomington.
Nick Schneider, of the Greene County Daily World, reports the Worthington Town Council met in executive session Thursday night to review the findings of the report.
On Tuesday night at the council's regular monthly meeting, Conaway, who has been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 13, 2011, is expected be reinstated.
Then, he is expected to resign and formally retire, according to Worthington Town Attorney Jacob Fish.
Before the probe began, Conaway had already announced to the council his intentions to retire Feb. 2. He began his duties as town marshal Feb. 17, 1992. Previously, Conaway, who has 34 years in law enforcement, served 20 years with the United States Air Force as a law enforcement specialist.
However, the retirement was delayed in order for the investigation to be concluded.
Deputy Town Marshal Donald Richardson has been serving as interim town marshal since Conaway's administrative leave began.
"We'll probably look at replacing him (Conaway) after the meeting Tuesday," Worthington Town Council President Gregg Roudebush stated.
Brown was appointed to the case Feb. 24 by Superior Court Judge Dena Martin, after Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw filed a motion for a special prosecutor to be appointed because he has worked with Conaway in the prosecution of previous cases and Holtsclaw formerly served as Worthington town attorney.
Indiana State Police Det. Chris Carter of the Bloomington post began his investigation into possible official misconduct by the Conaway on Feb. 12. He communicated with Roudebush and a meeting was conducted Feb. 15 in which the council president advised that "issues had been raised by the deputy town marshal of Worthington concerning alleged misappropriation of funds and the allegation contained various specifications," according to the special prosecutor's report.
"Det. Carter conducted what can only be described as an exhaustive and meticulous investigation into all details of the allegations and acquired numerous financial documents relating to deposits and distributions related to the Worthington Town Council," Brown wrote in his report.
Additionally, an independent accountant's report was provided to Roudebush related to the allegations that focused specifically on the "donations account" for the town of Worthington from Jan. 1, 2008 through Nov. 30, 2011.
Donations to this account were provided by private citizens as well as independent agencies and corporations to assist the town and its law enforcement in acquisition of equipment and supplies.
Specifically, the probe centered on a $30,000 donation in 2008 by the Aileen S. Andrew Foundation of Orland Park, Ill., that was to be used for the purchase of protective vests and in-car video surveillance cameras, according to Fish.
The Andrew Foundation and its former head, the late Robert "Bobby" Hord, have had close ties to the town of Worthington for many years - providing funds to construct a new town municipal building and a community center in the park. The foundation also provided funding to buy police vehicles in the past as well as to purchase a trained K-9 dog to assist the police department.
Fish said the protective vests were eventually paid for by the town after state law changed and the video cameras were purchased at a much lower price than was indicated in the request that Conaway had made to the Andrew Foundation.
Two Sony camcorders were purchased July 22, 2008 from the Linton Super Walmart Center at a cost of $1,151.77.
Fish said the audit was conducted at the recommendation of Holtsclaw.
"It showed there wasn't any money missing, it just didn't go where we believe it should have gone per what was requested. The money was requested to buy vests (for officers) and in-car cameras. It really didn't go for that and that was our concern," Fish told the Greene County Daily World. "It (the fund) was set up basically for the community and the good of the community to help underprivileged people or to help school kids or to help charities. That's what the money was set up for, coat drives and things like that. What our concern was, funds were requested for those vests and the cameras and they were never spent."
The town attorney said there is no evidence at all that Conaway used any of the donated funds for his own personal use.
Instead, Conaway used the money to help with a school drug awareness program, supplies for school children and he helped needy families in the town with utility bills and the purchase of food and other items that were requested, according to Fish.
The town attorney said the special prosecutor's report is good news for the community and for Conaway, who is well known around the town for helping to raise money for many charitable causes.
"It clears him (Conaway) and he is happy with that," Fish said. "It has been difficult. Dennis has been understanding through all of this.
"What were we supposed to do? I don't think we had a choice but to do it like we did it. I'm happy to get this behind us. ... We didn't think Dennis ever pocketed any of the money. We just couldn't show where the money went. The issue is clear and over with. It should be put to bed now."
The special prosecutor also acknowledged Conaway's benevolent use of the donated monies in his report.
Brown conducted a conference with Det. Carter on March 8 and examined the documents and heard an oral summary of the investigation and concluded, "there was no apparent violation of Indiana law including the offense of official misconduct."
"The special prosecutor has concluded that there exists no evidence that would implicate Dennis Conaway in any criminal behavior, and, indeed there appears to be contrary evidence that Mr. Conaway contributed to the betterment and improvement of the community and possessed an altruistic motive in dispersing funds under his control and in his capacity as town marshal," Brown wrote in the conclusion of his report to the town and the court.
When asked if he was pleased with the resolution, Roudebush replied, "Absolutely ... it was a Catch 22 for us (the council). That (the investigation) was the last thing I wanted to go on.
"We (the council) were not out to just knife somebody."
When contacted for comment, Conaway said he had been advised "not to comment," but said he will have a prepared statement to be released at Tuesday night's town council meeting.
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