Spivey indicted for theft

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

A former maintenance supervisor accused of stealing air conditioners from the Pike County School system was indicted by the grand jury Monday. Timothy Dwayne Spivey of Goshen will face trial for 131 counts of theft, ranging from first to third degree.

The grand jury said there was sufficient proof to try Spivey for stealing the air conditioning units, totaling approximately $112,829 in value.

Spivey will enter a plea of &uot;not guilty&uot; at the coming arraignment on March 5, said Gregory Biggs, the lawyer representing him. He said the 131 charges would probably all be heard together for the sake of judicial economy.

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District Attorney Gary McAliley, who will be orchestrating the prosecution, said the news that Spivey would be pleading &uot;not guilty&uot; was not surprising.

&uot;On March 5, they will formally enter a plea and the charges will be formally read,&uot; he said. &uot;If the defense wants to avoid public embarrassment, they can just file a form saying they understand the charges and that would save some time. I'd guess that would be done since no defense lawyer wants to sit there and have their client listen to 131 charges read orally in public.&uot;

McAliley said the investigation into the thefts would not stop with Spivey.

&uot;Even though the grand jury has issued indictments for 131 charges, the investigation will continue further,&uot; he said. &uot;We're looking to see if there is other involvement.&uot;

Sgt. Benny Scarbrough of the Troy Police Department confirmed that the investigation was still under way and didn't rule out future arrests.

&uot;There is a possibility that it could go beyond Spivey,&uot; he said.

As the investigation developed, law enforcement officials began to realize the scope of the thefts and the mounting cost to the cash-strapped county schools. They suspect the thefts took place over several years and involved air conditioning units purchased and charged to the Pike County Board of Education and sold privately by Spivey to buyers through his company, City Electric Co.

Spivey and his brother Johndi Spivey were both placed on administrative leave by the school system. Spivey resigned in late July and his position of maintenance supervisor has since been eliminated entirely.

Another issue is what to do with the air conditioning units scattered around the county. Records from the case show that units were purchased by numerous prominent Pike County citizens and businesses, including Pike County High School football coach Wayne Grant, Papa John's Pizza, Southeast Alabama Regional Health Authority, Pike County Commissioner Larry Meeks, First Baptist Church in Troy, the Witherington Insurance Group and Pike County Superintendent Mark Bazzell.

Law enforcement officials and investigators have not indicated that any of the buyers knew that the property was stolen and then-superintendent John Key said at the time that the buyers were victims.

&uot;The people who bought them bought them in good faith,&uot; Key said last July. &uot;At this point, it isn't our intent to take anybody's air conditioner . . . but the state can't ignore that its property is sitting around out there.&uot;

McAliley said the air conditioners are technically still property of the Pike County Schools and could legally be confiscated.

&uot;When somebody buys something from someone, they buy the interests that the seller has in the property,&uot; he said. &uot;There's a principal called caveat emptor, which means 'buyer beware.' If the person buys stolen property, they inherit the risks that come along with that. There won't be any criminal action against them and the board of education hasn't asked us to go after any of this property yet and I know there are a lot of worried people out there, but it remains an open possibility.&uot;

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson @troymessenger.com.