Fire Chief Alan Garner Arrested
Charged with Misapplication of Fiduciary Property - Terminated from County Position
Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Alan Jimmy Garner was arrested early Monday morning and charged with Misapplication of Fiduciary Property: $2,500 but less than $30,000. The charge is a State Jail Felony.
The arrest was made by Texas Ranger Joel Callaway at the Reagan County Sheriff’s Department.
State Jail Felonies are punishable by between 180 days and two years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
As with all arrests, Chief Garner is considered innocent until proven guilty.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Chief Garner is accused of using BLVFD funds for personal use.
The total amount listed in the affidavit comes to $3,960.55 over a one-year period. More purchases are mentioned though, without their totals included.
Ranger Callaway states in the affidavit he was brought in to investigate misapplication of fiduciary property in September 2017 at the request of the Reagan County Sheriff’s Department.
The document, signed by Ranger Callaway and 112th District Judge Pete Gomez, claims the alleged wrongdoing was first discovered in early April 2017 by members of the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
The first member to discover an issue reported a check written and signed by Chief Garner from the BLVFD to one of his daughters for ‘contract labor.’ The member noted to Ranger Callaway that all BLVFD checks are supposed to be double signed and none of the checks in question were. That first check was for $600.00.
Callaway wrote in his complaint “The initial request for investigation identified numerous areas of suspected criminal activity which were discovered through the obtaining of the BLVFD Special Account.”
Ranger Callaway’s initial investigation into the allegations consisted of conducting Grand Jury subpoenas, interviews of members of the BLVFD and conducting surveillance on Garner.
Callaway states in the affidavit that during the course of the investigation it was suspected that Garner was using the BLVFD special account to purchase items that were not related to the BLVFD, but were used for Garner’s personal use.
The affidavit then states that suspected criminal acts were discovered during the investigation, but only a “few” of those acts were used to obtain this arrest warrant.
The document goes into detail as to how Garner allegedly used the funds for personal expenses.
The first instance was on September 20, 2016 when two American Airline tickets were purchased from the BLVFD Special Account totaling $904.40.
Ranger Callaway conducted an interview with Crockett County EMS Director Eddie Martin who stated Garner flew both of them to New Orleans for the World EMS Expo. According to BLVFD board members, the purchase was not approved and was not related to BLVFD business.
It should be noted that the BLVFD and Reagan County EMS are two different entities headed by Alan Garner. He served as the Fire Chief for the BLVFD and as Director of the Reagan County EMS service during the time of the alleged misuse of funds.
The next instance of misapplication of funds came over the course of 2017 when Alan Garner allegedly made multiple purchases from SAMS Club in San Angelo, Texas with the BLVFD credit card totaling $2,168.41. Again, Ranger Callaway was told by BLVFD board members that the purchases were not approved and were not for the BLVFD.
Ranger Callaway describes the items purchased at SAMS Club including: rib-eye steak, beef brisket, protein shakes, bacon, candy bars, pork, salmon, center-cut filets, Tide pods, JBL blutooth headset, shrimp tacos, Tylenol, Afrin, cutlery packs, Mucinex, Zantac 150, allergy medicine, chicken breast, Hershey Kisses and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.
Ranger Callaway reviewed surveillance videos from SAMS Club with it clearly showing Alan Garner and his wife shopping at the store.
The next instance mentioned in the affidavit occurred on May 17, 2017 when Alan Garner allegedly made a purchase at Wal-Mart in San Angelo, Texas for $129.81. The itemized list shows the purchase included a NHS Brewer and 100 count coffee filters, which were not pre-approved by the BLVFD board.
Ranger Callaway also notes in this section that Alan Garner made several purchases from local restaurants in San Angelo including Wendy’s, Red Lobster, Chili’s and Cajun Creations with the BLVFD account.
Specifically, on September 26, 2017 a purchase was made on the BLVFD account for $32.07 at Rosa’s Cafe in San Angelo. The next day, Ranger Callaway went to the store and obtained a receipt and video surveillance. During the video Ranger Callaway identified Chief Garner and his wife along with two of his grown children.
That same day, September 27, 2017, Ranger Callaway noticed purchases on the BLVFD Special Account from the Midland Meat Company. The account indicated $71.23 was purchased on that day at round 3:09 p.m. Ranger Callaway again made contact with the company in question and obtained a receipt for the items purchased and video surveillance of the transaction. Garner allegedly purchased Quail Poppers X3 ($50.97), two flank steaks ($7.24 and $7.93) and Texas Oil Dust-Black Gold Seasoning ($13.00).
The total was $79.14, but the owner said he gave Chief Garner a discount since he was with the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
Callaway notes the video surveillance clearly shows Chief Garner making the purchase.
The final instance was on September 28, 2017 when Ranger Callaway observed Chief Garner and his wife enter the Red Lobster in San Angelo, Texas. Ranger Callaway checked the BLVFD Special Account and confirmed that Alan Garner had purchased a meal for himself and his wife for $54.63 at the restaurant on the BLVFD credit card.
The arrest warrant was filed and signed by District Judge Pete Gomez on October 4, 2017.
Garner, who was out of town over the weekend, was arrested by Ranger Joel Callaway at around 9:30 a.m. Monday morning at the Reagan County Sheriff’s Department.
His bond was set at $3,500. He also had other conditions set along with his bond including that he cannot enter Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department or Reagan County EMS property, and cannot have any contact with BLVFD or Reagan County EMS personnel.
Garner served Big Lake and Reagan County for over 29 years as a volunteer and later as chief of the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
Commissioners Move Quickly Following Arrest
The Reagan County Commissioners moved quickly Monday following the news of Chief Alan Garner’s arrest.
The group called for an emergency meeting at 11:30 a.m. The agenda had one item... “Consider and/or act on an unforeseeable situation related to a complaint regarding the Reagan County EMS Director Alan Garner."
County Judge Larry Isom called the meeting to order and, at the advice of County Attorney Chad Elkins, immediately entered into a closed session to discuss the matter under the personnel exemption of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
The group stayed behind closed doors for an hour and 20 minutes with Elkins, Reagan County Chief Deputy Destin Wilha and Reagan County Medical Director Dr. James Williams coming in and out from the closed door session.
Upon reconvening in regular session, the commissioners approved a series of motions relating to Alan Garner and the Reagan County EMS service.
The first was to terminate Alan Garner’s employment with the county based on the proposed bond conditions which prohibit him from entering EMS facilities and having contact or communication with EMS or fire department employees.
The termination is also based on his arrest for misapplication of funds or other felony charge.
The motion also included that Alan Garner will be made aware of his right to request a name-clearing hearing.
That motion was made by County Judge Larry Isom and seconded by Commissioner Jim O’Bryan before being approved by all which includes O’Bryan, Commissioner Tommy Holt and Commissioner Tim Sellman.
The next motion, made by Commissioner Holt, was to appoint Destin Wilha as the interim director of the EMS and fire department to assume the roles held by Alan Garner until further notice. Commissioner Sellman seconded the motion before it was approved by the court.
The next motion, made by Commissioner Sellman, was to suspend billing by the Reagan County EMS department for services performed until further notice. The motion also stated that the ‘Billing Clerk’ position will be deleted effective immediately. Commissioner Holt seconded the motion before the group unanimouly approved it.
The final motion, made by Commission O’Bryan, was to direct the County Treasurer to accept the daily time records for the EMS employees without the signature of the supervisor for the September pay period since the supervisor, Alan Garner, had been terminated. County Judge Isom seconded the motion before it was approved unanimously by the group.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:59 p.m.
No Indication of Misused Tax Money
Reagan County Judge Larry Isom said Monday that there is currently no indication of misused county tax money.
“That is always my number one concern,” Isom said. “Right now it appears all of the allegations have to do with volunteer fire department funds.”
The Reagan County EMS department is tax payer funded through the county. The Big Lake Volunteer Fire Department receives most of its funds through donations made by businesses and individuals in the community.
“I’m not sure where the investigation will go from this point forward,” Isom said. “But the county will be open and will fully cooperate with Ranger Callaway. I don’t mind paying for an audit of the EMS and fire department’s books if need be.”
Isom said there is already strict oversight of the EMS department’s financial with the county auditor watching things monthly and an outside auditing firm looking over it once a year.
Isom said one change the commissioners will immediately put in place is there will no longer be a liaison between any department and the court.
Up until now Commissioner Jim O’Bryan has acted as the liaison between the EMS and fire departments and the commissioners court, meaning acted as an intermediary between the two groups.
Isom said from this point forward, all departments will bring information to the full court to make sure everyone knows what is going on.
MORE DETAILS AND QUOTES WILL BE ADDED TO THIS STORY AS IT CONTINUES TO DEVELOPE. CHECK BACK OFTEN FOR UPDATES.