Former Griffin Central Services director, Motor Fleet manager face felony charges: GBI

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Phill Francis, former city of Griffin Central Services director, and Stevie Williams, former Griffin Motor Pool director, have been named in multiple felony arrest warrants obtained by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Altogether, Francis faces five felony counts and Williams stands accused of two felonies.

According to the arrest warrants obtained by GBI Special Agent Adam Thompson, the charges involve multiple thefts related to their employment by the city of Griffin.

Thompson alleges that in September 2018, Francis was in possession of a 2007 International 7600 roll-off truck that he allowed Terry Lewis and Jason Abercrombie to sell for $65,000, with the city of Griffin being deprived of the proceeds of said transaction.

Thompson also alleges that in June 2017, Francis sold a 2004 Ford Super Duty truck with an approximate value of $8,100 to Robert McLendon, again depriving the city of Griffin of the proceeds.

Two additional felony counts of theft by taking allege that Francis sold city of Griffin property to Robert McLendon – in October 2017, a Caterpillar skid steer valued at $12,500 was sold for $5,000 cash and between Jan. 1, 2018, and Aug. 31, 2020, a 2006 Peterbilt 320 garbage truck with an unknown value was sold for $1,500 cash – Thompson said.

In his fifth affidavit, Thompson said that between Jan. 1, 2019, and Aug. 31, 2020, Francis took with intention of his own personal use a Grasshopper 322D lawn mower.

Thompson said Francis is still in possession of the allegedly stolen lawn mower.

Williams stands accused of committing two thefts between Nov. 1, 2019, and May 30, 2020, one involving a 2002 Polaris UTV and in the second, a 2005 Polaris Ranger, both owned by the city of Griffin.

Both Francis and Williams have retired from the city of Griffin.

As for Francis, O’Connor said he retired in August 2020.

“That was on his own accord. We didn’t know he was going to retire. He was offered another job with a company out of Alabama,” she said.

Williams retired after being confronted by city officials.

“I wouldn’t say his retirement was forced because we didn’t know how far this was going to go, but once we asked him (Williams) some questions, he put in his retirement notice,” O’Connor said. “There wasn’t an investigation at the time of Phill’s, but when we started asking questions of Stevie, that’s when I guess he knew, but there was no investigation at the time of Phill’s retirement.”

O’Connor said Francis’s retirement ultimately triggered the investigation.

“It actually began with some Solid Waste employees who came to me with some questions about some equipment they were contacted about, so that’s what really started it,” O’Connor said.

She explained in her capacity as deputy city manager, she was filling in for Francis as the city sought his replacement.

“We were also trying to figure out how to reorganize at that point. He (Francis) was over so much. We were working on restructuring first, so, until that time – until we hired a new director – I was over Solid Waste,” O’Connor said. “That’s when we found out that we had a question about a piece of equipment.”
The Griffin Police Department was initially asked to investigate the matter, but subsequently the GBI was requested to conduct an investigation.

Asked if city officials had received any reports related to the allegedly stolen equipment prior to Francis’s retirement, O’Connor said, “Not to my knowledge.”

When asked if either Francis or Williams had been the subject of any disciplinary action related to these alleged thefts, O’Connor said, “That I, no, I don’t think so.”

O’Connor, who was not the city manager at the time of these alleged thefts, was unable to explain how multiple pieces of equipment could be stolen over a period of years without notice.

“Well, because…Good question is I guess the better answer. I don’t know,” she said before adding, “If it’s the Fleet Services manager and the guy that’s in charge of him who are saying we’ve surplussed this equipment and here’s the money for that, as the city manager, I have to believe them. If I’m not going to, then I don’t need them. If I’m going to do their jobs, then I don’t need them.”
Speaking bluntly, O’Connor then added, “Unfortunately, in this situation, the two people in charge were thieves.”

O’Connor expressed her personal disappointment and acknowledged the damage caused by such incidents.

“This is probably the most unfortunate thing that I wouldn’t have imagined dealing with at this point. It’s just devastating that we’re having to deal with the betrayal of trust of not only our citizens, but our employees,” she said. “At this point, we just have to work hard to restore that broken trust and ensure to our citizens that we have fixed our processes to ensure that this never happens again.”

The GRIP attempted to ascertain the precise timeline regarding when this was first reported to the Griffin Police Department, when the GPD investigation was initiated and when the GBI investigation was requested, but Chief Mike Yates refused multiple requests for an interview.

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Comments

  1. Are we surprised that City of Griffin employees are doing things they shouldn’t? No, I am not surprised at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more goofs coming up that someone is being found out about. This whole government here is crooked. Good luck finding a person with integrity in Griffin who will admit to wrongful doing. Unfortunately any town below Atlanta and above Macon is not a very honest city. People want things and they take them. They are an employee, people look the other way. I vote that the government should be ran like a business too, that way you’ll know when things go missing and who may have took it. CoG employees, you should be ashamed of yourselves. I think he should have been fired, not able to retire.
    Jail is not good enough here, these people need to attend training again for their behavior while in the jail or prison.

  2. M. Griffin says:

    What about the Lewis guy?

  3. David Baugh says:

    Didn’t we have a City Manager who also had an assistant to help him that was over everything pertaining to the city? Clearly, no one was watching the store. At least not very close. Did the higher-ups, who these suspects reported to, ever go to see what was going on? Does our city ever have to do an inventory like every business has to do? There is the problem. The government does not operate what they do like a business. If they did they would be more efficient. Can they prosecute the suspects under the RICO Act?

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