2011
09.11

Tuesday August 30th LaFayette’s head trash collector resigned from his position with the city. He left not to take a new job or to retire, but to avoid being caught and punished for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the city while working in a supervisory role he should never have been given in the first place.

After Public Works Director Richard Moore fired Freddie Mitchell in July 2009, he put Vanessa Gossett in charge of streets and sanitation. After Moore’s premature “retirement” later that year Gossett was promoted to Public Works Director and the city began looking for someone to handle day-to-day operations in the Solid Waste Department overseeing garbage collection and disposal.

Ms. Gossett had several candidates, including Freddie Mitchell who had reapplied for a job with the city (he had 39 years experience in Public Works), but was forced by City Manager Johnnie Arnold to put another city employee in the job. That employee was Richard G. “Richie” White, an assistant at the LaFayette Golf Course Pro Shop. White had been hired to work at the golf course on July 17th 2009, the same day Mitchell and three other city employees were terminated due to their ages and/or to make room for friends of city department heads.

White was more qualified to work in Solid Waste than the golf shop; his knowledge of golf was mostly from playing the game, but he’d worked in the garbage business on and off for most of his life. White had also done four years in the Army, worked for the US Postal Service in Chattanooga, and started a cardboard recycling company that went out of business shortly before he started working for the city.

LINK: Richie White’s Resumè & Job Applications

Despite his experience, Richie White should have been disqualified from being a city department supervisor because he also had a criminal record; after White’s resignation a city employee said his background check showed a conviction for cocaine possession or distribution, and a former friend says he used to brag about smuggling coke through the LaFayette airport. The past is the past, and he would have been fine hanging off the back of a city garbage truck – but someone with a past history of drug abuse shouldn’t be put in charge of a city department and allowed to handle money essentially unsupervised after only six months of employment.

Beyond that history, Richie White also should have been disqualified from being in charge of Solid Waste because most of his experience in garbage hauling was gained through working at his family’s trash business, White’s Sanitation Service – a major contractor with the City of LaFayette. Having a member of the White family (the owner’s son) in charge of making unchecked decisions that could benefit White’s Sanitation posed a major conflict of interest, but nothing too big for LaFayette’s ethically-disabled City Manager and elected leaders to ignore.

White’s Sanitation Service is owned by Chattooga County’s Steve White, a former member of the Lyerly City Council. Despite never (far as we can find) incorporating as a legal business and having a spotty environmental record, White’s location and prices have grown it into a major garbage hauler for businesses and homes in Chattooga and South Walker county.

Catoosa County’s landfill closed in late 2004, leaving LaFayette without a place to dump its trash. The only nearby options were the Walker County dump and a transfer station owned by White’s Sanitation. Johnnie Arnold said the county dump would cost more and be further away, then announced plans to try White’s for a 90-day trial period. Arnold promised to personally document any problems with White’s during the trial but felt sure they could handle the city’s needs. For the last seven years all garbage collected by LaFayette Solid Waste has been trucked to White’s facility on Stoleman Rd. just south of the Walker/Chattooga line.

In 2004 City Manager Arnold said the sanitation department had broken even financially for the first time, and said he expected the deal with White’s Sanitation to keep LaFayette’s trash service running profitably into the future. That didn’t quite work out; between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2010 (the only reports available to us) Solid Waste was profitable only one year, 2009. The other years that department lost between $63-thousand and $144-thousand dollars, mainly due to increasing transfer fees at White’s. (The city, to its rare credit, didn’t pass those losses on to Solid Waste customers.)

In the last few years White’s Sanitation has also made money from LaFayette by doing occasional repairs on the city’s garbage trucks. That aspect of their business grew increasingly profitable in 2010 and 2011 when LaFayette’s primary garbage hauler, a relatively new truck, spent as much time in the shop as on the street. Soaring maintenance costs at Solid Waste pushed city leaders to vote on purchasing a new truck during the August Council meeting:

From WQCH, 08/11/2011:

    “THE CITY IS BUYING A NEW GARBAGE TRUCK. THE COUNCIL APPROVED THE ‘LEASE-PURCHASE’ OF A NEW PETERBILT TO DO THE JOB. CITY MANAGER JOHNNY [sic] ARNOLD SAID THE OLD TRUCK THEY’RE REPLACING REQUIRED OVER $31,000 IN MAINTENANCE OVER THE LAST YEAR. IT WILL BE KEPT AS A ‘BACK-UP’ VEHICLE FOR THE SANITATION DEPARTMENT.”

$31,000 is a lot of money to spend on parts and maintenance in a single year. That’s nearly half of the total $63,000 Solid Waste lost during fiscal 2010, and the Council or City Manager should have stepped in to stop the bleeding about $20,000 ago. If spent properly that same funding, coming from the pockets of city residents and LaFayette utility customers, could have completely refurbished the old garbage truck or made a hefty downpayment for the purchase of a better used one. And those figures don’t include what it cost the city to pick up garbage by hand every time the truck was being serviced OR what the city will be paying now for a replacement truck.

Last week someone in city government received a call from a company supplying parts for the garbage truck. The company was trying to find out why it had never been paid for parts delivered. The city had already paid for the parts, but the supplier hadn’t gotten their money. The only intermediary between the city and the parts supplier – the only place where the money could have gone – was Mr. Richie White.

Upon hearing about the call, White resigned from his position with LaFayette City Government, afraid that someone would finally discover the thousands of dollars he’s embezzled from the city during his time as Solid Waste Director. Employees in Public Works, some of whom knew what was going on before White walked out, estimate that his direct take ranges anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 – not to mention any benefit he got from having the truck over-serviced at his father’s company.

Further investigation found that Mr. White has also been overweighing the city’s garbage, allowing White’s Sanitation to charge us for disposing more trash than they actually received. Obviously employees there knew what was going on, but Steve and Richie White kept the scam going as long as they could (to their obvious benefit) without being found out.

Without a call from that third-party equipment vendor, White’s deception might have continued for years into the future. And even after the call was made, there’s no guarantee he would have actually been caught – much less fired or prosecuted. His own paranoia about being detected led him to resign; fortunately White had more faith in the city’s willingness to punish his behavior than we do.

Why were the Whites allowed to steal from citizens of LaFayette for nearly 21 months? Why did Johnnie Arnold push to have Richie White put in charge of Solid Waste to begin with, despite his drug convictions and conflict-of-interest ties to White’s Sanitation? Was White hired for the golf course on July 17, 2009 due to a connection to the firing of Freddie Mitchell, or was that just a fishy coincidence? Why was White allowed to handle payments without supervision, and what kind of backwards hillbilly purchasing system is the City of LaFayette using that would allow such embezzlement to go unchecked?

Best case scenario, Johnnie Arnold is guilty of gross negligence and of failing to supervise his employees or check on their actions. Worst case scenario, he’s guilty of knowing what was happening and ignoring it anyway due to friendship with the perpetrators or due to some kind of financial benefit for himself. So he’s either a moron, a thief, or both. That’s strong language but the facts here point to little else.

The city council is responsible for checking into White and Arnold both, responsible for holding those men accountable for their behavior and taking steps to ensure nothing like this happens again. But they won’t do the checks or take the steps, because they’ve left everything up to Johnnie Arnold and don’t care. Their lack of concern and lack of oversight in every area has cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years, has done irreparable damage to LaFayette’s government, employees, and citizens – and will continue to drag the city down for years to come.

Print Friendly

 

 

25 comments so far

Add Your Comment
  1. Wow. I had no clue.

  2. The city should prosecute Richie White and anyone else in Solid Waste for this behavior and end any business deals it has with White’s Sanitation out of principle. The city of Trion and Mt. Vernon Mills should also be encouraged to do the same, run these bums out of town.

    We looked for a connection between Richie and Steve White and former LaFayette councilman Mark White, but so far haven’t found anything. Not saying there is no connection, just saying we haven’t found anything. Mark White will probably be named the new City Manager tomorrow evening during the regular monthly council meeting. He has plenty of skeletons in his own closet even without a connection to this scam.

    Thanks for reading and sharing.

    — LU

  3. very nice article although afew things where left out about richie doing favors for mark white while he was in the process of clearing alot for his new home in dogwood circle using city equipment i dont guess that would ever make it to the public. this small amount which he got called out on is nothing to what he had already received from the city. im not sure if you can get the weight tickets from white’s but if so you will notice the weight got “heavy” after he was hired and that is the truth. my boss vanessa and her new live in boy friend which is the boss over the electric dept. do the same thing there just liked more by “cityhall” ask around till then keep on doing what your doing.

  4. i very much agree with your comment after the city manger leaves this might happen maybe the city will go back to the county land fill. we had to find another transfer station because J.Arnold and B.Heiskell had a heated talk.

  5. On the City Council meeting agenda for tonight, one of the items (after Norm Hodge Resignation) is “Solid Waste Fee Increase.” So after all this, after tens of thousands of dollars up Richie White’s nose, these bums have the balls to start charging us more for garbage pickup.

    City people are denying that a parts company was called about missing payments but they are saying quite a few fake parts invoices came through on White’s Sanitation letterhead. It’s a half-dozen of one or six of the other; bottom line is they’ve been stealing from us for a while now and nobody’s really going to do anything about it.

    –LU

  6. I think a new landfill and or transfer station where the golf course is would be a great idea! That is where all the “turds” seem to “float”.

  7. Ok Let’s clear some things up about Mark White he has never applied for the job as city manager and for the record he does not have the higher education degree that is needed to qualify for or even be considered for the job. He is not related to the Richie White who is a former city employee. This Richie White was born and raised in Summerville Georgia. Check your records and you will find that out. Check your facts with David Maples Mark White purchased the lot from David Maples and also hired him and his son Jay to clean the lot. City equipment was never used on his lot so before you start throwing sticks and stones get your facts straight.

  8. Absolutely right Benzgirl, Im so tired of small town gossip. Everyone should get their facts straight before making accusations like that about Mark White.. whoever is Lafayette Underground , you should really get in the know before posting things you really dont know about!!Mr. Arnold is NOT from Griffin Ga. by the way..

  9. benzgirl is a member of the White family, so take that into consideration when you read her comment.

    Maybe Mark didn’t apply for the job, but a reliable source told me he was one of the people they most wanted to have as City Manager. Their desire for him to have the job doesn’t mean he applied for it, nor does it mean he has any kind of required education. If you read the article above, and the last one we posted, you’ll see a trend of the city’s leaders not caring what kind of experience, training, or criminal history someone has – it’s all about relationship.

    Mark could be appointed City Manager without applying or without the required degree – but hopefully you’re right and he won’t be the new CM. He has plenty of skeletons in his own closet we’ll be rolling out if they make the mistake of giving him control over the city. I don’t know anything about the property cleanup accusation, but I do know a few things about city property he was given for free, his bad behavior with the condo project a few years ago, and the project to pave a road for his benefit while he was on the City Council. Hopefully we won’t have to discuss those things here.

    You’re correct about Arnold, that was a mistake on our part. Johnnie Arnold is from Garden City, near Savannah on the SC/GA line – a good ways down I-16 from Griffin. Here’s a profile of Arnold: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XIJOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mz8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5677,3548310&hl=en

    Before his four years as City Administrator in Garden City he worked as City Manager in Pelham, GA near the Florida line, and a few years as utility supervisor in Manchester, GA which is only one county away from Griffin. Several people in Garden City left at the same time, roughly, to take jobs in smaller towns with smaller budgets – makes me wonder what happened that they all split town and moved hundreds of miles away.

    — LU

  10. city equipment was used and thats the truth… mark white and i both know id say ask some of the employees at the city roads dept. but most of them wouldnt say a word because they need to keep there jobs. lu keep on doing what your doing seems folks get mad when the truth comes out.

  11. Didn’t we already pay for a new garbage truck last year when they jacked up the garbage bill? From what I’ve been told Bill Craig brought up the subject about the missing money at Monday’s council meeting and the subject was changed. It seems no one knows or at least say they don’t know. It’s time this BS is stopped and somebody goes to jail.

  12. Wayne asked Johnnie Arnold what happened to the $2 they added onto the bill a few years ago for buying a new truck, Arnold said he didn’t know what Swanson was talking about and didn’t know where the money was. If I was on the council the next thing out of my mouth would have been “I make a motion we dismiss Mr. Arnold from employment with the City of LaFayette” but I’m not on the council and wasn’t at the meeting so that didn’t happen. I think we’re going to do a follow-up article about that..

    — LU

  13. Good work LU, even it did take you quite a few years. You got him. About the only public information you left out was his email address from Garden City (jonarn@aol.com/member since 1980).

    The CP isn’t even making the effort to appear anything other than what he was the day he was “hired off the internet”. He’s pretty much off the chain because he’s gotten what he came here for and he knows he’s through. He still needs to be removed from the county positions he has worked his way into though-Chamber of Commerce, etc.

    Why no one has ever bothered to connect point B to point C still amazes me.

    Why would the person that ‘hired him off the internet” permit this to continue on for as long as it has after literally thousands of complaints and exibitions of blattent disreguard and incompatence? Connect those two remaining dots and you’ll have a pretty good road map to work with.

  14. I WANTED TO ASK EVERYONE A QUESTION ABOUT CITY EMPLOYEES DRINKING ON THE JOB! THE REASON I ASK,IS ME AND MY WIFE WERE HAVING LUNCH AT TWINS YESTERDAY WHEN WE SAW CITY MANAGER JOHNNY ARNOLD AND SECRETARY DORRIS GREEN CONSUMING ALCHOHOL AT A RAPID PACE.WE WERE WONDERING WHY THE LAFAYETTE POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICERS THAT CAME IN DID NOT ADRESS THE PROBLEM. WE ALSO SAW HIM GET IN AN OFFICIAL VEHICLE AND DRIVE OFF.WE WERE WONDERING IF THIS IS NORMAL ACCEPTED BEHAVIOR.WHAT WOULD JOHNNY ARNOLD DO IF HE SAW ANOTHER CITY EMPLOYEE WITHOUT “HIS TITLE”ACTING IN THIS WRECKLEESS MANOR. ALTHOUGH THE LAFAYETTE CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR NEIL FLORENCE HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED OF THIS OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOR,THEY HAVE DECLINED TO TAKE ANY ACTION. THIS IS NOT A FICTICIOUS STORY.IT CAN BE CONFIRMED BY ASKING THE WORKERS AT TWINS PIZZA AND STEAKS.

  15. Sorry. My typo. Not CP but rather CM (City Manager).

  16. Dear UPSET;

    I can understand & sympathize, but the cold hard fact is the same reason the La Fayette PD has been forbidden to set up road blocks or stop anyone coming out of the golf course.

    By who, you may ask?

    The CP.

    Who brought the current CP in?

    The very person whose behavior has upset you.

    It’s pretty simple, if you take time to think about it.

  17. This post is for UPSET. Just wanted to let you know that the reason the mayor and city council are aware of what happened in Twins is because the two LPD officers you referred to DID report what they saw. As far as confronting him inside the Twins, don’t think it would have been appropriate for them to do so. In my opinion they handled the situation as best they could by reporting it to the higher-ups.

  18. wonder if those 2 officers was stacey meeks and bengie clift? if so it would make alot of sence knowing thats how they got the job they have now by kissing butt.

  19. To ICECREAMMAN.

    Under the circustances, it really doesn’t matter who the officers were. If they had followed the standard protocal for the 99.99% of this townships residents, pulling him over as soon as his vehicle hit N. Main, giving him a breath-alizer test, hand-cuffing him, taking him to lock-up for finger-printing, court date, bonding, etc., they would have been fired eventually for something else, not for taking a danger to other motorists and passengers off the street.

    The only reason it was even made public was because an innocent bystander witnessed it and didn’t like it. And rightfully so.

    How much good do you think it did to “report it to THE higher-up (Mayor) ?

    The officers got to keep thier jobs, and luckily no fatalities/injuries occured.

    Try to find a bright-side………when there is one.

  20. Perhaps Johnnie Arnold and Miss Doris.. and Oh yes of course Mr.White, should all go where ever Richard Moore went… Thier cowards just as he was.

  21. We should have added this before:

    Credit for catching the false White’s Sanitation invoices goes to Teresa Abbott, the secretary at Public Works. She investigated and held a set of questionable bills and brought them to the attention of Vanessa Gossett. Gossett tried to suspend Richie White and he never showed back up at work again, but she didn’t tell her superiors or anyone at LPD what had happened for a week. Johnnie Arnold, now “on vacation,” and an LPD source have both said city leaders had no idea what had happened over there until they read about it here, and then called in the GBI.

    Ms. Abbott’s sharp eye and honestly should put her in the running for a higher position within the city, perhaps taking Doris Greene’s job if the new City Manager terminates her. Gossett needs to be disciplined for finding out about this and not telling anyone else about it, unless she told Mr. Arnold and he lied to LPD and others about not being aware of what had happened.

    — LU

  22. I SAY,TAR AND FEATHER THE WHOLE BUNCH!

  23. EXPOSED: Kristopher Marks from Kids4Christ is LU. My fellow citizens, how would you feel if someone like this tried to spread rumors and lies about you or someone from your family? Worst of all, he is a senior board member of a non-profit, called by the name of The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. False teachers and hypocrites will be exposed. Do you feel comfortable placing your children in …the care of these people? Let them know how you feel. See the story @ http://www.catwalkchatt.com LINK: http://www.catwalkchatt.com/view/full_story/16579475/article-Officials-speak-out-against-LaFayette-Underground-blog–one-contributor-identified?instance=home_Most_popular IF YOU DON’T HAVE INTERNET, READ TODAY’S WALKER COUNTY MESSENGER I gladly step up to the plate and under the microscope, just as any other innocent person would do. Bloggers who attempt to damage and slander others, without any evidence of wrongdoing, should be punished. The people of Walker County need to be protected from this type of criminal.

  24. Richie, you just showed everybody how ignorant you are and how horribly pathetic you are to try to defame a children’s ministry in town. It has nothing at all to do with Kids 4 Christ, and Kristopher has been there for ten years, and never once have the children been lied to or affected negatively by his participation. The kids love him. Kids 4 Christ is more than one person, it is many people, volunteers, children, families and supporters, and you are attacking them because a blogger, whose identity hasn’t been proven by your so-called article, hurt your feelings. Prove your innocence. Its easy, show the paperwork, I am sure LU will put it up.

  25. It is a shame that anyone would intentionally hurt a children’s Ministry, thus hurting children. It shows the “blogs” about you are probably correct. If LU put something online about you that is false…just prove it’s false … The truth is You don’t know that Kris is LU or that he is the only person that makes up LU. I dont know who LU is and really dont care to find out. I appreciate someone in our area that is doing the best they can to spread the truth…even if it is the Ugly truth. It Gives people a place to tell others what is really going on in the community. That people like Tommy Freeman Suck! because he hides the crimes of certain people while obviously hunting down others that have done very little in comparison. Had it not been for LU, La Fayette would still be kissing the backside of Johnnie Arnold! And “so what” IF he is LU…. It doesn’t make him a bad person, it makes him someone who stands up for what HE (or she ) believes in, if you dont like what is written work hard to disprove it. I have had LU disagree with me but they do it with respect. The SHAME of it is that anyone associated with this site has to HIDE from the City of LaFayette “officials”. All of our forefathers fought for the right to say our opinions out loud, which includes on a blog. This wonderful “right” we have helps us all from being oppressed by a totalitarian or communist government, it protects the tax payers from “officials” who scam them out of the money they work for by saying it is being used for much needed equipment that is NEVER purchased. If you want to quote the bible maybe you should look up the verse about “the plank in your own eye” !
    The turth is…we are all LU…. everyone who has ever made a comment makes up LU ( including you). I hope this only encourages hoards of people to step up and do what Kris was doing. I hope if there are dishonest “officials” they know there is a good chance they will be exposed. Everyone has their own opinions and the right to express it. We also have the right to click the x and not look at it. I notice LU did not turn away your opinion, even if it was ugly and against them they allowed it. That is part of the problem with “officials” ( for lack of a better word) they want to express their opinion but they do not want others to do the same thing. If they do, they try to hunt them down and shut them up so they can continue their corrupt dealings without fear of being exposed.
    I hope LU emerges stronger, better, faster….!!!!!