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Former Perryville police chief arrested days before election
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Former Perryville police chief Keith Tarrillion was arrested Friday on charges of theft, forgery and making a false report, just days before an election that will decide whether Perryville continues to elect its chief.
The timing of Tarrillion's arrest has raised some eyebrows, but city attorney Thomas Ludwig said Perryville officials had no control over that and were as surprised as anyone else to learn of the charges, which the Missouri attorney general's office filed Thursday.
Online sheriff's department records showed Tarrillion, 42, was released from the Perry County Jail on Friday afternoon.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office charged Tarrillion with one count each of theft of property or services worth $500 to $25,000 and forgery -- both Class C felonies -- and the Class B misdemeanor of making a false report, online court records show.
Tarrillion is accused of filing a false claim with his insurance company, according to a probable-cause statement filed Thursday by Sgt. David Bauer of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Tarrillion stepped down as chief in March after an investigation by the city that focused in part on the police report filing.
Under an agreement with Tarrillion, the city continued to pay his salary and benefits until he was charged Thursday. If he is convicted of a crime, he will have to reimburse the city for the pay and benefits he has received since his resignation; if he is exonerated, the city will owe him back pay from Thursday to the end of his term April 1.
Ludwig has said the agreement came as a
result of Tarrillion's position as an elected official; had he refused to resign, the city could not have removed him from office without formal impeachment proceedings.
After his departure, the board of aldermen appointed a 13-member citizens' advisory committee to explore the possibility of asking voters to convert the chief's job from an elected to an appointed position.
Twelve members of the committee recommended the city put the question to voters. In August, the board of alderman unanimously approved an ordinance placing the measure on the ballot for Tuesday.
On Friday, committee member Susan Yamnitz, the lone dissenter, questioned the timing of Tarrillion's arrest and said she felt city leaders had used the committee as a scapegoat to advance their agenda, presenting the group with limited information and failing to answer questions to her satisfaction.
"It's convenient how they kept putting it off and putting it off," she said of Tarrillion's arrest. "He went the whole summer without knowing anything. ... It's too convenient that this all happened the way it did. That's my opinion."
Convenient or not, the timing was coincidental, Ludwig and a representative of Koster's office said Friday.
"We had absolutely, positively no knowledge of what the attorney general was going to do and when they were going to do it," he said. "We were as surprised as you or anybody else."
Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said Koster's office got involved in late September, at the behest of Judge Michael Bullerdieck.
"We received the order appointing us to investigate on September 26, 2013," Gonder wrote in an email to the Southeast Missourian on Friday. "We filed charges after reviewing the evidence, and before the statute of limitations was set to expire in November."
The charges stem from a November 2010 police report Tarrillion is accused of filing under another officer's name.
On Nov. 12, 2010, Tarrillion claimed his hot tub and an outdoor table had been vandalized, but "upon investigation, it was determined that the reported damage was not the result of vandalism," Bauer wrote in the probable-cause statement.
Bauer cited discrepancies between the date on the report -- Nov. 9 -- and the report number, which was "in sequence with other Perryville Police reports that have numbers drawn on November 12, 2010, which would indicate Tarrillion's vandalism report number was drawn on November 12, 2010 not November 9, 2010 as Tarrillion indicated."
Det. Jon M. Lanier, whose name appears on the report, was assisting other officers in clearing an accident near scene near Guyots Lumber Co. the morning of Nov. 12, Bauer wrote.
"Due to the location of the lumber company and the time Lanier departed from the scene, he could not have been at the Perryville Police Department to complete the police report Tarrillion submitted on his behalf," Bauer wrote.
When Bauer interviewed Tarrillion this spring, the former chief said an officer never came to his home to investigate the vandalism, but "in Tarrillion's narrative that he stated he typed on Detective Lanier's report, Tarrillion noted, ' ... upon my arrival I met with Tarrillion who directed me to the rear of the residence,'" Bauer wrote.
"Based upon Tarrillion's own statement, the police report is fraudulent," Bauer wrote.
Tarrillion's insurance company paid him $1,427.95 on Dec. 6, 2010, and $4,211.29 on Jan. 31, 2011, Bauer wrote.
Tarrillion has acknowledged he provided the narrative for the report -- which Lanier signed -- but has said the practice was neither illegal nor uncommon.
The report surfaced in March, after the city hired former Secret Service agent Paul Nenninger to investigate allegations of conduct by Tarrillion "inconsistent with his official character and duty."
Tarrillion has been reluctant to speak publicly about the circumstances surrounding his resignation, but on Oct. 22, the Perryville Republic-Monitor printed a letter to the editor from the former chief in which he urged voters to reject the proposed change.
In his letter, Tarrillion said he consistently received positive feedback from city leaders during his time as chief and suggested the allegations against him were politically motivated.
He declined to comment for this story Friday. No lawyer was listed for Tarrillion's criminal charges Friday.
- Probable cause statement in Tarrillion case (11/01/13)
- Minutes from closed session meetings regarding Tarrillion (03/28/13)
- Tarrillion resignation letter and agreement with city government (03/28/13)
- Police report on Tarrillion property damage (03/13/13)
- State probing Perryville's ex-chief (10/25/13)
- Ex-chief's investigation still in limbo (10/06/13)
- Timeline of events in the Tarrillion investigation (10/06/13)
- Low turnout expected for election on Perryville chief question (11/02/13)