A fourth city of Lebanon employee was accused of theft Thursday, but unlike the previous three cases, the suspect was charged with stealing city property, not utilities.
According to police reports, Lebanon Water Department worker Derrick Theodore Lugg, 29, of Lebanon, was charged with theft of property less than $500 in value after an investigation revealed he apparently took old water meters and gave them to his roommate, who unknowingly sold them as scrap.
“We were notified by water department officials they had received information someone was stealing water meters from the Public Works Department,” said Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen. “The employee did confess to stealing the water meters and having someone else sell them for scrap. We believe the other person had no knowledge they were stolen.”
Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said Lugg will appear in a hearing next week to review allegations of theft, conducting personal business on city time and using his position for personal gain.
“We will have a departmental hearing with him scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m., Baines said. “He has been charged with theft of city property. This is following our rules and regulations. I will present the information to him I have received at that time.
“At this time, he is suspended without pay, and he has turned over his keys and other equipment to his supervisor. After his hearing, I will have five days to present a written decision as to what disciplinary action will be taken.”
According to a police report, Lugg took 30 water meters at various times from the Public Works Department to his home where he gave them to a roommate. The roommate then unknowingly sold them to Lebanon Scrap Metals. Officers matched serial numbers to at least two of the water meters found at Lebanon Scrap Metals and determined they were city property, the report said.
Lugg was booked into Wilson County Jail on Thursday and released the same day on $1,000 bond.
“This is the fourth city employee who has been alleged to have stolen from the city,” Bowen said. “There are more than 300 city employees, so this should not be a reflection of the many hardworking individuals employed by the city of Lebanon. We have some of the best employees out there, and it’s unfortunate these individuals have left a black mark on our city.
“If we find people who are stealing from the city, they are stealing from the taxpayers, and we are going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
The apparent incident comes just days before authorities confirmed two additional Lebanon Gas Department workers were under investigation for apparent natural gas theft at their homes.
According to city attorney Andy Wright, former workers Ralph Sloan and Henry Bennett were added to a multi-agency investigation that started with Mark Caplenor, who resigned amid allegations in August he stole natural gas at his home for about nine years. Wright said Sloan retired recently from the city amid similar allegations.
“I can confirm it. Sloan retired and Bennett resigned.,” Wright said. “There were allegations both were involved in obtaining gas without paying for it at their homes. That is what law enforcement is investigating.
“We have been told by law enforcement there was an admission by both of them they were obtaining gas without paying for it.”
Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Lea also confirmed an investigation but didn’t comment specifically on the suspects involved.
“Essentially I can’t really comment on anything at this point,” Lea said. “I can confirm we have been notified by the city. We have asked multiple law enforcement agencies to investigate. Once those investigations are complete, we will decide on which direction to go.
“As far as we know, the sheriff’s department part of the investigation is complete and has been turned over to us. We are currently reviewing that. We are waiting to conclude all investigations to determine whether they are connected or not connected or what. We want to do everything we can to make sure if any of these cases are presented to the grand jury, it will be able to make the best decision on whether charges are filed.”
Lebanon Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines said the Lebanon City Council included on its agenda Tuesday to fill the vacant positions left by Caplenor, Sloan and Bennett.
“Two more admitted to theft of gas,” Baines said. “One chose to retire and the other resigned. That’s what’s on the agenda [Tuesday] to fill the three positions. In this case, all three chose to resign or retire.”
Since Sloan, a 32-year employee with the city, lived in the county, sheriff’s investigators handled the investigation into his alleged involvement in stealing gas at his home.
“We were contacted by the district attorney to investigate a gas theft,” Sheriff Robert Bryan said. “That investigation, as well as any involvement we have in the investigation, has been completed and turned over to the district attorney’s office. “
Lebanon police investigators are working allegations against Bennett – a four-year city worker – since his home is within the city limits.
“The investigation on Bennett is complete at this point, but there is at least one more person we want to interview,” Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen said. “I know enough to know now that one retired and one resigned due to their actions. The ethical aspects of this are terrible. Our citizens entrust us and pay us and then you have actions that bring shame upon us because someone does something that’s unethical. “
Caplenor, Sloan or Bennett has not been charged as the case will likely be turned over to a Wilson County grand jury.