Former Gilmer fire chief pleads not guilty to misapplication of - South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Former Gilmer fire chief pleads not guilty to misapplication of funds charges

story courtesy of the Tyler Morning Telegraph

Special Correspondent

GILMER -- Former Gilmer Fire Chief Mike Melton waived arraignment Tuesday and pled not guilty in writing to charges of misapplying fire department funds, said Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.

Melton, 52, is scheduled for trial July 11 in 115th District Court. The Upshur County Grand Jury on Dec. 30 returned a sealed indictment alleging multiple counts of misapplication of fiduciary property, Byrd has said.

Melton was freed on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond when he turned himself in Dec. 31. Although Melton resigned as chief of the mostly volunteer department in October, Gilmer City Manager Jeff Ellington said Tuesday he remains on the city payroll as a paid fireman because an indictment is not a conviction.

Byrd has said the indictment came after an approximately 3-month investigation. The state charges Melton took between $1,500 and $20,000 during a 2-year period beginning in January 2008, said Byrd, who said recently he expected evidence to show the amount "is at the highest end of that range."

Misapplication of fiduciary property in that range is punishable by confinement in state jail, the district attorney said.

Melton, chief since January 2005, resigned shortly before Byrd announced he was the target of a "criminal investigation." Byrd said then that the probe involved Melton's use of the volunteer fire department's funds and credit card.

Melton said at the time he had no comment on the investigation. Gilmer attorney David Griffith represents him, and visiting Judge Paul Banner is hearing the case because 115th District Judge Lauren Parish recused herself from it, Byrd said Tuesday.