ATHENS: Payne Springs fire chief charged with bribery, tampering

Payne Springs Fire Rescue Chief Randy Dale Harley was arrested on Thursday by Henderson County Fire Marshal Shane Renberg on warrants for bribery and tampering with government records.

He posted bonds totaling $60,000 and was released.

According to the arrest affidavit, the offenses occurred on May 18, when Harley, 53, “intentionally and knowingly, solicited and accepted a benefit, $1,200, as consideration for his decision to exercise his discretion, making false entries on a government record.” The affidavit shows that the record was a Henderson County Community Supervision and Corrections Department timesheet to certify a criminal defendant has performed community service hours at the Payne Springs volunteer fire department.

On July 23, Henderson County Fire Marshal Shane Renberg was conducting an investigation of possible theft of funds from the department. During that investigation, Renberg learned of a possible bribery and tampering with governmental records incident may have occurred involving Harley.

It also shows that Renberg learned there were assertions that people who were convicted of criminal offenses and placed on probation could acquire court-ordered community service hours by approaching Harley and make a “donation” in exchange for his signature on any documents required by the probation department.

That department is a branch of the courts that supervises criminal defendants placed on probation by the courts and ensures that criminal defendants adhere to court ordered conditions of release. One of the common court-ordered conditions is that a criminal defendant must perform community service hours for a non-profit organization.

The probation department keeps track of such hours performed by a probationer on the CSR timesheet. This document is provided to a probationer instructed to find an approved organization for which to perform the community service work.

Once the work is performed, a member of the organization signs and records the date and number of hours of work performed.

Renberg contacted the HCSCD and inquired about any probationers who may have recently submitted documentation claiming they had performed community service hours at the Payne Springs volunteer fire department. HCSCD officials reported they had one probationer submit a “CSR timesheet” showing that person had performed community service at the department.

Rusty Dorough was on probation for an offense in another county but supervised by the HCSCD. He was ordered to complete 120 hours of community service.

The affidavit shows that Renberg met with Dorough, who said he did not work any of the work reflected on the timesheet. Renberg also checked fire department bank records. A review of the records did not reveal a $1,200 cash deposit within a reasonable periodthat could account for the money Dorough gave Harley.

After reviewing the information from Renberg, Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Milton Adams found that probable cause existed for Harley’s arrest and issued the warrant.

On Thursday, Payne Springs Fire Rescue Executive Board members posted on Facebook they had suspended Harley from the department indefinitely because of his arrest.

“At this time the department has no further comments and directs all further inquiries to the Henderson County Fire Marshals office.”