HAPEVILLE, Ga. — An embattled Hapeville city councilwoman who has been the subject of several Channel 2 Action News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigations is in trouble once again. And this time, she may have gotten special treatment from police in the city she serves.
The victim in the case, Dennis Martino, owns Martino-White Printing in Hapeville. He said he really just wanted to collect the $742 Ruth Barr owed him for envelopes he printed for her tax
He said he tried to collect for several weeks before cornering her at a council meeting. She handed him a check, but his bank returned it for nonsufficient funds; it had been written on a closed bank account.
"I did not realize it was closed," said Barr when investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer asked her about the check, which bears the signature of Anne Cruz, Barr's daughter and business partner.
"She was out of town. She had left checks on the signed account, I did not realize that was the account that was closed. And I gave it," said Barr.
When Fleischer tried to clarify whether Barr filled in the payment information on the check, Barr walked away without answering.%
According to a Hapeville police report, "several attempts at contact with the [councilwoman] went unanswered."
So a detective went to Hapeville Municipal Court and swore out an arrest warrant for deposit account fraud, which the city judge signed.
But when officers eventually located Barr to arrest her, she instead called the victim, Martino, and worked out a deal, promising to pay him cash later that day.
"That's kind of totally inappropriate, isn't it? That's not the way it's supposed to be done," said George Rogan, who's part of Hapeville's Community Coalition.
Former Hapeville Councilmember Laura Murphy also wants answers, saying, "It looks like special treatment to me."
Police Chief Richard Glavosek told Channel 2 he disagrees. When he canceled a scheduled interview to discuss it, Fleischer caught up with him prior to the start of a public event Thursday evening.
"We just want to know if you feel like your officers properly handled this situation?" Fleischer asked.
"We're not going to discuss that tonight," Glavosek replied.
When pressed, he stated that he believed his officers acted properly in the serving of the warrant.
Not so, says former District Attorney Jeff Brickman, who had never seen anything like this in his 15 years as a state and federal prosecutor.
"Once a judge orders that somebody is arrested, then they have to be arrested," said Brickman, adding that officers on scene don't have the authority to allow the suspect and victim to work out a deal, or to dismiss a warrant.
He says only a judge can dismiss a warrant, and in this case, the city has no documentation of that.
"It doesn't look right, it doesn't smell right. The public reads this and goes what the heck?" said Brickman.
The warrant was served in early July. However, just this week on Wednesday night, minutes before delivering Channel 2's open records request, a police officer showed up at Martino's home and had him sign a statement declining to prosecute the councilwoman.
The city has now decided to review this situation to make sure it was handled properly.
This is just the latest in a trail of fraud allegations against the councilwoman.
which may have cost the government millions of dollars.
for stealing $100,000 from a dying family member.
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