Hale county commissioner will be sentenced for theft on Wednesday - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/19/10

Hale county commissioner will be sentenced for theft on Wednesday

Source: Plainview Daily Herald Source: Plainview Daily Herald

By Katie Bauer  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A Hale County Commissioner will learn his punishment this week, after a jury found him guilty of theft.

Gary Koelder was accused of using county funds to purchase car parts from area auto stores. His defense says the accusations are a big misunderstanding.

"The testimony was that his personal accounts wound up getting charged to the county and the defense was that he did not realize that it had actually gotten charged to the county, said Defense Attorney Rod Hobson.

Hale County Commissioner, Gary Koelder, was on trial last week for Theft by a Public Servant. He was originally charged with a felony, but was convicted of a Class A misdemeanor.

Hobson says Koelder has no idea he had done anything wrong until the indictment. "We believed that some of the folks over in Hale County, wanted to get rid of Gary, so they basically went back in time and examined every transaction that he was involved in and they found these three or four transactions that they felt were questionable."

Koelder had personal accounts at three different auto stores, where Hale County also had accounts.

"The jury heard evidence that Mr. Koelder's personal vehicles needed parts and those parts were charged to the county," said Special Prosecutor Tina Davis-Rincones.

Items such as tires, parts for a 1996 Mustang, an electric fuel pump for his wife's Yukon, and service on a Chevy S-10 were all purchases that were made between 2005 and 2008 and charged to the county.

Rincones says she believes he was aware of this. "The testimony was that he in fact did know that one charge was put on the county, because he directed it to be so and intended not to steal from the county but to go back and make it right at another time."

Hobson says the total cost of these purchases was a little under $1,200. "Gary's made some contributions to Hale County, some property contributions well over what it was that he took. I mean he got them an air compressor and he's giving them some trailers and I mean Gary's done a lot for Hale County."

After nearly eight hours of deliberation, a Hale County jury found Koelder guilty of theft. "Mr. Koelder was involved in not only the purchases, but he was involved in the checks and balances after the purchases, so if it was a mistake, then the evidence from the state's perspective is that he should have caught it long before it got to payment," said Davis-Rincones.

Commissioner Koelder chose to have the judge sentence him, rather than a jury. The sentencing will happen Wednesday. Koelder faces up to one year in the county jail and could be fined up to $4,000.

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