ROCKWOOD â€” He bought 13 weapons for $6,131.98 using the cityâ€™s credit card â€” including an assault rifle, shotguns and pistols â€” and registered them in his name, according to city records.
Longtime Rockwood Public Works Director Tom Pierce also used the cityâ€™s credit card to charge more than $6,678 in ammo, holsters and other firearms accessories and also put those items in his name, officials said.
As part of ongoing investigations by state auditors and the local district attorney generalâ€™s office, allegations that Pierce used the cityâ€™s credit card to charge $3,495 in unauthorized correspondence classes are also under scrutiny.
â€œFrom what I picked up on, itâ€™s misappropriation of funds and probably fraud,â€ Rockwood Vice Mayor Peggy Evans said Tuesday.
Other charges Pierce put on the cityâ€™s credit card in 2010 and 2011 are also under scrutiny, and city records obtained Tuesday by the News Sentinel indicate officials remain uncertain of their legitimacy.
The incidents have sparked changes in the way the city uses its credit cards, City Administrator Jack E. Miller said. â€œWeâ€™ve de facto cut out credit card purchases,â€ he said.
The cityâ€™s three remaining credit cards are now in the jurisdiction of City Recorder Becky Ruppe and are only to be used â€œfor emergency purchases,â€ Miller said.
As city officials sort through credit card purchases by Pierce, many of them â€œfall short of our ability to understand,â€ Mayor James Watts wrote in a letter to Pierce and Pierceâ€™s attorney, John McFarland.
Some buys, especially the guns, â€œsimply create an enormous liability and make no sense,â€ Watts wrote.
Watts in the letter said some buys were for Pierceâ€™s â€œpersonal use and benefit,â€ making him â€œguilty of gross misconduct.â€
Watts on Monday night was prepared to recommend to City Council that Pierce, who had been put on unpaid administrative leave from his $57,000-a-year job since Feb. 17, be fired.
But minutes before the meeting, McFarland submitted Pierceâ€™s resignation, Watts said.
The mayor said Pierce had been with the city for 26 years and had been the cityâ€™s public works director, lately supervising 19 employees, for about 15 years.
â€œThis is so out of character,â€ Evans said of Pierce, whom she described as â€œa great guyâ€ willing to go out of his way to help others. â€œI really donâ€™t understand how it happened or why it happened,â€ she said.
Evans speculated that another city employee might have been involved in online purchases that Pierce allegedly made.
â€œHe was paying online through our bank account, and I donâ€™t know how he got the code to that account. Someone had to have given him that code,â€ she said.
When auditors in early February first began questioning Pierceâ€™s credit card purchases, Pierce told city officials he had purchased â€œtwo or threeâ€ weapons to use in his work in animal control, â€œprimarily dealing with vicious animals.â€
Pierce also told officials he had purchased the correspondence courses â€œfor the purpose of his getting knowledge to do a better job,â€ and a former mayor had authorized that purchase.
McFarland on Tuesday had no comment and said he had told his client not to talk to anyone about the allegations.