FORMER ANIMAL SHELTER MANAGER ARRESTED FOR THEFT OF COUNTY PROPERTY
Michael T. Spears
A former manager of the Baxter County Animal Shelter has been arrested for theft of county property. Michael Thomas Spears, 43 years old of Midway, was arrested Friday evening, July 14th, after surrendering himself at the Baxter County Detention Center for service of a warrant that had been issued for his arrest.
According to the Investigator's probable cause affidavit, the Baxter County Government purchased a new Speed Queen washer and dryer set from a Mountain Home business on or about October 19, 2020 for $2,023.39. These machines were purchased for use at the Baxter County Animal Shelter in Midway. They were delivered and set up there by the vendor's employees on October 20, 2020. The invoice was paid by the Baxter County Treasurer. During this time, Michael Spears was the manager of the Animal Shelter.
Near the end of 2022, Michael Spears resigned from his position as Animal Shelter Manger. The Animal Shelter was subsequently closed, and operations ceased until new personnel could be hired to open the Animal Shelter back up. On or about May 11, 2023, a newly hired Animal Control Warden informed his supervisor at the Sheriff's Office that the washing machine at the facility was not draining properly. The vendor where the equipment had been purchased from in 2020 sent a repair person to the location to work on the washer. It was then discovered that the Speed Queen washer and dryer set were no longer at the Animal Shelter. Instead, there was a Whirlpool brand washer and a Roper brand dryer in use.
On or about May 23, 2023, a Sheriff's Investigator conducted a non-custodial interview with Michael Spears. During the interview, Spears said he placed a slip ring into the washing machine by mistake and damaged the unit. He alleged he had contacted the vendor and had been told that they would not cover the repair under warranty due to the circumstances of the damage. As a result, Spears contacted another appliance repair person, whose information he could not provide. This person gave Spears an estimate of $700.00 to repair the machine. This repair person offered to trade out the Speed Queen units with the other units at no price difference. Spears felt he would be responsible personally for the repair bill, and he agreed to make this trade without consulting the Baxter County Judge at the time. Spears never reported his activities concerning the washer and dryer to his supervisors.
Previous employees were questioned concerning the Speed Queen washer and dryer set. They did not recall those machines being in the Animal Shelter for more than a couple of days. One previous employee indicated that Spears told her he sent the units back because they did not fit. Neither employee remembered the new Speed Queen machines being at the Animal Shelter for very long.
The Speed Queen machines in question have not been found or returned, and a new washer and dryer set had to be purchased to replace the old ones that remained at the Animal Shelter. The monetary loss to Baxter County is $2,023.39.
Michael Spears was released from the Detention Center after posting $2,500 bond on the felony charge. He will appear before the Circuit Court to answer on July 17th.
/s/ John F. Montgomery,
Baxter County Sheriff