ABERDEEN — An investigation into the Aberdeen Electric Department led to the arrest of department manager Adrian Garth Friday evening. Garth was charged with two counts of felonious extortion. Garth was transported to the Monroe County Detention Center where he later posted bond. His bond was set at $7,500 by Judge Adrian Haynes.
Garth’s arrest stems from statements Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle said he had received concerning some “serious allegations” made against Garth and his position of authority.
“We have had some people come forward and make statements that they have been asked to exchange sexual favors in lieu of paying for their electricity,” Randle said. “These are very serious allegations and we now have enough evidence to charge (Garth) with extortion.”
Also arrested Friday was Aberdeen First Pentecostal Church minister Ricky Bowen. Bowen, who turned himself over to authorities, was charged with obstruction of justice and receiving stolen property, both misdemeanors. Bowen was released on a $1,000 bond.
According to Randle, Bowen was charged because he would not agree to cooperate with the investigation.
“Our evidence shows that Rev. Bowen had information we needed to make arrests,” Randle said. “We asked him to assist us and he said he would not and that we needed to talk to his attorney (Jim Waide). We found that he was collecting more information as our investigation continued.”
Bowen was charged with receiving stolen property after a meter taken from then-electric department employee Charles Hale was allegedly given to Bowen. Bowen has never admitted to having the meter in his possession, but he has stated that he fully informed Aberdeen Mayor Jim Balard about the circumstances surrounding Hale’s meter.
“A worker for the Aberdeen Electric Department told me he had personally cut off Hale’s electricity and yet new meters kept appearing at his home,” Bowen said. “He said he had written the incident up and nothing was being done about it, so he brought it to my attention. I immediately notified Mayor Jim Ballard about this, as a matter of fact, I met with Mayor Ballard twice about this. One of the meetings was held with an official from a state investigative agency. It was my understanding that Ballard was going to press charges against Hale.”
Bowen, who has been outspoken in his campaign against corruption in the electric department, said his arrest was a result of fighting illegal activity in Aberdeen.
“This is the result of me trying to stop corruption in the City of Aberdeen,” Bowen said upon his release. “It is the right of every citizen to fight corruption. We are seeing the battle being won and these are the results we will have to endure. I’m glad to say that I’m from Aberdeen.” Bowen would not comment when asked if he was going to pursue legal recourse because of his arrest.
Randle said that the missing meter was just the beginning of a larger investigation, an investigation that was now being joined by other investigative agencies.
“We are working closely with the A.G.’s office,” Randle said. “Every time we receive more information or evidence, we let them know. They are assisting us in making sure we charge people with the correct criminal charges. We want these charges to stick. I know people were hoping that the arrests would come quickly, but this investigation is large – we receive more information every day. We are also working with an investigator from the state auditor’s office as well.”
The investigation has already led to three arrests. Sandra Chism, Martha Davidson Nevitt and Norma Buckingham Walker have all been arrested and charged with felonious theft of utilities.
Jeff Clark/Monroe Journal