No charges against tax collector who used taxpayer money for personal use

Lincoln, R.I. (WPRI) – A suspended tax collector who admitted to using money from a firefighters’ health care fund to pay a personal credit card paid the money back and will not face criminal charges, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Timothy Griffin, who was also a longtime firefighter and fire chief in Lincoln’s Lonsdale fire district, was suspended as the tax collector last September after a fiscal review of the district’s troubled finances “identified improprieties related to use of health care funds.”

According to the document, the health care fund covered the firefighters in all of the town’s fire districts but “Lonsdale officials were responsible to receive, maintain, distribute and account for payments on behalf of the participating districts.”

The document stated that a total of about $40,000 was transferred from the fund to the Lonsdale district account without explanation.

According to Rhode Island State Police Major Joe Philbin, the investigation determined Griffin used $3,645 from the health care fund to pay off a personal credit card.

“But it was immediately paid back,” Major Philbin said. “As far as we know, this incident was a one-time occurrence and the Lonsdale Fire District continues to analyze their records to see if there are any further discrepancies. This is why the complaint remains open.”

Board of Wardens member John Picozzi said he was surprised Griffin was not charged.

“I’m just baffled,” Picozzi said. “He should’ve been held accountable. And at the very least, he owes us and the taxpayers an apology. Just because money is not missing, does not mean there shouldn’t be charges. He betrayed the taxpayers’ trust.”

But district treasurer Michael Babbitt, who discovered the potential misappropriation, said Griffin’s service to the community played a roll in not seeking charges against him.

“Did he mismanage some funds? Yes,” Babbitt said. “But he put the money back and there was never any money missing. He’s served honorably for 30 years.”

As far as the rest of the $40,000 that was transferred from the health care account into Lonsdale’s district account, Griffin said it appears that money was used to stabilize Lonsdale’s lagging finances. But he said all indications are the money was transferred back to the health care account.

“There is no missing money,” Babbitt said.

Phone calls to the number we have on file for Griffin were not answered. He did respond to requests for comment when we broke this story in September.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau

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