The Upshur County Grand Jury returned a sealed indictment alleging multiple counts of misapplication of fiduciary property, Byrd told The Mirror. Melton turned himself in to the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office about 10 a.m. Friday, which was New Year’s Eve, and was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond set by 115th District Judge Lauren Parish, Byrd said.
The indictment against Melton, which Byrd said followed an approximately 3-month investigation, came during the same grand jury session in which three elected Upshur County officials were indicted on misdemeanor charges unrelated to Melton’s case. (See separate story in today’s Mirror.)
The state alleges Melton took between $1,500 and $20,000 during a 2-year period beginning in January 2008, Byrd said. The district attorney also said he expected evidence to show that the amount “is at the highest end of that range.”
Misapplication of fiduciary property in that range is punishable by confinement in state jail, Byrd said.
Melton, the mostly-volunteer department’s chief since January 2005, resigned in October shortly before Byrd announced he was the target of a “criminal investigation.”
Byrd said then that the probe involved Melton’s use of the volunteer fire department’s funds and credit card.
Melton said at the time he had no comment on the investigation.
Gilmer City Manager Jeff Ellington, who said Friday night he was unaware of the indictment until told by The Mirror, said he assumed Melton will remain on the city payroll as a paid firefighter for now “unless there is something unusual” in the case.
Ellington said “an indictment is not a finding of guilt,” but that he would confer with City Attorney Mike Martin about the case.
The city manager said in October he expected the fire department to elect a new chief this month.
Meanwhile, he said, Assistant Chiefs Phillip Wilburn and Jerry Taylor would head the organization, and paid firefighter Bob Roberts would handle the department’s day-to-day responsibilities.