OCTOBER 15, 2012
Illustrating that public corruption has no age limit or boundary, the 91-year-old mayor of a tiny Alabama town has been convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from city coffers and a chunk of the cash went to her live-in boyfriend.
The story comes from River Falls, a quaint 7-square-mile town with a population of about 600. The municipality is located near the Florida border and is best known as a drive-through of sorts for people traveling to the Sunshine State’s famously pristine Panhandle beaches.
For about three decades a woman named Mary Ella Hixon has served as mayor of River Falls and it seems she’s been using taxpayer funds as her personal piggy bank. When the local newspaper started digging around about a questionable deal a few months ago, authorities launched an investigation.
They found that Mayor Hixon, who looks like she could be anyone’s grandma, had stolen at least $201,000 from the south Alabama town over the years. She also transferred a city-owned property to her live-in companion without getting approval from the city council. Police say the stolen cash went to Hixon’s relatives, her boyfriend and his relatives. She also gave some money to co-workers at a development company where she worked.
Hixon’s live-in companion, Richard Moss, has also been charged with four counts of theft for earning at least $80,000 for work he never performed as a “nighttime policeman.” For two years Mayor Hixon paid her boy toy $452.50 per week even though he never worked for the town, according to the local paper. At the time Moss was the administrator of a nearby county’s jail.
The mayor also used town funds to pay the salaries of other friends who never did any work, including nearly $20,000 to a pal who supposedly repaired water lines and another who got about $9,000 for a different bogus job. When Hixon discovered that a “concerned citizen” had secretly recorded her admitting her illegal conduct, she paid the person hush money and ordered him/her to lie to police.
Hixon has been sentenced to a decade in prison, however, the judge took into consideration “her advanced age” and reduced it to five years of probation. She also must pay $200 per month in restitution and a lien has been placed on her home. Who would have thought? In a newspaper photo taken on the day of her court hearing, she looks like a harmless little old lady with white hair, glasses and a brown bead necklace.
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