It gets Colmar Manor Police Chief Ernest "Mike" Mulligan's Irish up just to talk about how he thinks George Beauchamp, the former town administrator who was fired last month, may have slickered the whole town.
"Last April, I put my paycheck in the bank and it bounced," said Mulligan remembering how the episode began. "I walked across the hall and asked about it. [Beauchamp] said to put it back in and it would be all right. Meanwhile, other checks were bouncing all over the place."
The 70-year-old chief immediately went to the bank and found that the town had less than $5,000 in its seven accounts when there should have been more than $40,000, he said.
A little more digging, Mulligan said, revealed that Beauchamp had come to Colmar Manor in 1974 after serving 19 months at the federal penetentiary at Lewisburg, Pa. Beauchamp confirmed that he had been in prison for embezzlement. Mulligan said that police records reported Beauchamp had been charged with embezzling $1.5 million from a New York credit union. Beauchamp claimed it was $500,000 -- before interest and penalties.
Colmar Manor lies in a sleepy nook just over the District line between Fort Lincoln cemetery, Bladensburg Road and a large undeveloped tract called Anacostia Park.
Beginning in the early 1970s, the declining community, now numbering about 1,200 people, began to receive substantial federal aid, including over $2.7 million in community development block grants and small cities development funds.
In 1974, Colmar Manor hired Beauchamp, a short man with delicate features and given to overweight, as a clerk in the town's tiny municipal offices. His job was to handle to books for federal programs whose annual budgets were bigger than the town's. Mulligan said the town did not check Beauchamp's background.
In 1977, Beauchamp was promoted to town administrator, the only full-time financial position.
"We had a vacancy come up and with him being familiar with the government programs, he was elevated," said Edward M. Mutchler, the town's part-time mayor who is paid $35 a month and comes to the municipal building for about an hour a day.
A recent five-year audit conducted for the town by a private accounting firm states that town funds may have been diverted by Beauchamp from their intended use, that he approved the use of $30,000 of the town's federal community development funds for a parking lot at the American Legion Post he commanded and that he failed to properly segregate the proceeds from the sale of land originally purchased with federal money, leaving the town possibly liable for $185,000 to the federal government.
Beauchamp, asked about the audit, said that it was conducted by the same firm that had done the town books previously. "We didn't change bookkeeping procedures, we didn't change audit procedures, why are they finding these things wrong now?" he asked.
The FBI is investigating "possible missappropriation of funds made available through the community development grant program," according to a spokesman. Mulligan said he called both the FBI and the state's attorney's office.
Beauchamp, secluded in his Bladensburg apartment, insists that his ouster is purely political, because he tried to tell the town that its tiny police department had become too expensive after the cost was no longer shared with the neighboring town of Cottage City. According to Beauchamp, this marked him for revenge by longtime police chief Mulligan.
"Once you attack the police budget, you attack him personally. I'm sure he said, 'We've got to get rid of that guy,'" said Beauchamp.
Since Beauchamp was suspended on May 10, Mulligan has added the town administrator's hat to that of police chief, though he still sits at the same desk in the two-office Municipal Building. He has been running a seat-of-the-pants caretaker operation, keeping all the finances in one simple account posted on the bulletin board for all to see -- "all that comes in on the left and all that goes out on the right."
When Mulligan went through Beauchamp's office, he said, he found $66,000 in checks signed by the mayor and town council and payable to various town creditors, all unmailed. Pouring through the listing of checks that represent unpaid bills, filling six pages of 12-column accounting paper, he noted that no federal or state withholding taxes had been paid since Jan. 1
"If I had to pay Uncle Sam tomorrow, it would take my whole bankroll," he said.
Beachamp said he was sending out the checks as the money to cover them came in because the budget was over-extended. He said he had been telling the town father that they had to learn t live within their budget.
Mulligan and the mayor insist that Beauchamp led the town down a primrose path toward insolvency. According to Mutchler, Beauchamp convinced the mayor and the four-member town council to borrow $393,000 from a local bank to buy the land and building of Berk Motley's Sirloin Room on Bladensburg Road, as part of their development program, without waiting for federal urban renewal funds.
A $60,000 payment of interest and principal on the note that came due in August had to be renegotiated and Mulligan says the property will have to sold to rid the town of a major debt.
Beauchamp claims he had nothing to do with the purchase other than to negotiate the loan. "Mr. Mulligan encouraged the mayor and the council that it was a good idea," he said.
"It wasn't a part of the urban renewal program. I don't know why it was bought," said Mutcher, who works as a manager in a Greenbelt paper warehouse. b
"The man responsible was George Beauchamp," said Mulligan. "He conned the mayor and the council on that one."
Shirley Heller, the town's clerk-treasurer said, "I worked under his direction, that was all. He was a very likable person," she added. "I had no idea what was going on until the last minute."
Heller remembered Beauchamp as a well liked, terribly persuasive man.
"We were good personal friends as well as work friends," said Heller. "He could tell you that wall was green and you'd look at him and say, 'Yes, it's green.'"
Heller recalled that Beauchamp was thought to have a good pension from his credit union job in New York.
"From the first time I met him, George was a big spender, said Heller. "You see George was a bachelor. He didn't have anybody but George. We partied all the time."