'The right thing to do': Man appointed to Zeigler Council also made the FOIA leading to Thorpe investigation
Isaac Smith, The Southern
Zeigler's Miner memorial, February 2018.
ZEIGLER — Jamie Moyers doesn’t see himself as becoming one of Zeigler’s political elites.
The man tapped to take over for the late Dick McReacken, who died March 20, in the position of public property commissioner said after his one-year partial term is up, he has no intentions of running for office again.
At this point, Moyers said he feels like he thinks he “will be heard in a more sincere way” since he’s not trying to be a long-term candidate. He also said he is coming to the post with no political agenda.
“My biggest goal is to be a voice of the people of this town,” Moyers said.
Moyers teaches government at Zeigler-Royalton High School and said after last summer’s dust up with former Zeigler treasurer Ryan Thorpe being indicted on federal embezzlement charges — he was charged with stealing more than a$300,000 from the city — he thought he needed to be more involved.
“I didn’t want to just be one of those people who come up there just to gripe,” he said. “I wanted to be someone that’s positive and gets positive input.”
The fact is, though, he had been doing his due diligence before this — it was his Freedom of Information Act request last year that sparked the FBI investigation in the first place.
“I knew just from living here that our city was struggling financially, I knew that,” Moyers said of what got him interested in the city’s finances.
He also said he knew the treasurer was making only about $30,000 a year. However, something about Thorpe’s lifestyle didn’t add up to him.
ZEIGLER — An audit report from accountant Dennis Uhls provides a final number of how much former Zeigler treasurer Ryan Thorpe allegedly stole from the city and recommends a change-up in commissioner seats.
“I saw our treasurer spending money like he’d won the lottery,” he said. Moyers said he saw Thorpe buy building materials, motorcycles and even a new car.
“On a salary of around $30,000 a year and a one-income home, because I knew the family, you can’t make those kind of purchases without something,” he said.
So, Moyers asked around to see if Thorpe had received a windfall of cash and no one he talked to could think of anything. So, he decided to do what he tells his government students any taxpayer has the right to do — go to your government and ask questions.
Moyers went in during the summer of 2017 to Zeigler’s city hall and requested bank statements and treasurer reports from January 2016 to end of July of 2017.
“We could look at the bank statements and ... you could tell they had been whited out,” he said, adding that the way payments were being made and the way finances were being handled “just didn’t look right.”
Moyers said he had mixed emotions at what he saw — a lot of it was anxiety though. He wasn’t sure what it meant for him and for the people in city hall, but he said he “could not, not do it.”
“But yet, you knew you had to do it. It was the right thing to do,” he said.
He shared the findings with his son, Braden Moyers, who is a deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Jaime said his son had connections and got their findings passed on to the FBI.
After being questioned a few times by authorities, Moyers said things went quiet until agents descended upon Zeigler’s city hall and Thorpe’s residence.
“This shows the value of the FOIA,” said Zeigler Mayor Dennis Mitchell.
Moyers said he was not able to speak about Thorpe’s case for a while but after criminal proceedings began, he opened up to his class about it — in fact, he said one class took three or four days to discuss the process and how it relates to their rights as residents of a community.
“Some of the greatest lesson plans I ever had,” Moyers said of the experience.
Though he is happy to have helped, Moyers said he doesn’t feel proud. Mostly he just feels sad. “I just feel sorrowful,” he said.
His experience with the Thorpe case and his sense of duty to his community are what made Moyers reach out to city officials to say he would be willing to step up to fill McReacken’s vacancy — if that is what was needed. He was seated in the position Tuesday.
First on his list of to-dos is to help make the best of the city’s poor financial situation. Zeigler wasn’t well off before Thorpe’s theft, but this has put a new set of burdens on the city.
ZEIGLER — Months after the FBI raided Zeigler City Hall and city treasurer Ryan Thorpe was indicted for embezzling funds from the city, Zeigler Mayor Dennis Mitchell said the city may not be getting all the money back.
“The ramifications may last for years,” Mitchell said.
Because of what Thorpe did, Mitchell said the city’s ability to be awarded grant funding — something it relied on in the past to complete projects — is now diminished.
“This makes the difference of you winning or you losing,” he said.
Moyers said his biggest goal is to help the city he’s called home his entire life start to mend its wounds.
“I feel like I have a role to play in this next year in trying to bring some financial healing and even some personal healing,” Moyers said.