Chatanooga_It's a position of authority, trust and honor. But, a Federal Grand Jury says a former postmaster from Chattanooga and Hastings violated these qualities. He's been indicted on three charges for not reporting thousands of dollars worth of money order sales.
Court documents reveal that 40 year old Timothy Thomas did it while he was the acting Postmaster in Chatty back in October of 2003. The indictment says he did the same thing two more times after taking over the postmaster position in Hastings in 2004.
The fallout was a surprise to the two small towns that have been at the center of these indictments. But, honestly, people had a tough time remembering Timothy Thomas' tenure as their postmaster. However, after hearing about the crimes he's accused of, they felt a little betrayed.
While a post office might not mean much to people in larger cities, they're a lifeline for small towns; especially Chattanooga and Hastings. So, when a former postmaster is indicted it's startling. "It's a shock because you don't expect anything like this in a small community like this where everyone knows everyone. And most of us know each others business - whether we should or not - and you just don't expect that," said Ed Bookout, a resident of Hastings.
By early Friday afternoon, the word had already spread. Ann Geis' family company, L&L Farm Supply, have been very frequent postal customers for the past 37 years. She says they're constantly mailing bills and paperwork at the Chatty Post Office - including while Thomas was in charge. "I do remember him as being very cooperative with us," Geis said. "I felt he was very friendly and worked to help us any way he could and he was always honest with us."
But, a Federal Grand Jury says he was not honest on at least three occasions when money collected from money order sales was not reported to the postal service. "You just don't give any thought at all to everything not being run properly and above the board over there," Bookout said. And, "over there" is literally right next door for Bookout.
What qualities does Ed Bookout look for in a postmaster? "Honesty and integrity would be at the top of the list," he says. It's our money so take care of our money and run the post office the way it should be." Bookout also fears these indictments could have a negative impact for the town of Hastings. He's worried that the postal service may decide to shut down the town's post office - which, he says, is the focal point of the community.