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Former DHR director faces theft charges

By By JOHN WALLACE
Staff Writer
The former Director of the Escambia County Department of Human Resources was arrested on Wednesday and charged with first-degree theft of approximately $20,000 in state funds.
Robert Douglas Mitchell, 51, of Brewton has been charged with first-degree theft of $19,788 in DHR funds from the State of Alabama, according to a press release from Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor.
The Attorney General's Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Division presented evidence to an Escambia County grand jury on Aug. 8, resulting in Mitchell's indictment on Aug. 10.
The theft allegedly occurred between 1996 and 2000, according to the press release.
In an affidavit submitted by Special Agent George Barrows several items Mitchell allegedly purchased for foster children were found in his residence.
Barrows interviewed Whitfield in June 200 when he was an inmate at the Escambia County Detention Center and Whitfield stated he knew Mitchell and that he was a trustee working at DHR in February or March of 1999 when Mitchell was the director.
Whitfield also told Barrows that he moved in to Mitchell's home at 606 Douglas Avenue on Dec. 3, 1999 and after living there approximately one week Mitchell bought him a Sony Playstation at Wal-Mart along with two video games.
Whitfield also told Barrows that Mitchell bought a new VCR to replace one Whitfield moved from downstairs and hooked up in his room.
Mitchell also bought a new Sanyo television, a VCR and video games on March 8, 2000 that were set up in Whitfield's bedroom, according to the affidavit.
Whitfield was arrested in his bedroom in Mitchell's residence on April 11, 2000 for violating his probation.
He told Barrows he returned to Mitchell's residence on May 26, 2000 after Mitchell went to the Community Mental Health Center in Red Level and checked him out. Whitfield said the Playstation, TV and VCR were still in the bedroom along with the video games at that time.
Barrows executed a search warrant at Mitchell's residence at 2 p.m. on June 6, 2000 when he found and seized a Sony Playstation, two Philips-Magnavox VCRs, Sanyo television and eight video games.
Mitchell retired from his position as county DHR director on Sept. 30, 2000.
Pryor commended Assistant Attorney General John Gibbs, chief of his Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Division, and Special Agent George Barrows of his Investigations Division for their outstanding work in preparing and presenting the case to the grand jury. He also thanked the Escambia County Sheriff's Department for its assistance, noting particularly Maj. Mike Murphy and Lt. Chuck McMullen, as well as probation and parole officers Tim Cook and Alan Caudle of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Attorney General praised the Department of Human Resources for its vigilance and cooperation in the matter, citing valuable assistance from Terry Brantley, director of DHR's state Office of Audit.
Mitchell is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, Aug. 23 at 9 a.m. for his arraignment.