By Angie Thompson

TIFTON -- A former Tiftarea Humane Society director was indicted Thursday on six counts of theft by conversion.

A Tift Superior Court grand jury handed down a true bill indicting Lynn Hampton (age and address unknown) on six counts of theft by conversion. Hampton is accused of using the charge account of the humane society to purchase personal items, including mini blinds, paint, pillows and bedding, various items of hardware, a stereo, a surge protector, a computer mouse, a printer cable, soft drinks and various household cleaning agents.

The charges are for incidents alleged to have occurred on six occasions between Aug. 9, 2000 and Oct. 10, 2000. A bench warrant for Hampton's arrest on the charges is expected.

Hampton's indictment is apparently linked to an investigation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into alleged mismanagement at the old humane society shelter.

The shelter, on Golden Road, was closed Oct. 16, 2000, by the Georgia Department of Agriculture after humane society members complained of poor conditions. Commissioner Tommy Irvin described conditions there as "horrible," including rat and roach infestation and bad drainage.

The closing followed the seizure of humane society records on Oct. 14, 2000, by board members and employees who said they feared the records would be destroyed. Three shelter employees told local media Oct. 17 that they had evidence of mismanagement that they intended to turn over to District Attorney Paul Bowden.

Soon after the closing, Tift County and City of Tifton officials announced that they expected to offer joint animal control services, but the county later signed an interim contract with the humane society until the new shelter could be completed. Animals picked up in the county were housed at the Berrien County shelter, while the city used the cleaned-up old shelter for "dangerous animal" control only.

After the new $450,000 Tifton-Tift County Animal Shelter on the Nashville Highway opened July 1, 2001, Sharon Mills was hired as the director of the shelter and the city and county began running animal control as a joint operation.

According to County Administrator Wayne Johnson, two of the animal control officers Mills hired quit the day after the new shelter opened. Johnson hired Hampton, but terminated her from the position a few days later after consulting with Irvin staff member Mary Green.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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