Monday, March 13, 2023 – 5:50 p.m.
David McMahan was Ambrose Garrett's neighbor and is treasurer of the Whitehall HOA.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy talked to him again at his residence.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- David McMahan
David McMahan: I'm surprised to see you back again. Haven't you tied this up yet?
Detective Murphy: Why don't you start by stating your name and address for the record again?
David McMahan: David James McMahan, 180 Cedar Hill Drive.
Detective Murphy: Thanks.
David McMahan: I heard you think Ambrose was murdered. Outrageous. If that's the case, why don't you have someone behind bars yet?
Detective Murphy: At this point, we're not at liberty to discuss details, but we need to ask you some further questions.
Detective Armstrong: We need your cooperation so we can get some closure here.
David McMahan: I see. Well, of course. I just wish I knew what was going on.
Detective Armstrong: We'll let you know as soon as we can.
Detective Murphy: Can you tell us anything more about the evening Mr. Garrett died?
David McMahan: Such as?
Detective Murphy: Well, let's go over it again. When did you arrive at the meeting?
David McMahan: Right about 5:00 p.m.
Detective Murphy: Who was there when you arrived?
David McMahan: Let's see. Mary, of course. She always gets there hours early to sharpen her pencils and rearrange the icons on her PC desktop.
Detective Murphy: Who else?
David McMahan: Julie Arbuckle, Warren Edwards, and Ambrose, of course. Patrick Tyler, Shannon Bower. A few of the lower-end people whose names I don't recall.
Detective Murphy: What were they doing?
David McMahan: Nothing much. The meeting started right after I took my seat, so there wasn't a lot of wasted time. That's one thing we made a habit of doing. Once the officers are present, start the meeting, and don't worry about waiting for the stragglers. If it's important enough to them, people will get there on time, and if not, it's their loss.
Detective Murphy: Was anyone at the head table before the meeting got started?
David McMahan: I just told you Mary was there, didn't I?
Detective Murphy: I mean anyone else.
David McMahan: Mary was talking with Julie. And then Ambrose and I sat down, and we were underway. Really, I'm not sure what these questions have to do with anything.
Detective Armstrong: Leave that to us.
Detective Murphy: What happened once the meeting started?
David McMahan: We did the usual business — approval of prior minutes, notes of fines paid, and so forth. I'm sure you have the minutes. Anyway, after the fines, Ambrose mentioned his intent to put the information online, and there was a bit of a ruckus.
Detective Murphy: Meaning what?
David McMahan: I think I told you before. Most people had no problem, and some people hated it.
Detective Murphy: Who hated it?
David McMahan: The usual suspects — Shannon Bower, Cecil Thompson. Warren Edwards had some concerns, too, as I recall.
Detective Armstrong: Julie Arbuckle?
David McMahan: No. Or rather, she would never say anything out loud if she did. The woman is such a mouse.
Detective Murphy: How did the discussion end?
David McMahan: We tabled it for resolution next time and took a break. It's a handy way of moving on to other matters, and by the time the next meeting rolls around, it's "old business," and we can just approve it as a matter of routine.
Detective Murphy: I see. So during the break, what happened?
David McMahan: I got up to talk with Ambrose and get something to eat. That's another of Mary's little compulsions. She puts on a nice spread of snacks. Probably too nice, but it keeps everyone from bringing in their own food and dropping crumbs and wrappers all over the place. Some people just have no concept of self-responsibility.
Detective Murphy: What did you and Ambrose eat?
David McMahan: I don't know. A couple of cookies, I guess. Ambrose didn't eat. He was trying to cut back.
Detective Murphy: Did he have a drink?
David McMahan: Yes. I think I mentioned this before, but he likes to have a little tipple to get through the meetings. Not a bad idea, I think.
Detective Armstrong: You drink at the meetings too?
David McMahan: Not so far, but I understand the temptation.
Detective Murphy: So what was Ambrose drinking?
David McMahan: He brought his own flask. He'd spike soda with it, usually 7UP on the rocks.
Detective Murphy: Is that what he was drinking that night?
David McMahan: Yes, I believe so. I hardly remember.
Detective Murphy: So you were standing over by the snack table during the break?
David McMahan: I just said so.
Detective Murphy: During that time, was anyone around the table where you and Ambrose sit?
David McMahan: Not that I saw. I was talking with Ambrose, not tracking everyone's activities.
Detective Murphy: What were you talking about?
David McMahan: The debate about the website. Nothing special. Then Jamie Covington came over and interrupted, wanting us to know we were welcome to stop by his party later. People can be so insolent, you know.
Detective Murphy: When did the break end?
David McMahan: About 6:00 p.m., I believe.
Detective Murphy: Then what happened?
David McMahan: We carried on with the meeting. We rushed through the rest of the agenda items because we were behind schedule by then.
Detective Murphy: How did that go?
David McMahan: Oh, there was the usual griping from people who don't have a sophisticated grasp of the situation: knee-jerk reactions, nothing substantive, nothing out of the ordinary. For a while, it looked like we'd have to adjourn the meeting before we got through the agenda—the website debate really pushed things out of alignment, which is stupid—but we managed in the end.
Detective Murphy: What happened after the meeting adjourned?
David McMahan: We've been through this before. I stayed and talked with Ambrose and Mary for a few minutes. I left with Mary, and that was that. I really don't understand the point of all this repetition.
Detective Murphy: What was Mr. Garrett doing when you left?
David McMahan: Well, he was a little the worse for wear, in my opinion. Too many hits from the flask. But he wanted to close up shop, as usual, so we left him to it.
Detective Murphy: Is there a phone in the center?
David McMahan: Yes.
Detective Murphy: Did it ring during the meeting?
David McMahan: No. Or rather, I should say, I don't know. It's in the office, too far away to hear from the meeting room.
Detective Armstrong: Mr. McMahan, when we spoke before, you mentioned that the association's finances were in bad shape. Can you elaborate?
David McMahan: I didn't say they were in bad shape. You need to be more precise. I said they had been in bad shape when I came on the board two years ago. A lot has happened since then.
Detective Armstrong: Why don't you describe the situation again?
David McMahan: Well, as I said, the board had simply been deferring maintenance and delaying tough decisions. The monthly dues hadn't been raised to reflect the rate of inflation, and there hadn't been a special assessment in more than five years. The previous board didn't want to be controversial, and so they avoided doing their duty. With the new contingent in the lower-end homes, it went over great. As far as they were concerned, it was one less bill to pay. Those of us with vision could see it was a terrible way to run things, and I like to think that's what eventually led to me being elected along with Ambrose.
Detective Armstrong: Was the association in debt?
David McMahan: No. There were a few bills that needed to be paid but nothing serious. Mostly, it was that there was so little cushion, the board couldn't fulfill its obligation to keep the common areas maintained. Shameful.
Detective Armstrong: Who was owed money?
David McMahan: The pool maintenance people were due a couple of months, and I'm ashamed to say the insurance was in arrears. Terrible.
Detective Armstrong: Which company holds the policy?
David McMahan: State Farm.
Detective Armstrong: Is Garrett Insurance the broker for that policy?
David McMahan: Don't be idiotic. That would be a complete conflict of interest.
Detective Armstrong: Was any money missing from the association funds?
David McMahan: No. Nothing like that.
Detective Armstrong: What did you do to turn things around?
David McMahan: Well, when I was first elected, Julie Arbuckle was still president. There wasn't much I could do, although getting Mary Wallace away from the books helped a little.
Detective Armstrong: Why's that?
David McMahan: She was not qualified to handle accounts as complex as what we needed to establish. I got us into a better situation in terms of keeping just enough in cash reserves and moving the rest into an interest-bearing account. You'd think such things are obvious, especially with Julie Arbuckle running the show, but she hadn't done it. It was mind-boggling.
Detective Armstrong: Why do you say you couldn't get much done when Ms. Arbuckle was president?
David McMahan: She just didn't want to rock the boat. As I said, the woman is a mouse. I've never seen someone so intent on avoiding any kind of controversy. I told her it was ludicrous for her to hold a position of importance and not to expect some people to dislike her. She wasn't prom queen. She was the manager of an association responsible for people's quality of life.
Detective Armstrong: Couldn't you put proposals on the agenda yourself?
David McMahan: Of course, and I did. But Julie counted on the rabble showing up to protest new fees. She kept the lower-end homes well-informed, and anytime a special assessment came up, the place would be packed to the rafters with all the lowlifes asking why they had to support everyone else. I did propose a sliding-scale fee system, but Julie insisted on one flat assessment for everyone. She was sowing defeat into the proposal with her methods. It was maddening.
Detective Armstrong: Was Ms. Arbuckle doing it intentionally, in your opinion?
David McMahan: What did I just say? Yes, she intentionally tried to forestall raising funds for the association. She wasn't trying to do harm if that's what you mean. She just failed to understand the implications of her not standing up for the association and doing what needed to be done.
Detective Armstrong: So, how did you solve it when Mr. Garrett was elected?
David McMahan: Exactly as I'd initially proposed. We initiated sliding-scale assessments and spent a lot of time educating people. To be honest, it was probably more trouble than it was worth. If I had to do it over again, I would just ask the quality residents to pitch in on behalf of everyone and leave the lower-end homes out of it altogether.
Detective Armstrong: That wouldn't be democratic.
David McMahan: Well, let's be honest. Some people deserve a say in what happens here — people who understand the long-range needs of running a quality neighborhood. The ones who aren't invested and don't bother to understand what's at stake don't need to participate.
Detective Armstrong: How do the finances stand now?
David McMahan: Much better. As I said before, we did a special assessment, and we're ready to raise the dues about 30 percent.
Detective Armstrong: What would you say if evidence showed you and Mr. Garrett were embezzling funds?
David McMahan: I'd say that's absurd. Whoever told you that has no understanding of what we were trying to accomplish here.
Detective Murphy: Mr. McMahan, who could have killed Mr. Garrett?
David McMahan: I'm sorry, but that's your job to figure out. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get back to my family. We're about to have dinner.
Interview ended – 6:01 p.m.