Madison County Sheriff Nelson O'Donnell handcuffs Kiwanian and auctioneer Ray DeSloover, right, after he sold a ladder marked "City of Richmond Codes Enforcement Office," to Darlene Noble, second from left, during the Richmond Kiwanis Club's annual charity action Saturday at City Hall. Kiwanis Club President David Harkleroad, center, is also pictured. Nancy Taggart / Register Photographer
By Bill Robinson
You could call it a case of aggressive law enforcement catching up with an over-zealous auctioneer.
The Richmond Kiwanis Club's annual charity auction was briefly interrupted by some high drama around midday Saturday.
For several years, the event has originated from City Hall's commission chambers, enabling live cable television coverage.
Unfortunately for Kiwanian and auctioneer Ray DeSloover, a city-owned step ladder got mixed in with merchandise donated for the auction.
Although it was clearly marked "City of Richmond Codes Enforcement Office," the enthusiastic DeSloover had gotten bids for the ladder up to $130 before Madison County Sheriff Nelson O'Donnell arrived on the scene and stopped the bidding.
"Fortunately, I managed to stop the bidding before it got up to $300," O'Donnell said with a straight face. "That kept the offense from becoming a felony."
The fast-talking auctioneer seemed stunned as the even faster-moving sheriff slapped a set of handcuffs on DeSloover and led him away for questioning.
After placing her bid by telephone, an unsuspecting Darlene Noble arrived at City Hall just in time to get nabbed by the sheriff.
Before DeSloover and Noble could be lodged in the Madison County Detention Center, however, City Manager David Evans arrived and told O'Donnell the city would not press charges. DeSloover had a long record of public service and charitable contributions, Evans told the sheriff.
"He even donated two tickets for Martin Short: An Evening with Friends at St. Mark Church," Evans said.
After being convinced of her innocence, O'Donnell also released Noble.
"It was all a misunderstanding," said Kiwanis Club President and former Richmond Police Chief David Harkleroad, who vouched for DeSloover's character.
"Ray is basically a decent fellow, he just gets carried away sometimes with the Kiwanis auction."
Noble was "an unsuspecting bystander who acted in good faith," Harkleroad said.
Mayor Connie Lawson took no offense at DeSloover's actions. She had donated a pair of tickets for next season's Kentucky vs. Florida basketball for the auction and kept them in the bidding.
After the comic relief of the near arrests, the auction continued.
Proceeds from the annual event go to Kiwanis-supported charities, said auction chair Patrick McMahon.
"The Kiwanis Club's main mission is to support community youth programs," he said. "We support the Reading is Fundamental program that provides free books for children to read each summer. We support youth athletic programs and projects for local schools' family resource centers among others causes."
The club also contributes to disaster relief efforts.
While it conducts other fund raising projects throughout the year, the annual spring auction is the club's biggest fund raiser, McMahon said.
"As they always do, local businesses and individuals generously donated a multitude of valuable items for the auction this year," he said. "Donated items and sponsorships, plus the many hours of volunteer labor by Kiwanis Club members make the auction a success. With a successful auction, we can help many worthwhile community programs."
The amount of funds raised would not be known until later in the week, McMahon said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.
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