By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
— The former head of the Howard County Alcoholic Beverage Board is facing a felony charge of impersonating a public servant after a local bartender said Lance Rice claimed to be an Indiana Excise Police officer.
According to Kokomo Police, Rice was drinking with friends in the early morning hours of Dec. 15 at the Elbow Room bar on North Washington Street when the bartender made last call.
“Lance called the waitress over and explained to her that he was the president of the alcohol commission for Howard County and that he would be staying a little extra late tonight,” according to the probable cause affidavit filed in Howard Superior Court 3.
When told he couldn’t stay, Rice told Elbow Room staff that he was an excise officer and “began demanding to see her alcohol licensing,” according to the affidavit.
Staff members then told Rice he was drunk and asked him to leave, police said.
Police were called after Rice refused to leave and, according to the officer who responded, Rice denied claiming to be an excise officer but did acknowledge telling the bar staff he was the head of the local liquor board.
Rice said “he would be seeking to revoke their license. He then went on to tell me about some licensing that he is currently trying to revoke in town and about how he’s trying to clean the town up,” wrote Officer Jeramie Dodd.
Bar staff said Rice made the alleged excise claim more than once and pulled out his wallet, showing some sort of alcohol commission card, claiming it was proof he was with excise, according to the police report. The bar staff also said the entire incident was on video.
The Howard County Prosecutor’s office eventually decided to charge Rice with a felony, but instead of being arrested on the charge in March, a court summons was issued.
Rice pleaded not guilty March 18 and indicated he wanted to enter the court’s pretrial diversion program.
If allowed into the program by Howard Superior Court 3 Judge Doug Tate, Rice would enter a plea of guilty, and the court would then withhold conviction if Rice does not commit any additional offenses for a set period of time, usually one year. At that point, the plea would be set aside, and Rice would have no criminal record.
Rice’s trial date is scheduled for May 31, unless a plea or diversion agreement is filed before that.
Rice could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
He served four years on the board but wasn’t reappointed after his term expired at the end of 2012.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, who appointed Rice, said he wasn’t aware of Rice’s legal issues when he decided to replace him last December.
“We were just rotating people. There are a lot of talented people in Kokomo who want to serve, and we were just giving someone else a chance,” Goodnight said.
Rice was also at the center of controversy last year when the liquor board voted to deny a permit application filed by local bar owner Dan Dumoulin II.
It later emerged that Rice had been dating Dumoulin’s sister, and that Dumoulin and his sister had fallen out with each other.
A state hearing officer overturned the denial last week and said Rice should have disclosed the relationship and recused himself from the vote.
Rice ran as a Democrat for Howard County Auditor in 2008, losing to Ann Wells.
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org