Finances of 2 fire relief associations questioned
Pa. auditor general’s office looking into reports of about $140,000 in undocumented, unauthorized expenses
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has questioned the finances of two fire relief associations.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office received a request from Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to investigate questionable expenditures from a current and former volunteer firefighters’ relief association.
According to a statement released by DePasquale, there is reportedly about $140,000 in undocumented and unauthorized expenses for the two associations combined.
West Grove Volunteer Firefighters’ Relief Association
The West Grove Volunteer Firefighters’ Relief Association, according to the auditor general’s statement, reportedly could not explain over 120 expenses between 2012 and 2015, totaling over $110,000. Some unexplained items included airfare, meals, and hotels for 28 trips.
In his statement, DePasquale cautioned the association could lose future state aid if the association cannot justify the expenditures.
“Of the two trips showing proper documentation, only six training hours were
completed during nine days in Atlanta and Denver,” the statement read in part. “There was a lack of appropriate documentation, such as certificates of attendance, to show firefighters even went to training sessions on 22 of the 28 trips.”
However, in an open letter addressed to Avon Grove residents, fire association officials stated the audit process is still ongoing, and called the claims made by the auditor general “premature.” The letter did acknowledge there were things the association could do better, and that changes have been made. They also wrote that it is not unusual for an audit to raise questions, and that they felt the findings of the report was still an open matter. They have sought legal counsel in response to the auditor general’s findings.
Also mentioned in the auditor’s report was $90,737 in undocumented and unauthorized spending, including $34,175 in reimbursements labeled as “individual member.”
“I fully support volunteer firefighters getting the essential training needed to protect and serve our communities as well as for their own safety,” DePasquale wrote in his statement. “However, while fire companies everywhere are struggling to raise money to keep their doors open, we have individuals associated with West Grove Volunteer Firefighters’ Relief Association flying first class. That is simply not an acceptable use of public funds.”
Part of the association’s response stated, “the community should be comforted that all funds are fully accounted for.”