Fi­nances of 2 fire re­lief as­so­ci­a­tions ques­tioned

Pa. au­di­tor gen­eral’s of­fice look­ing into re­ports of about $140,000 in un­doc­u­mented, unau­tho­rized ex­penses

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Farence afarence@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @afarence on Twit­ter

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.”

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