Archive for Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sheriff’s office investigating allegations of missing money from Wakarusa Township fireman’s fund

March 19, 2015

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office is investigating allegations about money missing from a fund associated with the Wakarusa Township Fire Department, a spokesman said.

On Wednesday, Gerald Dwyer, a Wakarusa Township board member, told the Journal-World that a sheriff's investigator spoke to him about three or four weeks ago about money missing from the so-called firemen's fund.

In an email, sheriff's department spokesman Lt. Steve Lewis said the department had received information "regarding the alleged actions of a former WTFD employee."

"We initiated an investigation into the matter. The investigation continues, and once completed, will be forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for review,” Lewis said.

Dwyer said money — he does not know how much — is or was missing from the fireman's fund, a private bank account to which fire fighters deposit stipends they receive for emergency calls. The funds are not the public's money and the township board has no control over the account, Dwyer said.

“We don't have anything to do with the firefighter's fund,” Dwyer said. “We don't have any control over it.”

The township pays each firefighter $5 for responding to fire calls, and Douglas County pays $15 to each of up to four first-responders/firefighters who go to medical calls, acting fire chief Paul Davis said.

Davis said the volunteer firefighters many years ago agreed to put the money they receive into a private bank account to be used for equipment, building improvements, fitness equipment and training — things that are not necessarily covered by the township.

Many volunteer fire departments operate this way, Davis and others said.

Each month the volunteer firefighters hold a meeting and decide by a vote how it to spend the money, Davis said. In two years $20,000 in stipends for medical calls from Douglas County have gone into the account, said county administrator Craig Weinaug. Township officials have not said how much stipend money they have paid for fire emergency calls.

Wakarusa Township covers 46 square miles surrounding Lawrence on the northwest, south and east. The 2000 census showed a population of 2,237. The fire department provides fire and EMS service to the township. It has 30 volunteer firefighters and four paid firefighters including the chief, Dwyer said.

Davis replaced Chris Moore, who had been the fire chief for about 10 years. Moore resigned on Oct. 31, 2014.

Asked if he had spoken with a sheriff's investigator about missing money, Davis said: "It's possible.”

In a January interview Davis would not say whether money was missing from the fund. When asked who could discuss whether money was missing, Davis said, “Every (volunteer firefighter) has been asked to not comment on it.”

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