State inspection findings: Treasurer embezzled nearly $200,000 from Millville fire company

DOVER – State inspection of Millville Volunteer Fire Company financial records revealed a former treasurer embezzled nearly $200,000 from the fire company.

The Office of Auditor of Accounts report released May 10 said the fire company’s lack of internal controls came into play during the tenure of the former treasurer, who was not identified in the press release or the report.

“MVFC’s lack of internal controls had a critical impact on the financial management of the MVFC during the former treasurer’s tenure,” the report stated.

The OAA inspection found MVFC’s accounting records were falsified to conceal the irregularities

“Our inspection revealed $190,433.61 in personal transactions made by the former treasurer. Of this amount, over $144,000 were attributed to ATM and cash withdrawals,” said OAA release stated. “While the fire companies in Delaware have proven their strong commitments to the safety and welfare of the communities they serve, their service does not mitigate their fiscal responsibility to taxpayers and donors.”

Red flags surfaced about a year ago, according to Bob Powell, MFVC’s public information officer.

“Approximately a year ago, one of our paid employees noticed stuff that wasn’t going on properly with finances. The individual reported that to our company officers,” Mr. Powell said. “Once that came out to light, the individual was suspended at that particular time to have no contact with anybody obviously with the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.”

Information was passed on to the state firefighters’ association. It subsequently made its way to the state auditor’s office.

“We contacted officials in Delaware Volunteer Firefighters’ Association to put us in the right direction and where we needed to go for assistance,” Mr. Powell said.

According to the report, MVFC officials contacted the Office of Auditor of Accounts alleging their former treasurer committed theft during his tenure.

MVFC officials had a meeting with the former treasurer in May 2015 where the former treasurer admitted to incurring personal transactions, the report stated.

“From Jan. 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015, the former treasurer was a signer on bank accounts, prepared checks, collected cash, made deposits, entered transactions into QuickBooks and prepared reconciliations, which created a severe lack of segregation of duties. Monitoring was insufficient and non-existent. The bank reconciliations were not performed timely and were not reviewed by anyone. Further, budget versus actual reports supplied to department heads did not show transaction details, were in total only and were rarely questioned. Not all bills and invoices were presented to the membership for approval, including credit card transactions.”

The identity of the former treasurer is being withheld.

“It is still an ongoing investigation at this time. No charges have been brought yet. It’s is an ongoing investigation,” said Mr. Powell, adding Delaware State Police are conducting the investigation.

In its report, the OAA release stated “internal control provides many benefits to an entity. It provides management and boards of directors with added confidence regarding the achievement of objectives, it provides feedback on how a business is functioning, and it helps to reduce surprises. We commend the volunteers that manage fire companies for their efforts and stewardship and encourage them to seek appropriate resources to ensure proper controls are in place over taxpayer funds.”

Mr. Powell said the fire company must work to ensure that safeguards are in place “to make sure that we do certain things they recommended in their report so that we don’t find ourselves in this type of a situation again.”

Mr. Powell emphasized that the fire company’s emergency service was never in jeopardy.

“At no point in time when this was going on were the citizens of our fire district not being covered. At no point in time were we not in service or anything of that nature. We were fully staffed and all of our equipment was rolling to take care of emergencies, both medical as well as fire,” Mr. Powell said.

Added Mr. Powell, “The action of this individual does not define the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.