Mid Sussex Rescue Squad Investigated for Financial Misconduct - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Mid Sussex Rescue Squad Investigated for Financial Misconduct

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 4:14 PM Updated:

MILLSBORO, Del.- The Delaware State Auditor's Office says over $100,000 in Mid Sussex Rescue Squad funds were misappropriated by the volunteer company's former treasurer.

Findings from a special investigation into the company's finances were revealed on Wednesday afternoon. The report states that the company's former treasurer--who is not named in the report--initiated $112,645 of unauthorized cash withdrawals. Additionally, the report states that $1,833 worth of Squad debit card transactions went to the treasurer and Squad president's personal utility accounts, as the two were married at the time.

"The worst part of it is that people took money from a non-profit that is there to do a public good," Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner says.

The Squad says the mismanagement was part of a larger, complicated scheme by the treasurer to defraud the volunteer ambulance company. The treasurer has since been stripped of her position and membership in the Mid Sussex Rescue Squad for life. Financial Officer Gerald Burbage says the Squad entered an agreement with the woman to get the misused money back.

"In the eyes of the Squad, the Squad was not harmed, the state was not harmed, nor the county," he explains. "The monies that were were used and taken have been recovered."

Wagner's investigation recommended the Squad develop written policies and procedures for all financial activities, something Burbage says they're already working on.

"We are in the process of hiring someone who will come in and work on a full time-part time basis who will take care of the disbursement, who will reconcile the books, who will make sure the records do match," he says. "And I will be coming down periodically, monthly, to verify those transactions were taken care of and records are filed."

Wagner and Burbage both commented on the vital role the Squad plays--running over 3,000 ambulance calls a year. But the Squad's future is in jeopardy as the State Fire Commission is investigating the claims and could potentially disband them. The investigation has been turned over to the Attorney General for review as well.

Delaware House Minority Leader Rep. Danny Short says he's especially disappointed by the investigation's findings, as the Squad has had two previous instances of financial impropriety. 

"I said three strikes, you're out," he tells WBOC. "That's pretty strong language and I know people aren't going to like that issue but we have to be firm and strong on this issue of embezzlement and stealing money."

Short says House Bill 243 aims to prevent situations like this as it gives State Fire Prevention Commission "the authority to make sure that volunteer fire and ambulance companies properly complete their audit requirements and maintain fiscal responsibility," read's the bill's synopsis. "If a company fails to comply with audit requirements, the State Fire Prevention Commission can have the State Treasurer withhold Grant-in-Aid funds from the offending company."

Representatives from various fire organizations in Delaware said this incident creates public distrust and will make people less inclined to donate to local departments. Wagner says he hopes his investigation makes lasting changes for the better.

"At the end of the day, to me the most important thing is to make sure that the ambulances are running and that people in that region were properly protected," he says.

To read the full report, see below or click here. The Mid Sussex Rescue Squad's response is copied below in full. 

 

 

 

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