HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — An audit from Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor reportedly found more than $25,000 missing from the Gregg Township Fireman’s Relief Association’s savings account.
The audit, which has been referred to the Centre County District Attorney for a closer review, allegedly found that $25,910 went “missing” from the account between March 14, 2019, and Nov. 3, 2020. Darin Bressler is the Fire Chief at the Gregg Township Fire Company.
“The Relief Association gets money from the state every year to help out with insurances, to help out with training and items such as that,” Bressler said.
During that time, DeFoor says that 18 withdrawals were found ranging in amounts from $310 to $2,500. The audit noted that state law requires the signatures of two association officers, but only the group’s treasurer had signed off on them.
DeFoor said that his department will now withhold state aid from the association until they have answers.
“I’ve asked the District Attorney’s office to take a closer look to determine whether any laws were violated,” DeFoor said. “Due to the seriousness of this matter, my department will withhold state aid from the association until we have answers.”
DeFoor said that association officials couldn’t explain why the funds were withdrawn or provide bank records to auditors.
“I replied to the email from the Auditor General’s office and said that we are going to get all that information back out to them to make sure everything is current and everything is up to date and shows all accounts that are up to date and that there is actually no money missing,” Bressler said.
The audit also had seven other findings:
- Expenditures totaling $40,066 for which adequate supporting documentation was not provided, including payments to association members and various vendors;
- Failure to maintain bond coverage;
- Failure to maintain minutes of meetings, inadequate minutes of meetings;
- Inadequate signatory authority for checks issued;
- Inadequate documentation of income;
- Inadequate financial record-keeping system; and
- Noncompliance with prior audit recommendation involving failure to maintain a complete and accurate equipment roster.
Volunteer firefighter relief associations (VFRAs) are separate legal entities from the fire departments they support. The Gregg Township Firemen’s Relief Association is affiliated with, but is legally separate from, the Gregg Township Fire Company.
The Gregg Township Board of Supervisors has also allocated funds to the Gregg Township VFRA. In a statement to WTAJ, the supervisors said they, “learned about the situation in recent weeks and, since then, have been working to support the Auditor General’s office, press for more details, and ensure that adequate safeguards are provided over all public funds within the Township.”
The Department of the Auditor General distributes state aid for VFRAs and audits how they use the funds, which are generated by a 2% tax on fire insurance policies sold in Pennsylvania by out-of-state companies.
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In 2021, $54 million went to 2,517 municipalities for distribution to VFRAs to provide training, purchase equipment and insurance, and pay for death benefits for volunteer firefighters.