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CASTLE SHANNON (KDKA) — The Pennsylvania Auditor General is calling for a criminal investigation after finding major problems in undocumented expenses at the Castle Shannon Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Fund.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is withholding all future state funding from the association.
He says he wants the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office to investigate whether there was any improper spending and whether any taxpayer dollars were mishandled.
“When you have 31 separate accounts for a small volunteer fire relief association, that, in and of itself, is suspicious. So we have forwarded this to the District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, because they have appropriate processes, but I am concerned there may be criminality,” said DePasquale.
The audit covered 2013-2016.
Some of the findings include:
- Nearly $250,000 in undocumented expenses
- 105 checks worth over $58,000 issued to individual members as bonuses, over $129,000 in checks written out to cash without explanation
Mike Manko, chief spokesperson of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office said, “Our office is in possession of the material from the Auditor General and we are in the process of reviewing that material.”
“Not a single tax dollar or penny has been missed directed or misused in any way shape or form by the Castle Shannon Volunteer Fire Department,” said Attorney Matthew Logue, who represents the Castle Shannon Volunteer Fire Department and the relief association.
According to Logue, the problems have been corrected, all money has been accounted for, and everything is compliant with the law.
“They found not one person profited, no monies misdirected outside of the fire department. What we had here and we agree with the Auditor General — lousy bookkeeping. But no illegality. Period. End of story,” said Logue.
However, the auditor general doesn’t agree with the characterization of “bad bookkeeping.”
“Bookkeeping issues are, we didn’t have all the necessary receipts. I have never heard somebody say, ‘We have got over $100,000 in checks written out to cash,’ is just bookkeeping,” said Auditor General DePasquale.
It seems that both sides agree part of the problem was having two separate entities operating as one.
“We have always morphed everything into one department. We are one department, one people. But from an audit standpoint, we need to keep your money separate so that it is easily traceable. And they just called it transparent,” said Chuck McGervey, who is the president of Castle Shannon Volunteer Fire Department Board.
DePasquale told KDKA he has never seen anything so egregious by a volunteer fire association.
He also said they have instructions for best practices on their website to help volunteer fire departments.