A fire department serving the Walkerville area is scheduled to have a mass resignation of its members pending a Saturday meeting where their future budget will be discussed by the three townships who fund their operations. At issue is how the fire department has been accounting for the money and spending more than what they are allotted, an issue which has led to a distrust by township officials of the Walkerville Area Fire Authority's (WAFA) record keeping procedures. As noted yesterday on the nationally distributed Fire Chief magazine:
WALKERVILLE, Mich. — Firefighters are threatening to quit if officials do not approve a department budget.
WOODTV.com reported that Walkerville Area Fire Authority went $75,000 over budget last year. Three surrounding townships will meet Saturday to vote on a new budget.
"It's just been one battle after another," Fire Chief Jerry Frick said.
Town officials said the budget is "out of hand."
"[Chief Frick is] trying to get us to pay the bills, but not telling us where the money is going," treasurer David Krupee said.
Chief Frick said the overdue amount was less than $75,000 and that it was all accounted for, according to the report.
"Then it started in: 'There's corruption.' And rumors just flying all over the place," Chief Frick said.
Crews said they will stop responding if officials do not pass the budget. However, neighboring departments will provide mutual aid if firefighters stage a walkout.
"They don't want to [quit]. These members are here to serve the people," Chief Frick said. "And it just breaks their hearts with all this stuff going on and it's like you're getting stabbed in the back every time you turn around."
For more local background, this recent Oceana County Press article explains more of the issues that have come up since a contentious meeting two months ago related in this February OCP article. This WZZM Article explains even more.
With everything taken into consideration, one has to wonder why there is such a squabble if the records are being kept, they reflect true costs of the authority, the purchases can be squared with the needs of the department, and there is proof (invoices/receipts) of those official purchases.
Typically, firefighters do not make the best accountants, so one has to believe that maybe these three townships are not being given a ledger for the WAFA that is complete and proper. Transparency can avert this showdown, so the question to ask is why doesn't the chief open up the books to all to use as his firewall? Fire Chief Frick has a duty to these township's treasuries containing the taxpayer's money to show where every cent goes.
If that hasn't occurred to a reasonable standard, the orchestrated walkout of Walkerville that may occur Saturday will be little more than a move motivated by extortion rather than any other ideal. If Chief Frick wants more money, he needs to show the public and these townships that he has been a good steward of that money in the past. Failing that, the township trustees would be remiss to the public in throwing more money into the fire that has burned them in the past.
There is NO accountability anymore. This could lead to loss of life. It's sickening' The Chief needs to hand over the books or a warrant needs to be served to get the books and receipts immediately. I smell smoke!
One has to wonder where the money went. If its on the up and up, OK. But if the chief and the boys wanted a new off-road recovery unit or new custom dry suits without it being in the budget then they may just have to do like the rest of us and work within our means and do without.
Meanwhile, for those who cannot believe of a chief mishandling funds, today the former chief of the boys in blue just down the road in Shelby, Robert Wilson, pled guilty to two charges of taking money from the public trough. From the mug shot, he also looks like he may have feasted from another trough too:
SHELBY, Mich. – The former police chief in the village of Shelby has pleaded guilty to two charges Friday involving stealing money from the public trough.
Robert Wilson entered his guilty pleas to embezzlement by an agent and a motor vehicle code fault charge. Wilson was charged in August 2016.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had alleged that Wilson performed car inspection jobs and did not reporting the fees he collected to the village. An investigation into his activity found that between December 2013 and November 2015, he allegedly performed 699 vehicle inspections on “salvage vehicles” that he never reported.
Wilson was terminated from the police department last summer. He will be sentenced on June 5th.
Wilson is in deep sh=t if he is found guilty. I can understand if he forgot to turn in the money for a few inspections but 699. This may run deeper than not turning in money. It sounds like an organized attempt to falsify records or possibly the laundering of stolen vehicles and title tampering.
On the former Shelby police chief, I find it interesting that there was 699 salvage vehicles inspected in about a 2 year period. Quick figures would be 1 a day, 7 day's a week. I don't really know how many body shops there are in Oceana county but I find these numbers kinda hard to believe. But the chief pleaded guilty so it must be true , right?
Who in the World does Frick work for? He must answer to someone or some board. If I were the King of Walkervile I would demand that Frick prove he needed the money and also prove it was necessary to over spend his budget as he did. If he refused or did not show that he is indeed not trying to pull a fast one then I would throw him into the royal moat and call the royal first responders, if they had not already walked off the job, to pull him out of the mud. This, to me, is a no brainer. Do your job Frick or walkaway from Walkerville.
Willy, after I wrote my posting I was thinking the same thing. It must have been more than the county where he would have some jurisdiction to do inspections. I don't know but I would think just because your a police chief of a small town you could inspect for the whole state, maybe , maybe not. Sounds like some underhanded dealings were going on with multiple people. I had a salvage vehicle inspected once and it was done by a deputy from the county sheriff department. As I had bough and repaired he wreck, I needed to supply to him all the invoices from purchase and parts to repair the said vehicle. Numbers were checked and verified .