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The East Clinton Fire District struggles with its past

This posting corrects and updates the print version that appeared in the issue of Feb 19. The corrected information was received after the print edition’s deadline.
Steve Forschler, chairman of the East Clinton Fire District commissioners, early in the district’s February meeting asked the status of the claim for losses from an earlier chairman’s misappropriation of district funds.  That commissioner, Carl German, was charged with theft but the charges were never proved in court because German died in 2008, ending the investigation by the State Police.
The Fire District’s attorney, David Garwood, said the insurance company – Utica National – had closed the file, but said the claim might be reopened.   The secretary and treasurer, Mary Ann Tompsett, had estimated the loss at over $110,000.  The board asked Garwood to reactivate the claim.  Chairman Forschler emailed Wednesday morning confirming that the insurance company has agreed to reopen the file.  
Two of the commissioners who are still serving were commissioners when German was chairman, secretary and treasurer.  It is illegal under state law for one person to simultaneously hold all three positions.  During the period when German was also treasurer, financial reports were not filed and book’s and records went missing.  The loss of the books hampered determination of the loss and cost the district heavy accounting expenses.  They are still looking for a $60,000 certificate of deposit that cannot be accounted for.      
From the discussion, it appeared that none of the commissioners had been actively pursuing the claim and no attorney had been retained to recover from the surety.
Part of the meeting was devoted to housing a vehicle referred to as a “rehab unit,” purchased in 2014 and restored as vehicle that provides rehabilitation and support services to personnel at fire scenes and other incidents.  This vehicle and its services is available to the district and its mutual aid companies. The commissioners discussed purchasing a separate prefabricated metal shed on a concrete base whose cost would be under $35,000 so it would not be subject to advertising for competitive bids.    Voters had turned down creation of a “non-specific capital reserve fund” last October.  Chairman Forschler noted that the vote was not for a new fire house, a misapprehension that was circulating among voters.        
 The commissioners also discussed the purchase for $6500 of a program for an inventory control system offered by a vendor.  There was talk of property that had
gone missing.  One of the commissioners admitted that one computer owned by the department was not functioning, but others apparently are.   Attorney Garwood mentioned that the points for LOSAP, or retirement benefit system, had to be reviewed since points could not be awarded for activities ancillary to the mission of the fire department.   
Posted: 2/18/2015