A local volunteer fire company that has been under scrutiny for missed emergency calls and inoperable equipment is now the subject of a financial investigation involving the Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
In a July 15th joint letter from Clarke County administrator David Ash and Warren County Administrator Douglas Stanley addressed to the attention of Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department Company 6 Fire Chief Harlan “Buddy” Cook, Ash and Douglas told Cook that invoices will not be processed for payment without certification that the ”reimbursement/payment is requested for goods and/or services used exclusively for the Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department as an entity, and did not inure in any way to the benefit of any individual.”
“As you know, Warren County has been in the process of having the financial records for the Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department audited by an outside third party auditor. Warren County has received the final report and it has been turned over to the Clarke County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for review. At this time there is no timetable set for final review of the audit. That is up to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office,” the letter states.
The joint investigation by both Warren County and Clarke County reflects the fact that both jurisdictions provide funding and oversight to Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department because it responds to fire and rescue calls in both counties. While direct management oversight for Company 6 is provided by Warren County Fire Chief Richard Mabie, a portion of the fire company’s operational funding is provided by Clarke County taxpayers.
Reached by phone on Sunday, Chief Buddy Harlan characterized the investigation as “nothing severe” but confirmed that gasoline and a small amount of cash had been stolen from the Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department.
“We have had a few things go missing around there,” Harlan said, but refused to specify the amount of gasoline or money that had been taken saying that he had not yet been given a copy of the audit report. Still, Harlan said that he believes that an occasional audit is a good process for keeping the county’s volunteer fire departments in check.
Even though Harlan is pleased that Warren County has taken the steps to investigate the thefts, Harlan said that he is frustrated at not yet having seen the results of the financial audit.
“The cost for the audit will have to be paid by the SFVFD,” Cook said. “If we are paying for the report then we deserve to see it. Even though I’ve asked for it, the county has been reluctant to share the information. I’ve made several phone calls, but so far I’ve drawn a blank.”
In the letter Ash and Stanley acknowledge the added administrative burden that the county oversight will place on SFVFD, but believe it is necessary given the results of the investigation saying “We regret having to take these measures at this time; however we feel they are prudent given the severity of the concerns that have been leveled against Company #6 and the information that has been obtained to date.”
Despite any distractions that SFVFD may face as a result of the investigation, Harlan said that his number one priority continues to be the safety of the citizens his company serves.
“We’re not a bunch of thieves,” Harlan said. “We’re fire fighters doing our best to serve the county and protect the citizens.”
Copies of the notification letter were also delivered to Don Hoover, president of the Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire Department and Warren County Fire Chief Richard Mabie.