WEST HAZLETON, Pa. (WNEP) — The Pennsylvania auditor general is offering his findings in an investigation into a volunteer fire company.
In March of 2018, authorities raided the West Hazleton Volunteer Fire Company over allegations of misspending of tax dollars.
The West Hazleton Volunteer Fire Company has been under financial investigation since March of 2018 after state, and local police raided the firehouse on South 4th street.
Now the state auditor general’s office found that the former fire chief misspent nearly $22,000 from the West Hazleton Volunteer Firefighter Relief Association known as the VFRA, where the chief held the position as secretary.
Taxpayers in the West Hazleton area say they are fed up.
“I feel like if you use tax dollars wrongly, that’s not right,” said Gerome Repetz. “You should never use somebody else’s money that they’re working for in a wrong way.”
The audit found that nearly $1,000 was spent on turnpike tolls and $5,600 were used on cell phone charges, both on the chief’s family
More than $15,000 was used in either unauthorized or undocumented expenses.
Current Fire President Kyle Kaschak says the bulk of that spending was poor bookkeeping.
“Immediately, all the members involved were suspended and removed from their offices, and a whole new administration came in office and started placing procedures and policies in place to prevent this from happening in the future,” said Kaschak.
The auditor general did find that of the nearly $22,000 of mishandled funds, the fire company has reimbursed the VFRA more than $14,000.
People here say they still support their volunteer fire companies.
“They save lives, they work hard, I mean there’s things that happen, fires and emergencies and they come out without actually getting a paycheck,” said Alisa Repetz.
The auditor general’s office says it’s asked the Luzerne County District Attorney to look into this. The D.A.’s Office says the West Hazleton Police Department’s 2018 investigation remains ongoing.
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