Auditor General DePasquale Cites Nearly $90,000 in Undocumented, Unauthorized Spending at Colwyn Borough VFRA, Delaware County

December 14 2015
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Auditor General DePasquale Cites Nearly $90,000 in Undocumented, Unauthorized Spending at Colwyn Borough VFRA, Delaware County

Refers audit results to Delaware County DA, withholds state assistance until issues resolved

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HARRISBURG (Dec. 14, 2015) — Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he is withholding state funding from the Colwyn Borough Fire Company Relief Association, Delaware County, until $88,610 in undocumented or unauthorized expenses are resolved and chronic management problems are addressed. 

“This level of mismanagement and potential criminal activity negatively affects the community as a whole,” DePasquale said. “The volunteer firefighter relief association is in such serious, long-term turmoil that residents could lose their nearby fire protection, and other emergency service providers may have to assume additional emergency service responsibilities.

“It is unfortunate that the bad actions of a few people can have such wide reaching consequences.” 

DePasquale forwarded the results of the 25-page audit, which covered January 2012 to December 2014, to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

He said that as a result of the serious nature of the findings in the current audit, he is withholding the Colwyn Borough VFRA’s 2015 state allocation of $10,386.  

The Colwyn Borough VFRA was allocated $11,555 in state aid in 2013 and $10,955 in 2014. Because of concerns over a lack of financial controls at the VFRA, Colwyn Borough returned the 2014 allocation to the commonwealth.

“While current Colwyn Borough VFRA officials agreed with our findings and pledged to take steps to correct the issues noted in the audit, we have no other choice than to withhold additional state financial assistance until those issues are resolved,” DePasquale said. 

Auditors discovered that financial records for the Colwyn VFRA are either nonexistent or in complete disarray. The audit report includes eight findings and recommendations and questions $56,332 in “undocumented expenses” and $32,278 in “unauthorized expenses.” 

 The undocumented expenses include:

Nearly $20,000 in walk-in bank cash withdrawals, including a $10,061 one-time cash withdrawal, 

More than $2,500 in television cable bill payments, more than $2,000 of which were paid in a single month, and 

Four checks totaling more than $2,000 written to an unknown payee.

The unauthorized expenses include:

More than $10,000 in payments for property taxes,

More than $340 for cable bills, and

Nearly $600 for dress uniforms.

DePasquale also released today a separate, 9-page audit of the Relief Association of Colwyn Fire Company No. 1 (also known as Colwyn VFRA), which was ordered by Delaware County Common Pleas Court on July 7, 2014, to transfer all funds to the Colwyn Borough VFRA. 

In 2014 and 2015, the association’s investment accounts were sold and proceeds in the amounts of $117,943 and $109,042 were transferred to the Colwyn Borough VFRA. Auditors were unable to determine if another $13,410 in assets were transferred to the Colwyn Borough VFRA.

Because of a lack of documentation and the inability to communicate with officers from the Colwyn VFRA, auditors couldn’t determine if money was spent properly or if the required procedures and laws were followed. 

The Department of the Auditor General examines volunteer firefighters’ relief associations, which receive state aid from a 2 percent state tax on fire insurance premiums purchased by Pennsylvania residents from out-of-state casualty insurance companies.

In 2015, $65.94 million in state funds was required to be distributed through funding municipalities to 1,915 VFRAs to provide training, purchase equipment and insurance, and pay for death benefits for volunteer firefighters. 

The audit report for the Colwyn Borough VFRA is available online here.

The audit report for the Colwyn VFRA is available online here

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