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Wake County says fire department misused tax money

Posted August 3, 2011

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— A Wake County fire department could lose its funding if it doesn't account for thousands of tax dollars that county officials believe were used improperly.

County Manager David Cooke sent a letter last month to the Eastern Wake Fire & Rescue Department in Knightdale, asking it to account for $86,959 after a county audit found that the department's Board of Directors used the money to compensate four longtime employees for vacation time that they accrued but never took.

The board has until Aug. 12 to account for the funding. Otherwise, it risks having it deducted from the $1.6 million annual allotment from the county – its sole source of funding.

In 2002, the county implemented a policy that permits county employees to be compensated for up to 240 hours in accrued vacation time if they leave their jobs.

The employees in question had been with the fire department for years before the policy.

Cooke said that the fire department's board asked in May 2010 if it could pay the employees for unused vacation time beyond the 240 hours.

"Our answer was, 'No, you could not use the fire tax money for that purpose,'" Cooke said.

County accuses fire department of misusing funds County accuses fire department of misusing funds

A September 2010 letter reiterated the county's position.

"The contract that we have with the fire departments essentially say that you can't provide compensation more than what we would normally provide a county employee," Cooke said.

In the July 29 letter, Cooke asked the fire department's board to specify where the money came from and whether employees had contracts stating they were entitled to extra compensation.

"I do think it raises an accountability issue," Cooke said. "We take the accountability very seriously, as does the (Wake County) Board of Commissioners."

This is not the first time the department has been under scrutiny from the county.

It is currently repaying a $90,000 debt after a previous audit determined it had overpaid salaries for two employees.

Eastern Wake Fire Chief George Gupton says his department is cooperating with the county.

Ray Broadwell, the president of the Eastern Wake Fire Department Board of Directors, could not be reached for comment.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • mikedavis626 Aug 4, 2011

    Thought I'd add something to the mix!! Misappropriation of funds (taxes or otherwise) is not good. Sounds like the department's Board of Directors wanted to make things right with their employees, but maybe should have found alternative funding for compensation. Be that as it may, these department's work diligently to improve their ISO rating which helps homeowners save hundreds of $$$ on their home insurance. It takes funds to get the proper equipment, proper training, and much more!! The tax $$ you pay is minimal compared to the cost of your insurance if their ISO rating is high. Do a little research people and "Thank" your local fire dept. for all it does to help save you $$ and your property/lives!!!!!

  • Wingnut Central Aug 4, 2011

    Just one more reason that we should cut all tax dollars going to fire departments.

  • Templar Aug 4, 2011

    Its time to take actions against those that are in positions to control and monitor our tax monies starting at the State and County level.Why! wait for a yearly audit to find the misuse? Spending tax monies is necessary to maintain the up-keep of the systems which are now in place. No one person should be allowed to control or manipulate funds which have been intrusted to a organization. Those that misuse this power should be held accountable for their actions.(seriously)

  • ncguy Aug 4, 2011

    wow, How many weeks vacay do they get a year?

  • farm Aug 4, 2011

    "Nope, and I could care less if there is any fire department."

    You could care less? A real tough guy couldn't care less.....

  • gpd Aug 4, 2011

    WRAL, why don't you get in touch with the 911 center and do a story on how 911 works for the citizens of Wake County. After reading some of these responses, it would serve the viewers well. It would appear that some of them think they'd be calling the fire department directly.

  • Yville Aug 4, 2011

    ""Since you are not happy with the fire department responses...are you volunteering to put your life on the line for stupid people when you go to work everyday?"

    Nope, and I could care less if there is any fire department."

    Jee why not cut the police as well. We'll see if you're saying that one day when your trying to put out your house fire with your garden hose!

  • gpd Aug 4, 2011

    In the event of a shutdown, you won't have to wait for someone in Raleigh to respond. Coverage is taken care of at headquarters for all areas of the county at all times. Because if Eastern Wake were to be out on another call when you need help, someone else would have to come anyway. It's a tight system and this entire county is covered at all times. Headquarters is proactive and some of the best professionals anyone could ask for.

  • Wendellcatlover Aug 4, 2011

    Speaking as someone who has to count on the Eastern Wake Fire Dept, I hope they can figure this out. Eastern Wake County is growing, and to my knowledge, this is the only Fire Dept/Rescue Squad around for miles. We count on them to come in an emergency. If I dial 911, I don't want to wait 30 minutes for a squad from Raleigh to make it to my home!

  • whatelseisnew Aug 4, 2011

    "Since you are not happy with the fire department responses...are you volunteering to put your life on the line for stupid people when you go to work everyday?"

    Nope, and I could care less if there is any fire department.