Public servants, integrity, courageous, these are just a few of the words that come to mind when we think of firefighters. They are willing to run into danger when everyone else is running out. They always come when they are called. And they are held to an even higher standard of honor and integrity. Despite their many fine qualities they are still human and every once in a while there is one that takes advantage of their position and the trust that the community has put in them. Unfortunately, this is something that the communities of the Denver Fire Department (“DFD”) and the East Lincoln Fire Department (“ELFD”) are experiencing now.
Fire department budgets are anything but small. Each department had an operating budget of over $1 million and every year they conduct an audit with a different accountant to ensure that everything is correct. What the auditors found, and what was missed by accountants in both fire departments, was false invoices for equipment, training, and class reimbursement. Sadly, almost $4,000 had been embezzled from the Denver department and $18,000 from the East Lincoln department.
The alleged embezzler, whose name won’t be released unless and until he is placed under arrest, was a part-time employee with DFD and a full-time employee with ELFD with over 10 years experience, however he is no longer employed by either department. Everything has been handed over to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department to investigate; although it’s uncertain at this point how far back the investigation will go.
Regrettably, those that seem to be hit hardest in all of this are the fire departments themselves. Firefighters are a brotherhood. They live, work and eat together. They experience difficult situations together, and they are now left feeling betrayed by one of their own. But it doesn’t end there, the trust they had with the community has also been damaged.
Fortunately, when this man is held accountable for his actions and everyone has had time to move past this unfortunate event, relationships and trust can be rebuilt and proper internal controls can be put into place to help ensure that it doesn’t happen again.