By ROB W. ANDERSON
Allegations of misuse of funds have prompted some members of Peggs Volunteer Fire Department to call for an audit of the entity’s financial records.
An informal meeting was held Wednesday, during which Assistant Fire Chief Brannon Holman revealed he’d discovered some inconsistencies in the records suggesting Fire Chief Roger Fine may be using VFD money to purchase items for personal use.
Holman explained that, according to the department’s bylaws, he’d be acting as chief in establishing the agenda for the special meeting. The sole agenda item was a request for the board of directors to authorize an audit of the department’s financial records. Attendees included Holman, board secretary Jamie Cole and board assistant treasurer Dale Fine.
Holman said he was unable to talk to Roger Fine on Monday, while he was establishing the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. Cole asserted the meeting wasn’t “proper” and it “would not be proper” to pursue the agenda.
“I’m not sure you’re [inability to contact] the fire chief would constitute an absence,” said Cole.
Roger Fine stood silent at the opposite end of the table, listening to Holman and exited the room about the time Cole made his statement.
Holman said he had no issue with Fine’s ability as a firefighter, but believes something is amiss in the financial records.
“The [rumors] came to light this past weekend,” said Holman. “Don’t get me wrong. We have some of the best firefighters in the world here. Roger Fine is one of the best firefighters in the world. He’s a great guy. Still to this day I would not be afraid to go into a burning home with him at my back, and I’m sure he feels the same with me. I’m not an accountant, [but] something is getting covered up here. It’s not right and I want to make it right.”
Holman obtained copies of the department’s financial records from the Cherokee County clerk’s office to provide evidence of some of the alleged inconsistencies, some of which included construction materials that were purchased in April 2012, but were not on fire department property until Wednesday.
“There’s not 900 square feet of flooring in here,” said Holman. “That stuff [flooring and wire] was not here yesterday. [Roger] didn’t buy that until we showed him [our copies of the financial records].”
Holman said he and other firefighters had recently completed work that required some of the equipment and supplies in question, and said when he’d asked the fire chief about supplies was told he didn’t need to buy anything.
“I wasn’t planning on it, as far as I knew he had already bought it,” said Holman. “[Roger] wouldn’t bring it [to the fire station]. He said he hadn’t bought [the items] yet.”
The financial records showed a purchase for $269.99 that Holman believed may have been a chain saw or weedeater.
“I can’t read the copy of this invoice here,” said Holman. “The actual hard copy was probably more legible, but it’s some kind of steel product. I’ve never seen this stuff, and I’ve not seen that [construction material] until today.”
Another check indicated an expense of $2,878, which during a Tuesday phone interview Roger indicated was related to the delivery of the fire department’s new truck.
“This all goes back to a check that was sent to the Brindlee Mountain [Fire Apparatus company],” Fine said. “It goes back to the delivery of a new fire truck, and the company that sent us the money for the delivery of the truck. They didn’t agree with the way the money was spent or the delivery of the truck.”
Fine said a meeting will be held Feb. 20, and an audit of the department’s fund will follow.
“Then all of these false allegations against me will be cleared up,” said Fine. “It’s just a misunderstanding of how the new fire truck was delivered.”
After Fine left the Wednesday’s meeting, Holman played a voicemail received from Fine on Tuesday that he believed was evidence that supports the allegations.
Fine’s voicemail included his resignation: “Hey Brannon. This is Roger. Would you call me? I’ll go ahead and resign the fire department, but I just need to talk to you. I just want to make sure you guys, you know, will take care of it. I’ll go ahead and resign as chief, but I wish you would just try to do it smooth. I don’t want to upset any of the guys or anything. I just want to be able to – you guys just take it over and we can do that it way. But if you would, just please call so we can work something out.”
Fine said he resigned to avoid any negative impact the allegations may have on the fire department.
“If they weren’t happy with the way I was running the fire department, then I would resign, but I don’t want the fire department to be run down to where we don’t have a [one],” said Fine. “If [my resignation is what it takes] to keep the firefighters there and keep a good fire department going, [that’s what I was going to do].”
Fine added all the allegations Holman brought to the meeting are not true.
“Everything is all false. The weed eater is at the station. It was purchased through the tax board, and is definitely at the fire house,” he said.
“Everything that was purchased at the station was purchased with a purchase order. Everything was done right. That’s why we’re going to have this audit. So we can straighten this all out and get the fire department back to where it needs to be.”