Tahlequah Daily Press

March 4, 2013

AG asked to probe Peggs VFD allegations

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — District 27 District Attorney Brian Kuester mailed a letter Friday, formally asking the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office to investigate alleged misuse of funds at the Peggs Volunteer Fire Department.

Kuester’s decision to seek the AG’s assistance was made just days before Cherokee County commissioners are set to act on a resignation letter submitted by Peggs VFD Chief Roger Fine. The item is listed on the agenda of Monday morning’s monthly commissioners meeting.

Kuester asked for assistance from another agency – the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation – on Feb. 8.

“On Thursday, I had a conversation with someone with the OSBI, and had a conversation with the grand jury division of the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, and they decided between themselves that if I made the request, the AG’s office would investigate it,” said Kuester.

Jessica Brown, a public information officer for the OSBI, said the agency officially declined the request of Kuester to open a case on the Peggs VFD situation, and instead referred him to the AG.

“The Bureau employs a family member of a person of interest in the case,” Brown said. “We do not want the integrity of such an investigation to be questioned because of a familial connection to the OSBI and the fire department.”

Brown said the AG’s office also has investigators and use of a multicounty grand jury to handle such issues.

Fine’s resignation letter was turned in Feb. 26, on the heels of allegations made by Peggs VFD Assistant Chief Brannon Holman in January that Fine misused department funds.

Fine has denied the allegations and said the so-called “inconsistencies” are a misunderstanding. He said the truth will come to light with a review of the department’s financial records.

Fine asserted the issues raised by Holman tie in to a check sent to a fire apparatus company, along with the delivery of a new fire truck.

“It’s just a misunderstanding of how the new fire truck was delivered,” Fine told the Daily Press in January.

Fine was unavailable for comment Friday.

“I appreciate the opportunity to have served as the fire chief and appreciate the time working with the firefighters and the Peggs community,” Fine wrote in his letter of resignation. “I will miss serving as fire chief, but I wish to spend more time to focus on my family.”

Board members of the Peggs VFD met earlier this month and hired an accountant to conduct a review of the department’s financial records

 Fine said the results of the review will clear up the issue.