ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — An investigation into possible financial fraud and abuse within a Howard County volunteer fire department found incidences of misspent funds and possible conflicts of interest.
The report, done by the county auditor’s office and sent to county leaders last week, outlines a number of instances in which purchases made with the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department’s money over a five-year period– from fiscal years 2014 to 2018– were questionable.
The previous fire chief used his family business to buy cell phone service and equipment for the department at a cost of more than $27,000, the report found.
The chief later submitted documentation supporting some of the charges but admitted one of the lines being paid for was not for a member of the department.
In a written response, the department said it had ended its partnership with the county-approved vendor prior to the audit.
The report also found the previous chief purchased nearly $6,000 of other items from his family business without any independent review or approval.
The department said it has since updated its standard operating procedure to address perceived or actual conflicts of interest.
Other items, including some travel expenses and concessions for the county fair, were purchased with county funds instead of the department’s, the report said.
Due to a lack of documentation, more than $130,000 of purchases made by the former chief and current treasurer could not be identified.
The report laid some of the blame on the county for failing to train organizations on how to control county funds and recommended the county provide additional training.
When asked for comment Wednesday afternoon, County Executive Calvin Ball’s office deferred to the findings in the report.
Read the full report here.