Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sheridan Fire Board Undergoes Training

The Sheridan Fire Board members, Sharon Paxson, Kendra Pickering, and Ashley Rush, all underwent required training along with firemen and fire board members from around the area. People from Grant City, Smithville, Ravenwood, Union Township (Pickering), and Maryville were present at the Sheridan Community Building Saturday. The training was conducted by Monte Olson of the Missouri Association of Fire Protection Districts.

The training lasted all day and focused on duties of board members as well as avoiding criminal and legal liability. The treasurer is bonded and is personally liable if money goes missing from the bank account, even if it involves a bank failure. The bonds protect the taxpayers; all money has to be reconciled by the board and not just the treasurer. Olsen said there was one instance where a treasurer stole $1.5 million over 10 years before he was caught; the board had never reconciled bank statements. Finally, the bank started asking questions about his cash withdrawals.

All deposits have to be secured in the unlikely event that a bank goes under. Sometimes, other banks will agree to cover funds that are not covered by the FDIC.

If there is a perception of impropriety, citizens can petition for an audit. The number for Sheridan is 25% of the people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Since Sheridan's fire department takes in less than $50,000 a year, they do not have to have an auditor. They can get a 1/2 cent sales tax approved, but property taxes would be rolled back by half that. They can charge emergency fees of up to $100 per call or $250 per hour in 15 minute increments for non-resident calls; this is not applicable in cases of mutual aid agreements. If there is a hazardous spill, the spiller pays if possible for removal; if not, the state pays.

No verbal contracts are allowed; all contracts must be done in writing. Olson said there was one case where a board president took out a credit cardin the fire district's name and ran up $7,000 from VISA. A new board came in and questioned the bill; it turned out the president had signed without authorization from the board and VISA agreed to sue the president.

Olson said there were several actions which could put board members in jail. Common violations include appointing relatives; board members can't appoint relations within four degrees of blood. Board members cannot use information obtained from serving for their own benefit or that of relatives even after they have left. Board members can't charge for professional services, and they can't sell goods for more than $500 a transaction or $5,000 total in a year unless it is properly bid and they are the lowest bidder. You can't do business with a company that you have a financial interest in, even if it is indirect such as a 401(k)3.

Most of these rules make perfect sense and are designed to protect the taxpayers from wrongdoing. But not all of them do. Jim Larson said that Grant City had gotten a letter from the USDA saying they could not use labor from Iowa to complete their fire building project, but they could use labor from Guam or America Samoa.

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