October 23, 2021

Report spurs new policies for C’ville fire district

The Cortlandville Fire District has adopted policies this year for purchasing statements transparency after a July audit report by the state Comptroller found the district had not provided proper evidence for more than $18,000 worth of purchases between January 2018 and November 2019.

Of the $18,124, about $10,000 was spent on district credit cards for flights and hotel stays in Minnesota for district commissioners to inspect two fire engines the district purchased, said Kevin Whitney, chairman of the district’s fire commissioners. The remaining $8,000 was spent on equipment purchases on Amazon.

Whitney said that while credit card statements were attached with each purchase, the state Comptroller’s Office required statements of purchase from the companies directly where items were purchased.

“We’ve put a process in place to ensure that doesn’t happen in the future,” he said.

Additionally, the report stated the fire district had spent $445 on inappropriate or non-businesses related purchases, including “a $100 gift card, a custom frame, an edible arrangement and a chocolate gift basket,” the report states.

Whitney also stated that “never did the fire district spend money inappropriately at any point,” Whitney said.

But he added those items were purchased by the Cortlandville Fire Department for various individuals outside of the department, like for items of personal support, using a credit card from the fire district, which is a separate legal entity.

When the purchases were made, the fire department did not have its own credit card, which it now has so it can make its own purchases for gifts, he said.

“In those instances, we were not able to produce those receipts,” he said.

The district also incurred penalty charges totaling $393 in late payment fees and $192 in interest charges because the timing of its meetings did not always allow for the claims to be approved before the payment due date, the report stated.

To address the three problems, the district has implemented the following new policies:

Provide itemized statements from businesses for purchases.

Create a new voucher for purchases to be signed off of by at least three if not all commissioners during the district’s monthly meeting.

Pay the bank directly the day after district meetings to avoid late fees.