No wrongdoing found in Todd Volunteer Fire Department investigation
by Staff Reports
Earlier this month the Watauga County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to direct Sheriff Len Hagaman to investigate the financial dealings and subsequent accounting practices of the Todd Volunteer Fire Department.
The request was in response to an inquiry from an annual audit performed by Bryce Holder, CPA, PA for Watauga County according to a release sent out by the Sheriff's Office.
As part of the annual audit, when the county's auditors requested documentation from the fire departments, Todd Fire Department was the only one that did not fix problems addressed by the county's auditing firm and would not provide the requested information in a timely manner, according to Chairman Nathan Miller.
It was reported that the Watauga County Board of Commissioners had also received a written request from a "concerned citizen," asking for a formal investigation by law enforcement, and that the County of Watauga withhold any allocation, or budget request for financial support for, or to, the Todd Volunteer Fire Department for Fiscal Year 2014-15.
As part of the investigation, it was noted that the Todd Volunteer Fire Department is a 501(c)(3) organization, and is governed by a Board of Directors.
The Todd Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors, under North Carolina General Statute 153A, as well as North Carolina General Statute 132 (Public Records Statute), qualifies and classifies fire departments as a private entity.
Part of the initial investigation included a letter from Attorney Jak Reeves that verified this information. With that information, it was noted that any inquiries, or request(s) for any law enforcement investigation(s) rest with, and are originated by the Board of Directors.
However, upon hearing of a request from the Watauga County Commissioners to ask that the Watauga County Sheriff's Office investigate alleged criminal activity, or financial misconduct, the Todd Volunteer Fire Department immediately contacted the Watauga County Sheriff's Office to voluntarily and fully cooperate with the request; regarding any allegations of criminal misconduct.
The Watauga County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Section contacted the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to request assistance in conducting the inquiry into the financial proceedings of the Todd Volunteer Fire Department.
All necessary and requested information and documentation were received, processed, and thoroughly reviewed in concert with the Office of Watauga County Manager, the Watauga County Department of Finance, and Bryce Holder, CPA, PA.
In addition, the North Carolina Department of Revenue and the United Stated Department of Internal Revenue were contacted and their assistance requested as a part of the inquiry and investigation.
Finally, the combined results and findings of the inquiry and of the investigation were discussed and presented to the Office of District Attorney for the 24th Judicial District.
Following the review by all appropriate Federal, State, and Local law enforcement agencies, it is reported that the inquiry and investigation requested by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners has been completed.
It has been determined that no evidence was found of any alleged criminal activity, alleged criminal intent, or criminal misconduct, as a result of this intense investigation regarding the Todd Volunteer Fire Department, its Board of Directors, Todd VFD Command Officers, Members, and any individual Fire Fighter(s).