The former chief of the Patriot Volunteer Fire Department has been charged with theft and official misconduct after an investigation by the Indiana State Board of Accounts found violations in how department funds were spent over a four year period.
Gordon Wayne Turner, Jr., of Patriot, was charged with theft and official misconduct by the Indiana State Police on Friday.
According to the report by the State Board of Accounts, the investigation into the fire department centered on the time period between January 1st, 2014 and November 30th, 2018. That investigation found reportable instances of noncompliance.
“The Fire Department is a not-for-profit corporation that received public funding form the Town of Patriot in the form of a fire protection contract and from the Switzerland County Fire Chiefs Corporation,” the State Board of Accounts report stated. “Gordon Wayne Turner, Jr., has been the Fire Chief for the Fire Department since January 1st, 2014. He was responsible for the records of the Fire Department as well as receipting the monies received and accounting for the expenditures of the Fire Department.
“The Fire Department is no longer certified to make fire runs,” the report continued. “The certifications lapsed and were not renewed. Likewise there is no liability insurance to cover the volunteer firefighters to allow them to go on fire runs. Both the Town of Patriot and the Switzerland County Fire Chiefs Corporation ceased making payments to the Fire Department in late 2017.
“Town of Patriot officials were concerned about the use of the Fire Department funds and contacted the State Board of Accounts….”
With regard to Turner, the State Board of Accounts found three areas of noncompliance:
(1) Fire Department Funds were Expended for Non-Fire Department Use.
The report said that funds for the department were distributed in three ways: written checks, the use of a debit card, and electronic fund transfers out of the bank. The report said that when investigators asked Turner for the department’s financial records, including a funds ledger, they did not receive all of the bank statements or the supporting documentation that they requested. Because of this, the State Board of Accounts subpoenaed those department records, as well as Turner’s personal electric and personal satellite television account information.
Those records showed that Fire Department funds were used 40 times to pay Turner’s personal electric payment; and 14 times to pay Turner’s personal satellite television payment.
“Other personal items paid for with Fire Department funds included: cell phone expenses, groceries, dining at restaurants, purchasing materials and supplies not used for Fire Department purposes, rental payments, gasoline purchases, and unsupported purchases from various stores,” the State Report said.
From those, it was determined that Turner had used a total of $34,862.77 over the four year period of 2014-2018; and the State Board of Accounts requested that Turner reimburse the Fire Department that amount.
(2) Unauthorized Payments to Fire Chief.
“During the investigation period, Turner received unauthorized payments form the Fire Department 24 times totaling $18,610,” the report stated. “No documentation or other authority for these payments was presented during the investigation.”
Items listed in the report included such things as reimbursement for: labor for repairs; excess clothing allowance; mowing the fire station grounds; July 4th reimbursement; Halloween reimbursement; insulation reimbursement; Christmas reimbursement; Christmas Dinner reimbursement; Hog Roast reimbursement; Gasoline reimbursement; Supplies reimbursement; and Lumber reimbursement.
From those, it was determined that Turner had used a total of $18,610.00 over the four year period of 2014-2018; and the State Board of Accounts requested that Turner reimburse the Fire Department that amount.
(3) Payments to Individuals Without Supporting Documentation.
The report stated that unsupported payments totaling $4,800 were made to two individuals in 2014 using Fire Department funds.
• “We identified two checks made payable to Turner’s spouse totaling $3,500,” the report states. “One check was for $200 with the memo noting it was for a ‘refrigerator’. The other check was for $3,300 with the memo noting it was for ‘Work on Fire House and Decoration’. Neither of these payments had any supporting documentation.”
• “We identified a check made payable to Turner’s family member for $1,300 with the memo noting it was ‘for work on building’. The payment to the family member did not have any supporting documentation. There was no discernable endorsement on the canceled check,” the report continued.
From those, it was determined that Turner had used a total of $4,800.00 in 2014; and the State Board of Accounts requested that Turner reimburse the Fire Department that amount.
In addition, the State Board of Accounts added Special Investigation Costs onto the report.
“The State of Indiana incurred additional costs in the investigation of Fire Department expenditures,” the report said. “Audit costs incurred because of theft and shortage may be the personal obligation of the responsible official or employee.”
Those additional state costs totaled $18,631.59 — and the state requested that Turner also reimburse the state for those funds.
In total, the State Board of Accounts Audit report requests that Turner repay to the Fire Department and the State of Indiana $76,904.36.
The report noted that the State Board of Accounts discussed the report with Turner on Tuesday, February 12th.
Turner was arrested by the Indiana State Police on Friday, February 22nd, and appeared in Switzerland Circuit Court. Each of the two charges: Theft and Official Misconduct, are Level 6 felonies; and each carries a possible jail term of between six months and 2 1/2 years; as well as up to a $10,000 fine; along with restitution.
The report was officially filed this past Monday, February 25th.
All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.