At least $44,000 is unaccounted for following an internal audit of Wayne Township Fire and Rescue Department financial accounts, the fire department board’s president said.
The fire department began questioning withdrawals made against its banking account earlier in the year by then-township Trustee Clint Madden, who also served as the fire department’s treasurer, said Jason Perry, Wayne Township Fire and Rescue board president.
The volunteer fire department provides service to residents and businesses in south central Bartholomew County, including the town of Jonesville.
After Madden claimed he had purchased $2,200 worth of items for the department early in year, questions began to surface when nothing of that value could be located, Perry said.
Board members were assured by Madden that he was just simplifying bookkeeping procedures and his actions were legitimate, Perry said. With additional funds deposited into the fire department’s bank account, the board took no further action, Perry said.
“He kept saying everything was for the department,” Perry said. “I wanted to provide him with opportunities to show it.”
But after Madden did not provide the fire department board with financial reports for the months of June and July — and was absent from board meetings during the summer — the board voted to remove him as treasurer, Perry said.
When Perry and two other fire officials went to the bank in late September to complete necessary paperwork to remove Madden’s authority over the banking account, they discovered the balance was substantially less than what Madden had reported to them in May, Perry said.
That prompted Perry and two other fire department members to begin tracking down all available financial records, the board president said.
That led to more questions, Perry said.
While reviewing spending records, the internal audit found evidence in September that departmental money had been used for the purchase of navigational equipment, a Jeep, and for auto repairs — none of which was for the department’s use, Perry said.
After Madden was asked to explain the spending, he submitted his immediate resignation as township trustee on Oct. 3, Perry said.
Perry said he asked the Indiana State Police to investigate the township’s financial records, but the trustee’s taxpayer-paid computer had been removed from Madden’s office by the time investigators arrived, Perry said.
How it worked
Wayne Township Fire and Rescue operates from a fire fund established through the township trustee’s office, Perry said.
Since Madden served as the fire department’s treasurer, as well as township trustee, he was the only person authorized to make deposits and withdrawals on the fire fund, Perry said.
“(Madden) said it would be a lot easier, so that four or five guys wouldn’t all have to go to the bank,” Perry said.
Subsequently, the fire department board instituted changes that require board action on all fire fund expenditures, as well as the signature of both the board president and treasurer on withdrawals, Perry said.
Other township officials learned about about the unaccounted-for $44,000 during an Oct. 27 gathering described by the new trustee as a meet-and-greet, according to Kermet Meri Key, a former advisory board member who attended the meeting, but since resigned his position.
Citing what he described as problems with transparency and integrity, Key said he resigned his board position because he felt it had become irrelevant due in part to local political party politics.
The Indiana State Board of Accounts has been reviewing financial records of the township since Madden resigned, said Brenda Mijares, who was appointed Oct. 18 as Madden’s replacement.
With all available records now in the hands of the state, Mijares said she has no way of knowing whether the amounts mentioned by Perry are accurate.
As a matter of policy, the State Board of Accounts withholds comments on cases until an investigation is complete, spokesman W. Tyler Michael said.
As of Friday, the investigation was still ongoing, Mijares said.
After the initial questions to Madden about bank account withdrawals, Madden restored at least $8,000 in charges to the fire department account, Perry said.
But it’s unclear whether Madden used his own money or funds from the trustee’s office to restore some of the fire department’s money, Perry said.
The fire department board president said he is deeply troubled about the potential financial irregularities.
“It’s heartbreaking and hard for me,” Perry said.
Madden’s wife, Heather Madden, also has resigned her position with the township, Key said.
Heather Madden was on the three-member Wayne Township trustee’s advisory board with Clara Claycamp and Key. Mike Bell was approved as Heather Madden’s replacement during a Nov. 17 trustee meeting.
Meanwhile, a meeting of Wayne Township precinct committee members will likely be held in early December to find a replacement for Key, said Nancy Ann Brown-Poynter, Bartholomew County Democratic Central Committee chairwoman.
Fire department funding
Since Madden did not file Wayne Township Fire and Rescue’s 2016 budget on time, the departments was forced to draw on savings, fundraising — and even money from the firefighters’ own pockets — to maintain itself, Perry said.
However, advisory board members voted this month to set the department’s budget at $20,000 for this year, and the 2016 money was recently received, fire chief Rick Trimpe said Friday.
Since the department’s 2017 budget was not filed on time, however, the same amount be budgeted for next year, Trimpe said.
Perry said the fire department has been unable to reach Madden since his resignation. Multiple efforts by The Republic to contract Madden have also been unsuccessful.
A new telephone number has been established for the Wayne Township Trustee’s office: 812-342-5080.
The phone number that had been used by former Trustee Clint Madden has been disconnected.