Citizens fired questions at the Inter-Canyon Fire District board on Nov. 13, demanding answers in the wake of recent theft and embezzlement charges filed against former fire chief Dave MacBean.
It was the first board meeting since the Oct. 17 indictment of MacBean, who is accused of stealing approximately $643,000 from Inter-Canyon.
“The recent revelations have impacted your trust in your fire department, and we must continue to work hard to regain your trust moving forward,” board President Michael Reddy told the more than 30 attendees. “We are committed as a board to lead the community through these difficult times.”
MacBean’s arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 2.
Inter-Canyon firefighter and paramedic Dan Hatlestad told the audience that the board would be forced to withhold key information because of the ongoing investigation.
“Information will become publicly available as the case moves forward,” Hatlestad said.
MacBean had served as the unpaid chief of the volunteer department since 2009 and was placed on leave in January. He left the department in March.
According to the indictment, MacBean is suspected of making unauthorized purchases using the district’s credit cards and bank accounts, totaling approximately $643,000 since 2010.
Inter-Canyon’s annual budget totals about $900,000.
In January, an audit revealed the missing funds and triggered an investigation.
“The money that always was there was not there,” said board member Joe Marcus. “We really want to get to the total bottom of this. There was true crime committed.”
Hatlestad said MacBean was placed on administrative leave in January, and Randy Simpson was hired as interim chief. Simpson was asked to stay on as chief in March when MacBean was fired. The board asked former treasurer Roy Crawford to resign that same month, which he did.
DA’s spokeswoman Pam Russell said MacBean posted $40,000 bond on Oct. 14 and was released from jail.
Inter-Canyon was able to recover $100,000 from its insurance policy through the Special District Association of Colorado.
Karl Firor, Inter-Canyon board treasurer, said audits were done every year during MacBean’s tenure as chief.
Citizens grilled the board, wanting to know what happened to the money, how the theft went unnoticed, and what steps have been taken to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
“Can you explain how the board missed that much money being gone?” a citizen asked.
Reddy said he couldn’t go into much detail, but that money was stolen from the district’s reserve fund.
“The operating expenses of the fire department weren’t affected,” Firor said. “Eighty percent of our budget goes toward operating expenses and maintaining equipment. Every year, a certain amount would be put into our reserves … and that was the money that was available to steal.”
Firor said the district’s reserve funds have been decimated.
“I’m upset,” one man said. “It’s done extreme damage to your credibility as a board and as a fire department. You’re part of our family. You’re our friends.”
“This has never happened before,” Reddy said. “Had we been aware of our vulnerability … and these transactions and how they were being processed, we would not have experienced this loss. We were not (aware), and we apologize.
“Trust is something we’ll have to gain back from the community,” Reddy said.
Citizens asked if other people could be indicted in the case, whether any property had been seized, and whether anyone else would be held responsible.
“As we’ve said before, information will be available as this case moves forward,” Hatlestad said.
Inter-Canyon’s board has implemented a new purchasing process in the wake of the theft. Purchase orders must be presented before a purchase can be considered, and board members now have the final say on purchases.
“We will go through every expenditure that’s taken place over the last month and review them,” Reddy said.
The district will no longer issue credit cards to staff or board members.
Board members will also discuss whether to increase theft-insurance coverage.
“Successful prosecution of the criminal case will then allow us to move forward with the restitution portion of the case,” Hatlestad said. “We have been in constant contact with the DA’s office since we became aware of the situation.”
The next Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District meeting will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at Inter-Canyon Station 1, 7939 S. Turkey Creek Road.
For more information, visit www.intercanyonfire.org.
Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1042. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.