Former Inter-Canyon fire chief David MacBean blames a lack of oversight and his own personal problems for stealing $647,000 from the district.
In an exclusive interview with the Courier, MacBean, who pleaded guilty in April to two counts of theft and one of embezzlement, also said the nominal stipend he received as chief led him to resent the job, and to use the district credit card “to surround myself with stuff.”
He faces up to 27 years in prison at sentencing on June 24.
“The victims of my crime are very far-reaching,” MacBean told the Times. “There is nothing I can say that would justify the decisions I have made. For me, it’s important for people to understand I feel terrible about this. And, most importantly, what I’m doing about it.”
MacBean, who became fire chief in 2009 after joining the department as a volunteer in 2004, reportedly spent the money over a three-year period on everything from hunting gear to photography equipment, from musical instruments to electronics.
But his spending sprees ended when the district board finally became aware of the financial crisis and asked him to step down from the job in March 2013.
“(The purchases) started small,” MacBean said. “Based on the financial processes that were in place at the time, unfortunately it was very easy.
“It was easy, and I was able to get away with it.”
A dizzying descent into crime
David MacBean was the pride of the Inter-Canyon Fire Department for nearly five years. He was named Rookie Firefighter of the Year in 2004, and two years later he was Firefighter of the Year. In 2009, he was asked to be chief.
But then the bottom began to fall out. From 2010 to 2012, MacBean spent more than $647,000 of district funds on personal purchases while, he said, his personal life was crumbling and his addictive tendencies were taking over.
After a year as chief, MacBean said, he was finding it more and more difficult to balance working his full-time job, being a father and leading the department.
“I started to feel lonely and isolated,” MacBean said, adding that he and his now-ex-wife started growing apart.
He said he thought about stepping down — even before the thefts began — but didn’t because no other qualified candidates wanted to be chief.
MacBean began using the district’s credit card to make purchases at online retailers. According to court documents, he spent $302,000 of district funds on merchandise from Amazon.com, and also made purchases at the Big R in Conifer.
“It was all merchandise,” MacBean said. “I did not go and take trips or anything.”
The fire chief’s credit card limit was $10,000. MacBean would spend to the limit, the card would be paid off, and then he would max it out again.
“(The board) did not request receipts as part of the accounting process,” MacBean said. “There was a lack of checks and balances. The process we were using was probably the same process that was being used in 1960.”
But MacBean acknowledged that his “addictive tendencies” played a significant role as well.
“I started to believe that if I could surround myself with stuff, that I could be happy,” he said.
“He wants to be in a position where he can pay this back,” said Dave Thomas, MacBean’s attorney. “He feels it’s his obligation, and that’s what we’re going to propose to the court.”
At MacBean’s sentencing hearing, Thomas will present options to the district attorney that would allow MacBean to stay out of prison to pay back the public funds.
“It would be hard to pay back this money if (MacBean) goes to prison,” Thomas said.
The plan would also include liquidating the merchandise to help pay back Inter-Canyon. MacBean said he is currently employed but declined to name his employer.
“If allowed, it’s very realistic I could have this done in 10 years,” MacBean said.
MacBean said he has also entered intensive therapy on his own initiative.
“It’s painful to see how much my addictions have affected my life,” MacBean said.
MacBean said he’s committed to therapy and that he hopes to continue it after sentencing.
“I’m going to live with this the rest of my life,” MacBean said.
Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or Daniel@evergreenco.com. Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.