Firemen’s Relief Association works to fix audit problems

FLEMINGTON — The state Department of the Auditor General found a number of problems when it audited the books of the Flemington Firemen’s Relief Association for the years 2013 through 2015.

Among them were $9,289 in unauthorized use of funds.

Since the audit report was released, the association has worked to straighten things out, according to Tony M. Mahon who is fire company president, deputy fire chief, and the relatively new treasurer of the relief association.

Mahon said Thursday that he and the Auditor General’s office are communicating back and forth to correct the problems the audit revealed and he is confident that everyone is on the same page now.

He said he has uncovered no intentional wrongdoing in the past. There was some confusion about what the relief association can legally pay for and what it cannot, he said.

Firemen’s relief associations are charitable organizations formed primarily to afford financial protection to volunteer firefighters and to encourage people to volunteer and serve the community through the fire company, according to the audit.

Mahon said the association pays out benefits to families of deceased active fire company members, and it can also own and pay for fire company equipment. The Flemington association owns one vehicle, a 1995 Chevrolet Suburban used by the fire police, he said.

Relief associations receive public tax monies, according to the audit report. The dollars flow from the state to municipalities. Each local government then passes the money on to the relief associations of the fire companies that serve it.

The Flemington Firemen’s Relief Association is associated with Goodwill Hose Co. of Flemington.

Flemington Borough is the main municipality that passes on funding to the Flemington association. It disbursed $7,441 in 2013, $7,041 in 2014, and $6,820 in 2015, according to the audit report.

Bald Eagle Township gave the Flemington relief association $3,515 in 2014 but nothing in the other two years, the report said.

These disbursements total $24,817.

The relief association spent $54,759 over those three years, the report said.

As of Dec. 31, 2015, the association had $17,519 in cash and investments, it said.

The audit found five problem areas:

r Unauthorized expenditures which totaled $9,289. All but one were for maintenance on vehicles owned by the fire company. (The remaining one was $261 for Christmas decorations.)

r Undocumented expenses which totaled $8,202. The association knows what the money was spent on, but it does not have the proper documents, like invoices.

r An undocumented loan of $6,946 which was made to the fire company on Dec. 15, 2013 without the required formal written loan agreement. The fire company did pay the money back during 2014, but it did not pay interest, the audit report stated. There should be a “reasonable rate of interest,” at least 3 percent, according to the report.

r Inadequate record-keeping.

r Failure to deposit proceeds from a surrendered insurance contract. In 2014, a check for $250 was apparently received but never deposited. After the audit report came out, the relief association asked the insurance carrier for a replacement check, as recommended.

Things like unauthorized use of funds and undocumented expenditures could lead to a total withholding of state aid in the future unless they are corrected, according to the audit.

Mahon said Thursday that the problems are being straightened out in a timely manner and Flemington should continue to receive this state funding.