The former fire chief for the Keith Springs Volunteer Fire Department stole more than $20,000 from the fire department and used it on himself, according to a state audit released this week.
Court officials indicted that man, Jamie Stephens, the audit went on to say.
“Stephens withdrew thousands of dollars in cash from the fire department checking and savings accounts. He also used the department’s debit card to purchase items such as televisions, food, gasoline, groceries, tires for his personal van, and a vacation rental in Panama City Beach,” auditors said in a press release.
“The theft also included $853 in fuel that was purchased on the fire department’s fuel account. Investigators reviewed the purchase dates and determined Stephens was not performing fire department duties, and he did not provide proper documentation to support the purchases.”
In December 2017, the fire department’s board of commissioners met with Stephens about his use of the bank funds and fuel and placed him on probation. However, while on probation, Stephens continued to use the bank and fuel accounts for personal use, auditors said.
The board of commissioners elected a new fire chief in March of last year. A Franklin County grand jury indicted Stephens this month on one count of theft over $10,000, the press release said.
This is not the first time state Comptrollers have called out a volunteer fire department.
As The Tennessee Star reported last fall, members of the New Johnsonville Volunteer Fire Department racked up more than $22,000 in unpaid cell phone bills and took advantage of city tax exemptions they weren’t supposed to have.
Beginning in May 2016, the department established the cell phone plan for the benefit of firefighters and others. The department plan was not created for a government purpose, according to the audit.
The cell phone plan bills were supposed to be paid with individual participant money and not with volunteer fire department or government funds.
The plan included bills related to 116 phones — although the membership of the volunteer fire department was fewer than 25 firefighters.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo Keith Springs Volunteer Fire Department by Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.