The volunteer fire departmentâ??s expenditures in Lipscomb County are raising eyebrows, and has a group of concerned citizens demanding a state investigation.
Volunteer fire departments are an essential part of keeping our communities in our region safe, but a group Lipscomb county residents are claiming that their volunteer fire departmentâ??s expenditures are excessive and benefiting certain individuals.
Mark Lobmeyer of Darrouzett, a town in Lipscomb County, said that while â??firefighters selflessly risk their livesâ?? that the Fire Chief Jimmie Wilmoth is using the volunteer firefighterâ??s funds inappropriately. Mr. Lobmeyer and 17 other residents of Lipscomb Xounty spoke with Pronews 7 at the county courthouse. Lobmeyer said that they think that there should be an investigation into the volunteer fire departmentâ??s expense account.
â??My understanding, they said there's not enough to go to the district attorney and yet the evidence is all right here,â?? said Mr. Lobmeyer, a concerned citizen. â??We have three years of bank statements and at least sixty-five thousand dollars of money that appears to have been used for personal uses.â??
This group of concerned citizens has created a binder that is a carbon copy of all of the volunteer fire fighterâ??s expenditures in the past few years. An independent auditor working for Pronews 7 said while the chief volunteer firefighter has probably not committed any crime, the bookkeeping is very poor. Whether there is waste or not is subject to interpretation, and the county treasurer has already reviewed the books.
â??She received the books, all of them,â?? said Judge Willis Smith of Lipscomb County. â??I've got five volunteer fire departments and she did the audits and they were reported to the commissioner's court yesterday and she reported no violations.â??
A local CPA disagrees with the conclusions reached by the county.
â??The Lipscomb county treasurer looked at these and saw nothing, when I looked at them I saw fraud and corruption,â?? said Larry Schilling, another concerned citizen.
The chief firefighter Jimmie Wilmoth did not return our phone calls and Darla Shelton, his secretary whose signature was on nearly all the checks had no comment. Many of the checks we were shown need explanation, such as a check made out to Jimmie Wilmoth for 2100 with a blank for line.
And oversight for volunteer fire departments is not particularly strong. According to the Texas Commission on Fire protection they do not regulate volunteer fire departments. The Sheriff says that they are still responsible for public dollars.
â??There seems to be a lot of information that I am not aware ofâ??, said Sheriff Robertson. â??I just wish that the people who have that information, that say that they have the proof would come and sit down with me.â??
The group of concerned Lipscomb county citizens told me that the first complaint about the Darrouzett Volunteer Fire Department was submitted last year, but as of today, no investigation has been opened by the District Attorney.