OMAHA, Neb. --
The state auditor's office released findings Thursday that suggested sloppy financial record-keeping within the Omaha Fire Department, though the auditor stopped short of calling the findings fraud.
The office said it found three major issues during scrutiny of the department's records, including:
- Kloewer Fund
The office found little documentation on how money from this fund, collected through private donations, was supposed to be used. Record keeping was not good, the office said, and $4,500 was spent on a firefighters' ball. The office also found donors' checks that were never cashed.
- Payroll, Time Reporting
The office said it was unclear if fire personnel were showing up for their regular hours or working all of their hours. The time roll was "inadequate and unreliable," the office reported. It said it didn't know how many union hours were used.
Fire Chief Mike McDonnell insisted that his firefighters did show up to work.
- The Safer Grant of 2009
The office said the department got $2 million in federal funds that were dependent on the department hiring 18 more firefighters. The department realized it couldn't afford that and then returned the money it used and canceled the grant.
State Auditor Mike Foley said the findings did not come from a full audit, which was impossible because the records were so bad.
"We can't audit records that don't exist; we can't audit processes that are not in place," he said.
Foley said the fire department has a year to make changes before a full audit is conducted.
City Finance Director Pam Spaccarotella said there was "nothing to show that any of this is deliberate."
She called it a procedural problem, not a personnel problem.
However, a taxpayer group said it was outraged by its analysis of the findings. The Omaha Alliance for the Private Sector said firefighters initially came to them with complaints, which prompted the auditor's review.
"You got to be kidding me," said Dave Nabity with OAPS. "These people need to be prosecuted. They were still working full wages even though they were not there."
The group said it believes the crime of theft by deception has been committed.
"They're basically thefting money by deception because they aren't at work and they're pretending that they are, and they're taking taxpayer money," Nabity said.
Auditor Finds Bad Bookkeeping In Fire Dept.
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