Mo. Fire District Pays FEMA After Audit Dispute

The Boone County Fire Protection District on Thursday paid $213,648 to settle what it owed the Federal Emergency Management Agency after an audit that indicated misuse of funds dating back several years.

The federal audit initially indicated the district had misused more than $750,000 from FEMA between 2002 and 2007. However, in July the fire district received the updated lower estimate after a long dispute over the findings. It received the bill for the $213,648 amount last month, and the board of directors on Thursday issued the payment to FEMA, according to a fire district news release.

The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducted the audit, and the fire district had been in talks with FEMA in an effort to dispute the findings. The inspector general audited FEMA reimbursements related to the operation of Missouri Task Force 1, one of FEMA's 28 urban search- and-rescue teams. The unit is based at the Boone County fire district.

The audit said the district blended federal money with its own general revenue and had approved uses for the funds that didn't meet eligibility requirements. During the audit period, the district was led by former Chief Steve Paulsell, who retired in 2008.

The district has implemented several of the audit's suggestions on its handling of grant money. District Fire Chief Scott Olsen previously said efforts to dispute the audit were complicated because of bookkeeping irregularities within the department when the federal money was received.

The fire district board of directors also voted to dispute two items within the current audit findings, the news release said.

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