Rancho Adobe fire district tightens financial procedures
Published: Monday, November 21, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 21, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.
An emergency audit prompted by the embezzlement of thousands of dollars from its firefighters' union found the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District budget escaped similar fraud.
But the audit did find areas in the department's financial procedures that need to be tightened, said Rancho Adobe Fire Chief Frank Treanor.
“The district intends to implement these controls in the near future,” Treanor said.
The district's fire marshal, Capt. Michael Scott Bechtold, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $63,000 from the firefighters' union and faces up to three years in jail.
As treasurer of the Rancho Adobe Paid Fire Fighters Association, Bechtold wrote 45 unauthorized checks from the union's checking account from 2006 to last month, prosecutors said. He was arrested Oct. 26.
He spent most of the money on a divorce attorney and child support payments, prosecutors said.
Now, an extra layer of oversight will be applied to the district's payroll procedures, as well as the manner in which it pays some bills with a credit card, Treanor said.
Also, the way revenues from business inspections and cost recoveries are accounted for will be subject to an additional level of monitoring, Treanor said.
“If you would look at any business or district of our size, could improvements be made to the system? Sure, they could,” Treanor said. “The fact is that we have identified them and we are going to make them.”
The audit was conducted by a certified fraud investigator from the Sonoma County Auditor's Office, Treanor said.
The fire district has stations in Cotati, Penngrove and Liberty Valley, a $3.3 million general fund budget and 15 full-time firefighters. It has another 12 part-time firefighters and about eight volunteers.
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