The American Fire Grant (AFG) program administered by the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, has been one of most important Federal programs to support the fire service. Unlike many other Federal programs, it has been remarkably free from controversy – except for the occasional whining from this group or that about their fair share… but that's another story.
Depending on how you look at these things, a recent case from New Jersey represents either a problem with AFG – or it shows that safe-guards built into the program work to prevent problems.
The Clayton Fire Department in Gloucester County received an AFG award in 2004, and applied for a second AGF award in 2008. As part of the 2008 application process, it was determined that the 2004 grant had not been closed out. An audit disclosed irregularities, and a subsequent investigation led to the arrest of Harry J. Simpson Jr., who was the fire chief in 2006-2007.
Prosecutors allege that Simpson stole $11,900 from the volunteer department between January and February 2006. He was charged with third-degree theft and second-degree official misconduct. The offenses carry a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in jail.
The charges were served on Simpson last Friday.