What can local officials do when concerns arise over how a local volunteer fire company spends taxpayer funds? How do local volunteer fire departments prevent politicians from interfering with their internal operations?
That tug-of-war has been playing itself out for as long as I have been involved in the fire service. Those questions will be playing themselves out in a courtroom in eastern Pennsylvania as Lawrence Park Township has filed suit against the Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department.
The Township has concerns about the financial management of taxpayer funds by the fire company and petitioned the Erie County Court to order a financial accounting and the appointment of a custodian. Fire Chief Jim Crotty claims there is in fact a “misappropriation of funds” going on, but says it is the Township that is wasting taxpayer funds on an unnecessary court battle.
The feud between the Township and the fire company goes back at least two years, and in some respects the suit seems like a spiteful last ditch effort. The three Township Commissioners who supported the suit were not re-elected in a recent primary and are basically lame duck officials serving out the remainder of their terms. The dispute with the fire department played a major role in the election.