Painted Cave Fire Department Ordered to Turn Over Financial Records
Photo: Painted Cave Fire Department
By edhat staff
The Painted Cave Fire Volunteer Department (PCVFD) must turn over financial records after a local court ruling on Tuesday, reports The Independent.
A lawsuit was filed in March by the Painted Cave Ad Hoc Committee (PCAHC), a group of 16 firefighters and local residents formed this past December, claiming the misappropriation of funds by the PCVFD. Painted Cave residents stated the department is a legally defined public agency and is subject to the Public Records and Brown Acts.
The defense argued the PCVFD is a private entity and releasing financial documents would be too expensive and time consuming effectively shutting down the department. Judge Thomas Anderle ruled the PCVFD Board of Directors referred to themselves as a public entity in 2018 and must release financial records, reports The Independent.
The fire department was created as a volunteer fire company in 1965, under the authority of California H&S Code § 14825, for the small Painted Cave community off Highway 154 as it's more remote and subjected to increased fire danger.
Since 2003, the Board of Directors of the Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, has managed the department. Kevin Buckley has been the only Fire Chief and President of the Board from 2003 into 2019.
During the past several years, the lawsuit states volunteer firefighters of the PCVFD have had increasing concerns over the management of the department and the actions of the Chief. All efforts to resolve the issues internally with the firefighters and the board have reportedly failed.
The lawsuit states PCAHC performed its own investigation where evidence was gathered to support allegations of mismanagement in the areas of fiscal integrity, operational competence, and compliance with legal governance. It continues to allege that Buckley used department funds to buy a flat-screen television, a dining room table worth $1,800, an artificial Christmas tree worth $1,200, and hundreds more on gas for unrelated travel.
PCAHC states it submitted a Public Records Act to the department's board requesting records to document and confirm these allegations. The ad-hoc group also asked the board to open their meetings to the community and allow for public comment, in compliance with the Brown Act. The lawsuit states both requests were denied through the department's attorney.
The PCVFD board has suspended firefighter operations since the lawsuit.
March 28, 2019 - Lawsuit Alleges Volunteer Painted Cave Fire Department Misused Funds