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May 4, 2017
By Hilde Kate Lysiak
Firefighters at Dauntless Hook and Ladder are on strike by refusing to go to fire calls as one of their own made shocking new allegations of corruption.
Only two firefighters from DH &L showed up to a fire on April 29th at Burns Tae Kwon. The Fire had to be put out by neighboring firefighters from Hummels Wharf, Shamokin Dam, Kratzerville, Middleburg, Sunbury, Northumberland and Kreamer.
Sources told told the Orange Street News that firefighters care deeply about Selinsgrove, but feel like they have no choice if they want change.
“They are on strike until their is change. These are firefighters who care so much about the community but they don’t know how else to get anyone’s attention. It sick what has been happening. Their leadership is corrupt. They won’t go to work until their [are] changes at the top,” a source told the OSN.
“We essentially don’t have a fire company right now. When a matter of seconds can be difference between life and death, this puts our whole community at risk. And having to depend on our neighboring fire companies does just that,” added the source.
DH and L Firefighter Sean Christine stood up before the Borough Council meeting (SEE THE FULL VIDEO OF THE MEETING AND SPEECH IN THE LINK POSTED ABOVE BY SCC) on Tuesday representing the DHL Fire Company Relief Association and gave a passionate speech spelling out the corruption in shocking detail and discussing the need for change which included:
The OSN has been exclusively reporting on the rule breaking for several weeks now, much of which was revealed at a private meeting in February which the OSN was not allowed to attend. “Members found invoices that were marked as purchases for the race track,” the source tells the OSN. One firefighter “was observed putting fuel into gas cans and five gallon buckets, and even told the members that saw him, that he was taking it to the race track,” according to sources.
Christine began his speech to the Borough by talking about the January15th meeting where DH&L President Dawayne Betzer admitted faking meeting minutes for nearly $200,000 worth of expenses.
“At their meeting of the minutes, none were available. President Dawayne Betzer said he couldn’t find the meeting minutes but he wanted to let everyone know that the minutes were made up anyway. He went on to elaborate that he had fabricated the minutes for several relief association meetings because no meetings were actually held. However, he submitted them to the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s office as official relief association records. Following the January 15th meeting, DH and L Fire company board of directors reviewed the false minutes of meeting from 2013-2016 that were submitted to the Auditor General as part of the compliance audit. They included four years of false minutes for meetings that never took place recording $173,880 in expenditures that were approved by members who weren’t actually at the meetings.
He then told the board about a January 24th, where the DH&L Fire Company board of directors gathered to discuss the matter with Fire Chief Brandon Ulrich, Director Gary Griner and President Dawayne Betzer and was told that “if you think that was the only law broken here your kidding yourself.”
“At that meeting the board was told that was in the past. We just need to move forward and make sure we do it right in the future. When the board informed the members that the infractions could be serious, it was told, if you think that was the only law broken here your kidding yourself. Subsequently, the board of directors noticed the PA Auditor General about the issue.”
“On January 28th the board suspended President Dawayne Betzer. Director Gary Griner and Brandon Ulrich, from all administrative functions of the fire company pending an outcome of a hearing. On February 2nd, 2017 the PA Auditor General returned to DH and L Fire Company and conducted a second audit. On February 13th, 2017 the fire company held a disciplinary hearing but at the advice of their legal council the members questioned refused to answer any questions. During the meeting the company was dispatched to a motor vehicle accident. At that time…..made a motion to lift the suspensions of the four individuals. With ten firefighters out of the room, the motion was passed.”
Christine told the board that leadership responded to the rule breaking found in the Auditor Report not by punishing the people who committed the crimes, but instead by removing those people responsible for making sure the rules are followed.
“At the April 10th fire company meeting Fred Ulrich made a motion to seize any action against the involved members and it passed by 25-13. Then he made a motion to remove the entire board of directors that had been investigating the matter. That too passed by a 25-12, with one abstention. Finally, Dawayne Betzer appointed who he wanted to the Board of Directors.”
Christine said that leadership won the votes because people were brought in to “stack the deck.”
“At this point you may ask yourself how such motions can be passed given the circumstances. However, its not unusual for twenty to thirty social members who don’t regularly attend meetings to be brought in to stack the deck. This matter has effected the company in many ways.”
Christine is worried that without new leadership, the public could be at risk.
“By falsifying records, four individuals have violated…rules, stripped the membership of its legal right to direct the expenditure of relief funds and made apparent that we failed to maintain an appropriate level of transparency. Fire coverage has been jeopardized by fire members refusing to respond under current leadership. Penn Township has temporarily ceased their contributions to the fire company and we have been told that more actions could be taken by the auditor general’s office.”
Christine called what is happening now a “recipe for disaster.”
“We have found no reason to believe any money is missing from DH and L Fire company. And I’ll say that again, we have no reason to believe any money is missing from DH and L Fire company. However, considering the falsified official documents of spending of close to a quarter million of dollars without approval. The attempt to overthrow the board that is handing disciplinary action, the firefighters at DH and L know something has to change. A system that with entrenched leadership that discourages transparency, retaliates against discipline, has fiduciary responsibility over 100,000s of dollars with insufficient oversight is a potential recipe for disaster. Unfortunately for the borough, a large group of firefighters have said they had enough. With what Fred Ulrich referred to as a hostile takeover of the board of directors is apparent that firefighters will not be able to oversee the financial prudence of the fire company.”
“We have a room full of firefighters who were until recently probably your top members as far as responses go and this year have responded to almost no fire calls. So there seems to be a problem with the leadership to the point that is so entrenched it doesn’t matter what discipline action the fire company holds, nothing is going to get done. So at this point you need to be aware of it and their needs to be some oversight.”
The report by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found that the fire company “did not comply with state laws, contracts, bylaws, and the receipt of state aid and the relief association funds,” from January 1, 2013- until December 31st 2016.
According to the report, the rule breaking include:
– Inadequate Relief Association Bylaws
– Failure To Adhere To Relief Association Bylaws
– Inadequate Minutes Of Meetings And Approvals Of Financial- Related Business Of The Relief Association
– Insufficient Surety (Fidelity) Bond Coverage
– Failure To Disclose Related Party Transaction
Read the full report here.
After the OSN broke the story, DH&L Fire Company Chief Brandon Ulrich told the OSN that the information should have never gone public. “This is a internal investigation that should never have been leaked out and will be handled accordingly.”
The OSN has asked for an on the record interview with DH&L and is still waiting for statement from the fire company to get both sides of the story.