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Audit: Ex-Wayne Twp Fire Chief should pay taxpayers $8K for undocumented travel and conferences expenses

State Board of Accounts releases new audits for 2018-2020
Posted at 3:54 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 18:14:01-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The former Wayne Township fire chief should pay back $8,156.74 for fire department travel and conference expenses, state auditors said in two audits released Friday afternoon.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts released audits for the 2018-2019 and 2020 time periods following a year long investigation by WRTV Investigates that raised questions about the Wayne Township Fire Department administration’s compensation.

Auditors say former fire chief Randy Adams, who served as chief from January 2019 to May 2021, should pay back $8,156.74 because they could not find supporting documentation for travel and conference expenses including the “proper purpose” of the travel.

SBOA forwarded their findings to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, who could take criminal action, and the Indiana Attorney General’s office, who could file a civil lawsuit.

WRTV Investigates reached out to Adams’ attorney for comment Friday on the newly released audit and we are still waiting to hear back.

Adams, former Wayne Township Trustee Chuck Jones, former fire chief Mike Lang, and mechanic James Parham were all convicted last month after pleading guilty to misdemeanor Conflict of Interest.

PREVIOUS | Wayne Twp fire employees plead guilty

As WRTV reported in 2021, township officials have been receiving compensation through the nonprofit, which is funded through donations and taxpayer money.

Adams, Jones, and Lang must each repay $31,939 in restitution and mechanic James Parham has to pay $1,200 in restitution for a total of $97,017.

The audits released Friday, totaling 70 pages, also question why the fire chief, deputy chiefs and executive administrator received a combined $132,241 in questionable overtime expenses in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Auditors said that the overtime was not in compliance with fire department policies, the union contract and the Fair Labor Standard Act guidelines.

WRTV Investigates raised questions about overtime for fire department administration members in June 2021.

PREVIOUS | Wayne Township Fire Department administrators take heat over overtime pay

Last year, WRTV Investigates uncovered Randy Adams and his two deputy chiefs racked up more than 1,358 hours in overtime in 2019 and 2020, totaling $113,290.

Auditors also questioned why some fire administration employees received overtime pay while traveling, an issue WRTV Investigates raised in 2021.

Randy Adams claimed 49 hours of overtime for a March 1st through March 3rd trip to South Dakota, records show.

WRTV: “Did that include sleeping?”

Adams: “Anytime we were gone, yes.”

WRTV: “So, you counted sleeping, eating, driving from the time you left to the time you got back?”

Adams: “If it was outside normal business hours.”

WRTV: “So you weren’t counting 8 am to 4 while you were there, but everything else you were counting?”

Adams: “Yes.”

WRTV: “Some taxpayers might say why charge overtime to go look at fire trucks?

Adams: “It's outside the normal working hours. Everyone should be fairly compensated. Everyone who went on the trip was fairly compensated.”

WRTV: “Some will say, you're already making six figures. Why do you need to charge overtime on top of that?”

Adams: “It's the way the system is set up right now. We aren't salary-exempt. We are eligible to get the overtime."

WRTV Investigates asked the Indiana State Board of Accounts why they did not request the Wayne Township Fire Department or its former leadership to repay the questionable overtime.

“The audit report is being shared with both the prosecutor and the Attorney General, and either can file a charge for any comment in the report that they deem to be illegal from a civil or criminal perspective,” said State Examiner Paul Joyce with the State Board of Accounts.

The audits released Friday also criticized the fire department’s use of “collateral pay,” which WRTV found is a pot of money in the budget, $344,408 in 2020, that the fire chief can allocate to fire department employees.

SBOA said collateral pay was supposed to be provided to merit fire positions below the battalion rank, however the fire chief, deputy chief and executive administrator received collateral pay even though they’re higher than battalion chief ranking.

WRTV Investigates reached out to Wayne Township trustee Jeb Bardon, who provided the following statement:

“On behalf of the taxpayers of Wayne Township, I want to thank the Indiana State Board of Accounts for this latest audit. Unraveling and correcting what happened under the previous administration is critical to restoring trust in this office – and I am committed to doing that.

Since taking over three weeks ago, I have made changes to policy, procedure and personnel to ensure these types of things never happen again. This includes hiring a new fire chief and bringing in an outside expert to review the township’s finances and install new safeguards.

While there will be more audit findings, messes to clean up and changes to be made, Wayne Township residents can rest assured that I will do whatever it takes to get this office and fire department back on track.”

WRTV Investigates also reached out to a spokesperson for the Wayne Township Fire Department.

You can read the fire department’s response to the audit in the final pages of each audit, here and here.

The fire department points out it has made numerous changes to its policies and procedures when it comes to travel policies, overtime and internal controls.

In September 2021, the Wayne Township Board voted to approve an ordinance that says salaried fire department employees can no longer receive overtime—including the fire chief, assistant chief, division chief and executive administrator.

The State Board of Accounts released a separate, scathing audit last month which said the former trustee and fire employees should repay taxpayers $351,505.

PREVIOUS | State auditors say ex-Wayne Township leaders owe $351K

Former Wayne Township Trustee Chuck Jones, former fire chief Mike Lang, former fire chief Randy Adams and mechanic James Parham will not serve any jail time in the criminal case.

Their criminal charge can be expunged after a year if they pay the money back to the taxpayers.