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Wayne Township Fire Chief, Trustee face questions over nonprofit compensation

Fire dept. salaries, OT and now— nonprofit pay scrutinized
Wayne Township Fire Department Headquarters
Posted at 4:23 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 21:29:17-04

INDIANAPOLIS — New questions are emerging regarding the Wayne Township Fire Department and a nonprofit connected with the fire department—Wayne Township Fire Department Inc.

Records show the current and former fire chiefs, as well as the township trustee, have been using the nonprofit to pay themselves more money with little oversight.

Back in June, WRTV Investigates reported former Wayne Township fire chief Randy Adams and current fire chief Mike Lang were under fire for getting overtime pay on top of their six-figure salaries.

After that story aired, someone sent a tax filing for the Wayne Township Fire Department Inc. which revealed Lang and Adams got paid even more, this time through a nonprofit that used your tax dollars.

WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney has been looking into the nonprofit for the past two months and found it’s very difficult to determine what happened to your taxpayer money.

Wayne Township fire nonprofit founded in 1954

Wayne Township Fire Department Inc. is a tax-exempt 501c3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1954.

From 1954 to 2000, the corporation served as the volunteer fire department for Wayne Township.

In 2000, the township started a career fire department in conjunction with supplemental staffing from the corporation.

Now that the fire department has a full-time staff, the nonprofit currently supports events like Lunch with Santa and Gloves of Love.

The nonprofit also allows people and companies to make a tax deductive donation to the Wayne Township fire service without having to donate to the government.

Taxes filed in 2020 show the nonprofit’s five board members each received an annual salary of $17,500 totaling $87,500.

Among those compensated include now-retired fire chief Randy Adams, current township trustee Chuck Jones, and Mike Lang, who became Wayne Township’s fire chief in May.

Randy Adams, Chuck Jones, and James Parham are listed as directors for the nonprofit, Mike Lang is the president and Tim Smith is the secretary, according to the 990 filed in 2020.

The 2020 tax filing shows all five nonprofit board members worked an average of 30 hours a week for the nonprofit.

WRTV Investigates dug through tax returns, and we could not find a prior instance in which the fire chief and township trustee accepted salaries from the Wayne Township Fire Department Inc.

Previous fire chief and township trustee speak out

Andy Harris served as the township trustee from 2011 to 2018, and also was a member of the nonprofit board.

“We didn’t think it was right to take a salary,” said Harris.

Gene Konzen served as Wayne Township’s fire chief for 10 years including 2011 through the end of 2018.

“No, we did not take a salary,” said Konzen. “It's not there to make you rich."

Konzen and Harris are disappointed to hear the nonprofit spent $87,500 on salaries from July 2019 to June 2020.

“That’s huge,” said Konzen. “That amount could probably do all the events that we were doing when we were there, and probably could do even more.”

The Wayne Township Fire Department Inc. is funded through donations from the community and with taxpayer money, records show.

“It's heartbreaking to see money that was raised for a good cause going toward lining their pocket,” said Harris. “It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

The board members’ compensation is even more concerning considering Lang and Adams have already taken heat over their fire department administration pay.

As WRTV reported in June, Lang got paid a total of $151,766 last year as a deputy chief at the fire department including $14,445 in overtime.

As fire chief, Randy Adams got paid $190,345 last year including $41,860 in overtime.

As township trustee, Chuck Jones received $105,504 in compensation last year for his elected position.

PREVIOUS | Wayne Township Fire Department administrators take heat over overtime pay | New fire chief pledges changes to payroll

On top of that, all five nonprofit board members accepted $17,500 salaries from the nonprofit between July 2019 and June 2020—some call this triple dipping.

The nonprofit’s five board members will get even more compensation this tax year (July 2020 to June 2021)— $20,000 for each board member, Lang said.

“That just amazes me,” said Konzen. “I think what's happened is when you lose sight of why you're in the fire service, to serve the community-you're there to serve yourself and make a bigger profit for yourself then it's time for you to move on out of the fire service."

Andy Harris lost the election to Jones and said he’s speaking out because he’s concerned about the use of taxpayer and donor money.

“I’m very blessed where I am,” said Harris. “I served eight years, and I didn’t know anything about this until I was asked for my opinion.”

New contracts drew taxpayer money into nonprofit, records show

In 2019, then-fire chief Randy Adams reached a new agreement with the nonprofit.

As a result, taxpayers paid the nonprofit $42,020 in 2019, $136,799 in 2020 and so far this year they’ve paid $62,000.

That’s a total of $240,820 in taxpayer money that went into the nonprofit in just over two years, and 78% of which went to pay the nonprofit’s board members, according to WRTV’s calculations.

The fire department’s agreement with the nonprofit says taxpayer money is supposed to go toward “specialized and supplemental” training and capital equipment.

The plan includes establishing a fifth ambulance staffed with volunteers, as well as EMT training to the public at no charge in return for a commitment to serve a period as an EMT volunteer.

Firefighters we spoke with say neither ever happened.

“It sounds like one or two years of money funneled into the not-for-profit to pay salaries,” said Konzen. “That sounds like that's not very good."

WRTV asked the nonprofit’s president Mike Lang for proof the nonprofit added an ambulance and trained people.

Lang declined, saying, “Any documents related to this question would be Corporation documents and not from the Government Unit. Therefore, they would not be public documents."

Lang also declined to provide WRTV a list of companies and individuals who have donated to Wayne Township Fire Department Inc.

“After reviewing your request for documents, your request is not a public document as it is property of the Not-For-Profit corporation and not the governmental unit,” said Lang in an email to WRTV.

The nonprofit stopped compensation for all board members in 2015.

In fact, the nonprofit’s 2019 agreement with said taxpayer funds should not be used for fire corporation personnel salaries.

But last year, the fire department’s contract with the nonprofit was changed to allow nonprofit personnel to get paid.

WRTV asked who changed the contract.

“The contracts were presented by Chief Randy Adams each year for consideration,” said Lang in an email to WRTV.

Unanswered questions about how tax dollars were spent

Because there’s little oversight over nonprofits, it’s not exactly clear what taxpayers are getting for their money that went into the Wayne Township Fire Department Inc. nonprofit.

The corporation’s last tax filing shows $5,321 spent on conferences, $15,154 on office supplies, $19,885 on a benefit event and $24,434 on travel.

We requested receipts for all these expenses and only got a few details back such as receipts for a rental car in Baltimore and airline tickets from California and South Dakota.

But it’s still unclear the purpose of the travel, which conferences they were attending, or why it was necessary for the nonprofit.

“We never traveled,” said Harris. “I don’t see how they could travel for something local. It’s just unheard of.”
$11,250 was spent on self-contained breathing apparatus, records show.

An invoice provided to WRTV showed a $21,896 for “public education, community events, and employee appreciation,” but the documentation did not detail where the money went.

In all, Wayne Township taxpayers have spent $36,820 since 2019 to reimburse the nonprofit.

Township board members question chief at August 12 meeting

Wayne Township board members asked questions at the August 12 meeting, most of which were directed at Chief Mike Lang.

“I think it said on the tax return that you worked 30 hours,” said township board president Charlotte Scott. “How many hours were worked?”

Lang admitted the numbers were wrong.

“That's incorrect,” said Lang. “We're not sure where that number came from. It's been on every filing since 2001."

Lang said their accountant is looking into some issues on their tax returns.

"They will make a recommendation if we need to file amendments for prior years, but the 30 hours is absolutely not correct,” said Lang. “It's probably in the 5 hours a week range for most of the directors."

Lang defended why he and other board members got money from the nonprofit.

“We had more activity in 2019 than we did 2015-2018, the corporation was much more active in 2019 and 2020 than it had been the previous 5 years,” said Lang.

Lang said the nonprofit is helping the community through programs like the Safe Haven Baby Box, and said they are meeting all IRS requirements.

"Every donation that comes in is earmarked for the intended purpose,” said Lang.

Fire Chief and Trustee won’t meet with WRTV on nonprofit

Lang and Trustee Chuck Jones have declined our repeated requests to meet in person to talk about the nonprofit.

They did sit down with us in May to talk about the overtime issue and vowed to make changes to address administration compensation.

“A very big portion of our responsibility is managing the taxpayer money,” said Lang in May.

After WRTV Investigates started asking questions, both Lang and Jones say they will no longer accept a salary from the nonprofit—a change that will likely not be reflected in tax filings until 2022.

"Since my appointment as Fire Chief, I have not received the stipend that has been approved for all board members and have made a personal decision to decline the stipend while serving as the Wayne Township Fire Chief,” said Lang in an emailed statement to WRTV.

Jones said he is certain “all actions were done in a lawful manner.”

“Past Fire Chiefs and Trustees had not accepted the compensation offered for serving on the Volunteer Corporation Board of Directors,” said Jones in a statement to WRTV. “Trustee Chuck Jones was not aware of the past practices when he began receiving his stipend in 2019."

When reached by phone, board member Tim Smith said he would no longer accept a salary and board member James Pharam said he was still thinking about it.

WRTV Investigates has not received a response from former chief Randy Adams.

Some say board members should repay salaries

Some say all five board members should repay their salaries, especially the current and former fire chiefs, and the trustee.

Konzen said it’s not clear what taxpayers got for their money, including the fifth ambulance that was a part of the agreement.

“I think they should have to pay that back,” said Konzen. “If you're getting paid for something you're not doing and if you truly realize that was a mistake then you have to pay it back. You can pay it back minus the taxes you've paid."

The Wayne Township Fire Department Inc.’s tax returns filed this year are not publicly available yet.

Many of the records WRTV Investigates requested were not provided because nonprofits do not have to follow the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.

Former trustee Andy Harris said taxpayers and donors should be allowed to see exactly where their money went.

“Everything should be transparent,” said Harris. “I think you should show all your records, all your receipts, what's going on— that's transparency. Open up the books. Show everything."

The Indiana State Board of Accounts, the state agency that audits local government, plans to look into the Wayne Township Fire Department soon.

Indiana State Police told WRTV they are not involved, but could potentially investigate if they receive a complaint.

The Internal Revenue Service did not respond to an inquiry from WRTV Investigates.

FULL STATEMENT FROM TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE CHUCK JONES

“In June, a news story aired about administrative overtime within the Wayne Township Fire Department during 2020. Wayne Township Fire Department members suffered nearly 15,000 hours lost to COVID-19 due to sickness, close contacts, or quarantine following local, state, and federal guidelines. Nearly all members of the Wayne Township Fire Department worked many hours of overtime, including the top administrators. Fire Chief Randy Adams, both of his Deputy Chiefs, and most Division Chiefs operated a department emergency operations center to monitor employee’s health screenings, operational needs and rationing the very limited supply of departmental Personal Protective Equipment, in addition to working shifts that were left uncovered after other attempts were unsuccessful. Over the past 21 years, the Wayne Township Trustee has overseen the career fire department, of which all administrative positions have been eligible to work overtime within the agreement with Wayne Township Professional Firefighters, Local 416 Union Agreement and adopted Rules and Regulations.

After the original story aired, Wayne Township Fire Department and Wayne Township Trustee’s Office received several inquiries to the longstanding partnership with Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc. (Volunteer Corporation), a separate 501(c)(3) Not-for-profit corporation. Established in 1954, Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc. served as the volunteer fire department contracted with Wayne Township Trustee to provide fire protection, as required by state law.

In 1999, a full-time fire department was established and worked as the primary fire department providing fire protection. Since the volunteer fire department was fully established, a transition agreement, lease of assets and contract for services was mutually agreed upon in 1999. Throughout the following years, the full-time department grew and obtained assets, which allowed the volunteer fire corporation to gradually provide less services and assets for the overall operations of the fire department.

The Volunteer Corporation began compensating all volunteers in 1999, as well as employing a full-time administrator. In 2001, the paid administrator was released, and the Board of Directors took over the daily operations of the Volunteer Corporation. The Board of Directors was paid from 1999 until 2015 when the daily operations no longer supported compensation. In 2018, all remaining assets were sold to Wayne Township Trustee, including property owned for several decades on Ohio Street.

During the transition to a full-time fire department, the addition of a representative to the Volunteer Corporation Board of Directors, appointed by the Wayne Township Trustee was agreed. Later, in 2005 the Trustee joined the board instead of a representative. Again, in 2007, the Volunteer Corporation Board agreed to a restructuring, which reduced the amount of volunteer representation and added the Wayne Township Fire Chief to help set and maintain the working partnership and programs operated by Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc.

Recent inquiries included the compensation for directors and the hours worked. Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc. contracts with a CPA to prepare all IRS forms. A review of recent 990 IRS filings did reveal some corrections that would be needed. Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc. is working with their CPA to identify any errors and file the appropriate amendment that may be necessary.

Fire Chief Randy Adams identified a need to expand ambulance services in 2019. Utilizing the longstanding partnership with Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc., Chief Adams utilized funds from the fire department’s budget to reestablish a contract for services, as Wayne Township has done for many decades. Chief Adams’ proposed providing EMT training to the public at no charge in return for a commitment to serve a period as an EMT volunteer. With the increased duties and responsibilities for the Volunteer Corporation’s Board of Directors, Chief Adams also recommended the compensation be reinstated for the directors. In calendar year 2020 and 2021, Chief Adams signed new contracts for services, with the Volunteer Corporation. Past Fire Chiefs and Trustees had not accepted the compensation offered for serving on the Volunteer Corporation Board of Directors.

Trustee Chuck Jones was not aware of the past practices when he began receiving his stipend in 2019.

Current Fire Chief Mike Lang started his fire service career in 1992 as a volunteer with Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc. Chief Lang has served as a Board Member for Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc since 1998 and the President of the board since 2001. During the years of 2019, 2020, and 2021 Chief Lang was compensated, as he was from 1999 to 2015, for overseeing the daily operations of the Volunteer Corporation. Since being appointed Fire Chief on May 21, 2021, Chief Lang has made a personal decision to decline the stipend while serving as Wayne Township Fire Chief. Subsequently, since Chief Lang’s decision to decline his stipend, Trustee Chuck Jones has declined his stipend as well, as he was not aware of the previous Trustees' practice.

Trustee Chuck Jones and Fire Chief Mike Lang continue to manage the Wayne Township Fire Department in this post-pandemic time. Many areas for improvement have been identified and are currently being prepared for adoption. As discussed during the initial inquiry for the administration’s overtime claims, Policies, Union Agreements, and ultimately a resolution for adoption by the Township Board will ensure that Wayne Township has properly adopted a policy for top administrators to be classified as Salary Exempt employees. The contract for services with Wayne Township Fire Department, Inc. is being reviewed, the 501(c)(3) Not-for-profit component has receipted in nearly $100,000 since January 1, 2019, when the current administration took office. All donations have been earmarked, and only used for the donor’s intended purpose. At no time has a donor ever questioned the use of their donation.

In closing, Wayne Township Trustee Chuck Jones is certain that all actions were done in a lawful manner. While lawful, his commitment to the Wayne Township Community remains his top priority. Trustee Chuck Jones and Fire Chief Mike Lang will work tirelessly to restore the confidence and reputation that Wayne Township, and specifically Wayne Township Fire Department have been known for, for many decades.

FULL STATEMENT FROM CURRENT FIRE CHIEF MIKE LANG

“Thank you for allowing me time to review your questions concerning the Wayne Township Fire Department Inc. ("Company"). The Company is a 501(C)3 Not-For-Profit corporation. From 1954 to 2000, the Company served as the Volunteer Fire Department providing services to Wayne Township. In 2000, the Township started a career fire department in conjunction with supplemental staffing from the Company. I have been a member of the Company since 1992, starting out as a volunteer and have been a board member since 1998. I have served as the Board President since 2001. From 2000 until 2018, the main income for the Company was leasing its assets to Wayne Township for use by the career fire department. This was particularly critical at the time of the career department conversion as the Township was still growing its fire department. In 2018, the Company sold all its remaining assets to the Township. The Company has had a relationship with each Wayne Township Trustee and Fire Chief since the creation of a career fire department to support the department, its firefighters and Wayne Township citizens on various programs.

For instance, in 2019, Wayne Township proposed to reestablish a volunteer staffing program for a fifth ambulance in Wayne Township. This plan was discussed with local and state elected officials. Chief Adams signed a new services agreement with the Company and reestablished the relationship that had existed for over 60 years. The plan included offering EMT training to the public at no charge in return for a commitment to serve a period as an EMT volunteer.

In reviewing your questions, it is likely some of the information on the IRS Form 990 needs to be updated to the current description of services provided. A complete copy of the 2019 Form 990 is attached. The Organization's mission, as well as the time commitment by board members, will be reviewed prior to the filing of the fiscal year return that ended June 30, 2021. I expect the Company to coordinate with our CPA's on these questions and if an amendment is needed we will work with them on that.

Overall, the Company operates within the guidelines of the IRS for a 501 (C) 3 not-for-profit corporation. The invitation for providing additional support was directed to the IRS and not the public at large. Our CPAs have never notified me that the IRS has sought new or additional information and I have not received any direct request from the IRS. Our preparer's information is listed on the 990 you obtained. We will coordinate with our CPAs to submit our next 990 and anticipate doing so prior to the due date.

Generally speaking, the Company's revenue is a mixture of sources. Wayne Township has always been the primary source of income for the Company since its creation in 1954 until the Company's assets were sold in 2018. All donations are receipted and only expenditures related to the donor's intent are permitted, in accordance with IRS regulations. At no time has any donor expressed concern in how their donation was spent or asked for a refund of donations. As to your questions concerning donations, the Company does not disclose the names of those individuals that contribute and keeps that information confidential.

Since the creation of the career department in 2000, much of the Company's mission has moved in to support and charitable programs that been funded in part or whole with donations to support the firefighters and Wayne Township citizen.

These programs include:
  • The annual Fire Department employee recognition and awards
  • Annual Public Safety Day
  • Breakfast/Lunch with Santa providing a hot meal and gift to underprivileged children in the Township.
  • Gloves for Love, providing warm gloves and hats to elementary students prior to the Christmas break.
  • Project Lifesaver was started and is still supplemented with equipment and training for the elderly and children that may wander away from home.
  • Recent purchase and pending install of Wayne Township's first Safe Haven Baby Box.
  • A Community CPR program was started by the Company and then recently maintained by Wayne Township.

The present plan is for the Company to take over the operation with the referenced EMT volunteer Course.

Since my appointment as Fire Chief, the use and purpose of the Company has not been a priority issue as the Department continues to react and evolve in the wake of the pandemic. Pursuant to the Company's by-laws the Fire Chief is automatically a Board member or may select his or her designee. I expect to consult with the rest of the Board on how to best address Board composition since I was already selected to be on the Board prior to being appointed the Fire Chief but would expect someone else will step on to the Board to assist. Since my appointment as Fire Chief, I have not received the stipend that has been approved for all board members and have made a personal decision to decline the stipend while serving as the Wayne Township Fire Chief.”

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