Salina city commissioners hear findings of audit into fire department

Salina Commission meeting on Aug. 16, 2021.
Salina Commission meeting on Aug. 16, 2021.(KWCH 12)
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 10:45 PM CDT
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SALINA, Kan. (KWCH) - At a meeting Monday night, there were as many questions from Salina city commissioners and members of the public as there was information presented regarding a forensic audit into allegations of time card fraud by leadership of the Salina Fire Department. The forensic audit was conducted as part of the city’s investigation into those claims and Monday night, the city commission heard results from the firm that conducted the audit.

The forensic audit found that chiefs of staff with the Salina Fire Department were taking days off but falsely recording them as if they had worked those days. Questions from commissioners included how much that cost the city and why, once discovered that chiefs of staff were doing this, it took as long as it did to hire an outside firm to investigate.

The allegations were first taken to the city in October of 2019 by a captain with the Salina Fire Department who uncovered the inaccuracies that were later confirmed during the investigation. The official audit by that outside firm didn’t begin until last October, about a year later. During Monday night’s meeting, Salina Mayor Melissa Hodges questioned that timeline several times, saying the city did not stop the wrongdoing when they found it and that that was unacceptable.

Hodges said she’s frustrated.

“There need to be terminations. This is serious, this is not something that you can tolerate or say, ‘well we hope they learned their lesson,’” Hodges said. “This is a systemic problem that’s been going on since the early 2000s and just because of the courage of one person we were able to to discover the extent of the problem.”

The person Hodges referred to is Tim Lepage, the fire captain who originally uncovered the practices by the chiefs of staff with the fire department. A big question from the public Monday night is what happens now? Will there be terminations, criminal penalties or civil penalties? The resounding answer from the city commission is that they don’t know.

FactFinder 12 will be asking those same questions as coverage on this story continues.

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