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City, VFD Reviewing Possible Funds Misuse in Saint Jo, Texas

WICHITA FALLS, Texas -- The city of Saint Jo, Texas, and its volunteer fire department are looking into whether some funds have been misused.

An examination has uncovered what city officials feel are major errors in accounting and purchasing when fire department officials used city and economic development to buy equipment. At issue is money raised by the fire department through a nonprofit corporation used in the purchase of an ambulance.

Fire Chief Scott Thomas said it was a mistake with "no criminal intent."

"We got permission to buy the ambulance, but then found out we needed to be incorporated, so we did that. A short time later, we found out we didn't need it, so we asked to dissolve it. We didn't do anything on purpose; we were in a hurry trying to get the ambulance," Thomas said.

The city's investigation also revealed federal identification numbers used by the fire department were invalid.

"Is it criminal? That is yet to be determined," said Saint Jo Mayor Tom Weger in a statement. "The attorneys are looking at it and once they tell us what's what, the city will decide."

Weger said the fire department has transferred all its accounts into the city's general fund.

Thomas said his department wants to cooperate to clear up any questions. The department also has been working with an attorney since before Christmas to resolve the questions.

Weger said the city has already taken steps to ensure "better government control."

"This is a very complex and serious matter. It involves possible violations of local, state and federal law," he said in his statement.

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