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5:48 AM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Fire boards’ audits come back clean

Books were looked at one year after the merger

During their regular monthly board meetings on Monday, Jan. 22, the Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD), the Chino Valley Fire District (CVFD) and their joint administration, the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, received auditing reports.

The local fire departments have long received annual audits, but the audit of the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA) – formed Oct. 15, 2015, through an intergovernmental agreement with CYFD and CVFD – was the new agency’s first.

Because CYFD, CVFD and CAFMA each have their own financial statements under the joint venture agreement, each is required by the state to undergo a yearly audit.

Full integration of the CAFMA did not occur until July 1, 2016, and its first fiscal year of operation was July 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017. The CAFMA is the first such fire authority in Arizona.

The audits for the three entities were done by HintonBurdick, a certified public accounting firm in Flagstaff. Steven Palmer, a certified public accountant with HintonBurdick, presented the results of the audits to each board Tuesday.

“It’s been a very interesting process for us to watch the consolidation of the two fire districts into CAFMA,” Palmer said during his presentation to the CVFD board.

In conjunction with the audits, HintonBurdick was required to issue three different reports for each entity. One was an independent auditors report. It indicates whether each entity passed the audit.

Each did, receiving an unmodified or “clean opinion” on the financial statements.

“Meaning, in our opinion, the financial statements are materially correct,” Palmer said.

The other two reports had to do with compliance and the internal control over financial reporting.

Once again, all three agencies passed both with no errors.

“I’m very pleased to report we did not note any findings or any areas of weakness over the internal controls,” Palmer said during his presentation to the CVFD board. “That’s unusual, in smaller entities, especially, for there to be no findings, so I really commend you for your good work there.”

A more in-depth presentation on the findings of the audits will take place at the next scheduled fire board meetings, said CAFMA Assistant Fire Chief David Tharp.

“Specifically to address what the financial status is of the organization,” Tharp said. “I think that, specifically, there have been questions as to the validity of CAFMA and whether or not we’re saving money, and I think the audit findings – especially because we’re not in control of the audit; the audit is done independent of us – will show that both organizations are actually having a decrease in their expenditures and have actually increased their equity based upon the participation of CAFMA.”

This review of the audit will be done by another independent accountant.

In other board news

A $50,000 check — made out by CYFD on April 18, 2016, to Pioneer Title Agency for earnest money deposit on CAFMA’s new headquarters in Prescott Valley – remained a focus of concern for Larry Jacobs when he addressed the CYFD Board during its call to the public at its meeting on Monday.

Jacobs, husband of Central Yavapai Fire District Board Member ViciLee Jacobs, expressed his concerns about what he said is this unresolved legal problem. He presented an affidavit by Robert Page, a former clerk of the CYFD board, to support his position.

Page was on the CYFD board when the check was approved, and Page’s name was embossed by an electronic signature stamp machine on the check, along with the name of former CYFD board chairman Steve Rutherford. But in the affidavit, Page states “I do not remember authorizing the use of my signature stamp on this check.”

At the time that this signature was stamped, Page was absent from the board. However, CAFMA Fire Chief Scott Freitag said he received verbal approval from Page to use his signature on the check.

“He called me the day that the check was signed and said ‘I want you to tell the board I’m on vacation, but I agree with this,’” Freitag said.

In response to a reporter’s question to Page, regarding the dispute, he chose not to comment.

“I don’t have anything to say right now until I talk to somebody else,” Page said.

Given the affidavit and the continued pressure to take another look at the check, CYFD board member Matt Zurcher asked that the topic be placed on the board’s agenda for next month.

“As this does predate my time, I would like to have a discussion with legal counsel to get some background information and or possibly respond,” Zurcher said.

Each fire board’s public-comment period took place at the end of their consecutive meetings on Monday. Freitag said this was a temporary measure because the boards wanted to seek legal advice on the public comment period during their executive sessions.

“Everything is going back to normal for the next meeting,” Freitag said.

The next board meetings will take place on Monday, Feb. 26, at the Town of Chino Valley’s Council Chambers, 202 N. Highway 89, Chino Valley.

CVFD’s board meeting will go from 4 to 5 p.m. CYFD’s will go from 5 to 7 p.m. And the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority’s will go from 7 to 8 p.m.

To look at each board’s full agenda, go to Bit.ly/2oulOGc.

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at mefrein@prescottaz.com or call him at 928-445-3333, ext. 1105.

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