LANCASTER — The former secretary and treasurer for the Buckeye Volunteer Fire Department was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for stealing thousands of dollars from the organization.
The amount Kenneth D. Tullar owes in restitution is still in dispute, but it's somewhere between $20,000 and nearly $73,000. However, one thing is not in dispute, as far as the fire department's board members are concerned.
"He left the fire department almost in financial bankruptcy," said Jerry Dick, Buckeye's current treasurer. "The board has managed to save that fire department by the hair of the chinny-chin-chin, so to speak."
"What he did, he put everybody in jeopardy," said Fred Lear, president of the department. "That was money we could have used for better equipment."
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Tullar was indicted in March 2008 on 16 counts of theft by unlawful taking over $300. He was secretary and treasurer for the rural fire department from 2001 to 2008 and was accused of writing checks for personal purchases from the department's account.
Dick said the thefts began as soon as Tullar became treasurer.
"It wasn't like he was trying to do the right thing at first and ran into hard times, and then started it," Dick said. "It was immediately."
Some $27,000 in checks went to Tullar, said Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Lockridge. Among the other purchases were $13,000 in checks written to Wal-Mart; $11,000 in groceries; $4,000 for a trip to Bristol, Tenn.; $3,000 for a snow plow; $2,000 for a van; $1,900 for repairs on Tullar's wife's car; and $984 for a personal mortgage payment.
Public defender Susanne McCollough said Tullar disputes some of the individual checks or amounts. For example, she said the Buckeye board approved the trip to Bristol, Tenn., for fire training. And some groceries were purchased for families who had been burned out of their homes.
Tullar, who works part-time at a Wilmore printing company, has had numerous health problems, such as thyroid surgery, and faces possible pancreatic surgery, McCollough said. One procedure has left Tullar virtually unable to speak, and because his testimony is needed in determining restitution, Garrard Circuit Judge Hunter Daugherty rescheduled a restitution hearing from Friday to Dec. 18.
Tullar also entered an Alford plea in September to one count of cultivation of more than five marijuana plants found on his property. The plea means he acknowledged there was enough evidence to convict even though he did not admit guilt.
A one-year sentence on the cultivation charge will be served concurrently with the sentence on the thefts.