Politics & Government

Audit of Kentucky fire department finds porn, $123,000 in questionable spending

State Auditor Adam Edelen spoke on Monday, April 30, 2012 at the Auditor of Public Accounts office in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by David Perry | Staff
State Auditor Adam Edelen spoke on Monday, April 30, 2012 at the Auditor of Public Accounts office in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by David Perry | Staff HERALD-LEADER

FRANKFORT — Auditors uncovered $123,000 in questionable spending from accounts at the Garrett Area Volunteer Fire Department in Floyd County, as well as 800 pornographic videos on office computers and external hard drives, according to an audit released Tuesday.

The exam, conducted by State Auditor Adam Edelen's office, found a host of questionable spending by the former assistant chief, who also acted as treasurer for the fire department and the Garrett Fire District.

Terry Triplett, the former department official, was reported missing in March by his family. Police have a warrant for Triplett charging him with theft of the department vehicle he allegedly left town in, said Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley.

Bartley said he believes Triplett knows of the pending charge, and is a fugitive.

"He has absconded from the state," Bartley said.

He said authorities had been waiting for the results of the audit and will probably file additional charges now that it's done.

When Triplett turned up missing, there was concern at first that he might have been the victim of foul play. But as fire department officials checked, they noticed the vehicle and other equipment missing. They contacted Bartley, who asked police to investigate.

Authorities figured out through telephone records and other methods that it was not a missing-person case. Police have received information about Triplett being in four different states, most recently Nevada, Bartley said.

Auditors found numerous financial irregularities in the Garrett fire department's accounts, including more than $62,000 in questionable cash withdrawals, $16,500 in restaurant charges, $4,600 in gift cards from one store and $839 for fireworks.

The questionable spending occurred from 2006 to March 2012.

The review also found that Triplett had purchased a vehicle with department funds and had opened a store credit card in the department's name. Two flat-screen televisions, a laptop computer, digital camera, alcohol, chewing tobacco and other items were charged to that card.

Other people listed on the card were not affiliated with the department and were believed to be relatives of Triplett's, the audit found. Some of the items bought with the card were purchased in Goshen, Ind., where a relative of Triplett's lives, the audit found.

The electronics have never been in possession of the fire department, the department said in its response to the audit.

"The magnitude of abuse at such a small fire department is shocking," Edelen said. "Taxpayers in Floyd County ought to be outraged that one individual appears to have used fire department resources on everything from chewing tobacco to pornography."

Over 800 pornographic videos were found on the department computer and on external drives. In addition, the district lost its non-profit status for failing to obtain audits or file the appropriate reports to the state or the IRS.

Records also show that Triplett was paid an additional $8,000 without approval from the board.

The fire board cooperated fully with the auditors' examination, Edelen said. In its response to the audit, board president Danny O'Quinn said the board will implement all of the auditors' recommendations.

"We have demanded accountability to all our fire district members," O'Quinn said in his response to the auditors. "The district members and the board will work diligently to put into place all the recommended findings you have suggested."

Garrett Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bruce Scott said that the department is trying to move forward and right its financial records. Scott said he hopes taxpayers realize that the department is a "commodity that's needed in the community."

Triplett worked for the department for 31 years before he left in late February, Scott said.

"He did a lot of great stuff for the department," Scott said. "But apparently he was also well compensated for it."