, Muskogee, OK


January 4, 2014

Oversight discovery took too long

It took more than five years for an oversight to be found, which cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

An 18-member oversight board discovered “by accident” in November that firefighters had drawn money from the fire tax fund to reimburse some fire departments for administrative costs.

The account, which is funded by a 0.0015 percent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 2005, was created to improve and equip mostly rural fire departments. The resolution authorizing the tax prohibits the use of that revenue “for the payment of wages or salaries for any firefighter.”

We have utmost respect for firefighters — especially volunteer firefighters. They put their lives on the line in times of peril.

“What these fire chiefs and other firefighters want the people in Muskogee County to know is this is being handled correctly,” Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore said. “They don’t want to lose the public’s trust, and that is why they are policing themselves.”

It appears to be an honest mistake. And it’s good that the mistake was caught.

But it took too long to find it. The system has failed its taxpayers.

Someone should be held accountable for knowing the rules and making sure they’re followed.

The oversight board has done an outstanding job of being transparent, and we expect it will continue to do so.

We also expect a similar mistake won’t happen again.

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