4 former Delmont VFD officials accused of theft await court hearings
As former Delmont Borough secretary Karen Shola prepares for a hearing next month on allegations of stealing more than $40,000 from the municipality, four former volunteer fire department members also await their day in court on theft allegations that date to 2013, according to court documents.
Former fire Chief Logan Clark, 35; his wife, Heather, 35; former fire department treasurer Jason G. Thomas, 37; and Timothy Bucciarelli, 60, are charged with theft for allegedly using department funds for personal benefit. A review of nearly four years of department finances led to allegations that the group misspent $60,000, according to documents filed by Westmoreland County Detective Paul Burkey.
Thomas also is accused of an additional count of access device fraud for allegedly using a department credit card for purchases that were for personal benefit, according to court documents.
All four were to appear Tuesday before Export District Judge Charles Conway at the same time Shola was being arraigned on her unrelated theft complaint. However, proceedings for the former fire department members were continued and will be rescheduled.
Each was removed from their capacities in the department in early 2017, when the county investigation began.
Reached by telephone Thursday, Logan Clark called the accusations “completely frivolous and without merit.”
“Basically, some new people came in and wanted to be in charge and didn’t like how we did things,” Clark said.
He declined to get into specifics.
“It will all come out during the hearings and trial,” said Clark, who along with his wife is represented by Greensburg attorney Adam Long.
Bucciarelli and Thomas could not be reached for comment.
Neither Bucciarelli’s attorney, T. Brent McCune of Pittsburgh, nor Thomas’ attorney, Matthew R. Schimizzi of Greensburg, immediately returned calls for comment.
Assistant District Attorney Pete Flanigan on Friday said the complaints were filed after Burkey and accountants spent months investigating and reviewing fire department financial records.
Allegations made in court documents include:
• Thomas is accused of cashing $45,885 in checks from department funds for personal benefit, plus making additional charges on a fire department credit card totalling $4,115. Thomas is accused of making personal payments from department funds on a Ford F-150, cellphone bills, motor vehicle repairs, three Apple iPads and purchases on Amazon, according to court documents.
• Bucciarelli, a former firefighter, is accused of cashing department checks amounting to $9,275 for personal benefit.
• Heather Clark, who was a member of the fire department’s ladies auxiliary, is alleged to have received and cashed a department check for $1,000 for working a bingo fundraiser for the department on Dec. 18, 2016.
• Logan Clark is accused of spending $341 to buy Pittsburgh Pirates tickets from Emmanuel Reformed Church UCC. Logan Clark, Bucciarelli, Thomas and two former VFD presidents attended the game.
Delmont Firemen’s Relief Association President Donald Cline and fire Chief Rich Balik said authorities advised them not to comment on the case.
“But I will say that we have made some changes in how (funds) are handled to approve accountability, and those changes were instituted over one year ago,” Cline said.
A 2016 audit of the department released by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported multiple undocumented expenditures totaling $10,711 that lacked “adequate supporting documentation.” The audit covered a period when Logan Clark was chief and vice president and Thomas was treasurer.
DePasquale’s office found that the department failed to maintain sufficient bond coverage for its disbursing officer that expired May 16, 2015, and that the department “had inadequate signatory authority for disbursement of funds.”
Questions over the bond and supporting expense documentation were raised by DePasquale’s office in a 2014 audit.
“The Delmont Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association does not maintain canceled or imaged checks while the relief association provided bank statements; the relief association failed to provide copies of canceled or imaged checks,” state auditors reported in 2014.
Thomas was listed as the fire association’s vice president and Clark as association secretary in the 2014 audit.