By Mary Grzebieniak
An audit report is recommending that the Mahoning Township Fire Department change the way it accounts for its money.
Auditor Robert Izzo said in a Feb. 2 letter that the department needs to make changes in bookkeeping, cash reconciliation and deposits.
Mahoning Township supervisors had authorized the audit in preparation for the township’s taking over more financial responsibility for the department – at the department’s request.
After last week’s meeting of supervisors, Supervisor Vito Yeropoli said the fire department is asking for financial help from the township because its fundraising is significantly down. The department’s money comes solely from its numerous fundraising activities while a fire tax that pays for trucks is administered by township supervisors.
He claimed residents do not want to donate because they have lost trust in the department.
Yeropoli said the audit report has not been released yet but likely will be made public at the March meeting.
In the meantime, township Solicitor Louis Perrotta has sent a letter to Atty. David Acker, who is representing the fire department, asking why the department, after months of requests, has not provided the township with routine financial information such as check ledgers and financial statements.
The township also wants the township’s name on titles to firetrucks which now are listed as belonging to the fire department.
They also want a clarification on whether supervisors are honorary members of the fire department. Yeropoli said after the meeting that this is because some have said they were not welcome at department meetings.
Yeropoli added that some new members are needed on the fire-department board. He explained that he objects to the fact that Jessica Kosciuszko is secretary of the fire-department board, stating that fire-department money was used “to buy [her] a refrigerator.”
He was referring to the 2009 prosecution of Kosciuszko’s father, Francis “Poncho” Exposito, who was charged with one misdemeanor and two felony counts for misuse of a fire-department credit card.
He took part in an alternative-sentencing program for the offenses, which included purchasing $2,143 worth of carpeting, appliances and other items from Lowe’s and a leaf blower and some personal items from Sam’s Club.
Exposito had stated to police that he bought some of the items for his daughter. He has since paid the department back for the items.
Yeropoli said he has great respect for Exposito as fire chief, but doesn’t think he should be involved with the department’s money.
Supervisor Gary Pezzuolo said supervisors want the fire department and are willing to help support it but said that their accounting practices are not up to the standards that the township must follow.
Cherie Brown, fire- department board treasurer, attended the meeting and stated she has provided documents to the township and asked what further is needed. Perrotta offered to meet with her to discuss this.
Yeropoli said after the meeting that the township is willing to support the department. “We’re going to give them access [to the fire millage], but they’re going to do it on our terms,” he said.