Fire treasurer faces theft charges; police say he mishandled $10K


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VIINDICATOR EXCLUSIVE

By Samantha Phillips

sphillips@vindy.com

HUBBARD

Wittkugle

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The Hubbard Volunteer Fire Department treasurer faces theft in office and tampering with evidence charges after Eagle Joint Fire District conducted an internal investigation into Lt. Richard Wittkugle’s accounting practices.

The Hubbard Volunteer Fire Department treasurer faces theft-in-office and tampering-with-evidence charges after police say he misappropriated at least $10,215 of the department’s funds.

Police arrested fire Lt. Richard Wittkugle this week after police and fire department investigations.

The Eagle Joint Fire District, which serves the city and township, conducted an internal investigation into Wittkugle’s accounting practices after fire Chief Ron Stanish noticed discrepancies in his pay sheets, according to a police report.

The internal investigation concluded Wittkugle had reported extra calls on his and other firefighter pay sheets, leading the department to lose thousands of dollars.

From 2013 to 2015, Wittkugle reported an extra 15 to 25 calls each year for his own paycheck. Then in 2016, he reported an extra 86 calls and in 2017, an extra 75.

So far this year, he has reported an extra 19 calls, the report said.

Firefighters are paid $15 per call.

In January, Stanish took those findings to Hubbard police, who further investigated the case.

The investigation focused heavily on the 2015-2017 period. Police believe Wittkugle may have added calls to other firefighters’ sheets to disguise his added increases in calls.

From November 2015 to October 2016, police found $5,010 in department funds were misappropriated, with Wittkugle receiving $915, based on his Microsoft Excel spread sheets he used for work compared with fire department records.

From November 2016 to October 2017, there were $5,205 in misappropriations, with Wittkugle receiving $1,245 of that amount, the report said.

An accountant told police there were one or more years between 2013 and 2016 that Wittkugle had errors in his paperwork that may have resulted from incorrect formulas within the cell of his spreadsheet.

“Mr. Wittkugle was placed on administrative leave, with pay, by the district’s board of trustees ... with criminal charges having been filed, the board will likely convert the suspension to one without pay,” Stanish said in a statement.

Further disciplinary action isn’t expected until the criminal case has concluded, Stanish said.

Wittkugle was unavailable to comment Thursday afternoon, and his attorney Ronald Yarwood declined to comment.

Wittkugle will appear for a hearing on the charges Tuesday in Girard Municipal Court.

Stanish said internal policies have been changed to prevent future issues. He added the fire district’s board of trustees will pursue recovery of any taxpayers funds that were wrongfully taken.

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