Former Hubbard fire district firefighter gets 2-year probation sentence
By BETH SHILLER
HUBBARD — The Eagle Joint Fire District has officially extinguished its relationship with Richard Wittkugle, who resigned from the volunteer fire district Sept. 10.
Wittkugle was indicted in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court a little over a month ago on charges of theft in office, tampering with evidence and grand theft. He originally was charged in Girard Municipal Court in July 2018, but his case was later bound over to the grand jury.
He was sentenced to two years of probation, which includes paying restitution to the fire district, having no contact with the district, including fundraisers and entering onto the property, completing 200 hours of community service; not being employed or volunteering in any position involving direct access to cash, and paying court costs and a $20 monthly probation supervision fee, court records show.
From Nov. 1, 2015 through Oct. 31, 2017, he misappropriated $10,125 by altering the number of calls he and other firefighters went on for the fire district, leading to a $2,160 overpayment to himself. He was responsible for handling the reporting of fire calls for the district.
According to fire Chief Ron Stanish, Wittkugle already reimbursed his portion of the misappropriated funds.
At its regular meeting Wednesday, the Eagle Joint Fire District board went into executive session to discuss seeking restitution from the other firefighters that received extra pay. These funds amounted to $7,965.
“The board has reached a consensus on the overpayment to the firefighters due to the actions of Mr. Wittkugle… As stewards of public money, we have no choice other than to recover those funds. It’s the right thing to do and this is probably the only way that we can look the taxpayers in the eye,” said board president Ray Fallen.
The funds will be deducted from the firefighters’ November paycheck.
Concerned firefighters at the meeting wanted to set the record straight, saying this was not a group effort, but was orchestrated by one person. The volunteer firefighters get paid once a year and don’t keep track of their calls in the same way the public would keep track of their hours at work.