Colo. fire chiefs placed on leave after $1.2M accounting mishap

The report said there was no money stolen or improperly converted, and classified it as an unintentional administrative error

By Mitchell Byars
Daily Camera

BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder Rural Fire Rescue's chief and deputy chief have been placed on administrative leave following a $1.2 million accounting mishap, although officials won't say whether the disciplinary action is related to the shortfall.

Both Chief Bruce Mygatt and Deputy Chief Jeff Webb are on leave from the department, Boulder Rural Fire Board President Kurt Gattman confirmed Wednesday.

Gattman said he could not say how long they will remain on leave, but did note that both Mygatt and Webb "will be returning to duty" at some point. The department's on-duty captains will serve as acting chiefs in the meantime, he added.

While Gattman declined to say why the two men were placed on leave, the decision comes two months after the public release of a report from a financial investigator retained by the fire district's board of directors to investigate the budget shortfall.

The shortfall first was discovered by an accounting manager at Pinnacle Consulting Group, which took over accounting services for Boulder Rural Fire at the beginning of 2015.

The manager found an approximately $600,000 shortfall after the 2009 purchase of a new fire engine was never recorded in the internal budget spreadsheet used by Webb.

But the investigation also found that accounting errors by Webb led to an additional $500,000 shortfall.

According to the report, the bookkeeping company Boulder Rural used before Pinnacle — GAAP Solutions — provided a profit and loss statement every month, designed to be a "snapshot" to help guide the district's spending.

But Webb used those monthly reports in his spreadsheet every year after he took over accounting in 2004, rather than relying on the final annual audits, according to the audit report.

District officials then discovered they were a total of $1.15 million short, and Boulder Rural Fire Protection District Issue 5B was placed on the November 2015 ballot. The measure asked voters that taxes be increased by $995,464, a $0.004 increase on every dollar of property value, and passed with 68 percent of the vote.

At a public meeting last year, Gattman said there was "no deception" when the district put the mill levy on the ballot.

According to the report, Webb offered to resign as a "sacrificial lamb" after firefighters delivered a "no confidence" letter to the board last March, but Gattmann did not accept the resignation because he felt Webb's experience would be "vital in weathering the coming budget storm."

The report did find that there was no money stolen or improperly converted, and classified it as an unintentional administrative error.

Copyright 2017 the Daily Camera

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