Pa. VFD removes chief, accuses him of misusing funds

"I messed up," said Brian Gouza, former fire chief for Arnold No. 1, which is examining its finances


By Brian C. Rittmeyer
The Tribune-Review

ARNOLD, Pa. — Arnold No. 1 fire department is examining its finances after removing its chief and accusing him of misuse of funds, the department's president said Friday.

Brian Gouza was removed as chief effective Dec. 26 and is no longer a member of the fire department, President Al Colelli said.

"I messed up, and I paid the consequences for it. I was trying to do too much on my own and without relying on anybody else," said former Arnold No. 1 Fire Chief Brian Gouza (Photo/Arnold Station 95-1)

Gouza has been replaced as chief by his brother, Walter Gouza III, who previously had served as chief. He returned to the fire company about six months ago as assistant chief.

As explained by Colelli and Walter Gouza, Brian Gouza was spending fire company money without first getting approval from its members through a vote, as required.

They could not give a total amount or say how many instances it had occurred. Walter Gouza said an example was a $1,800 check for T-shirts for firefighters, which they were supposed to have paid for up front.

"Once we found some things weren't adding up, there was a group that sat down and started reviewing and found discrepancies and things not approved by the fire company were being bought," Walter Gouza said.

No criminal charges have been filed. Arnold police Chief Eric Doutt said no complaint has been filed and police are not involved.

Brian Gouza said the T-shirts are the biggest example of what he called a procedural issue.

"There's no money missing, no theft," he said. "I messed up, and I paid the consequences for it. I was trying to do too much on my own and without relying on anybody else."

On the T-shirts, Brian Gouza said he used the check to pay for them, covering members who were not able to pay upfront. The money was collected and put back after the fact.

"They let me go because I didn't do it properly. I didn't make a motion on the floor to do it that way," he said. "You have to do things by the book. I failed to do so."

Colelli could not say when the audit will be completed.

"I want it to be an efficient audit," he said. "I don't want there to be any errors or mistakes. I want to have a solid case if anything has to be pursued."

Colelli said he won't know whether any criminal charges should be pursued until the audit is complete.

"If I do find any misusage of money or stolen money anywhere, we will pursue prosecution," he said.

Colelli said the fire department is functioning and operating to the best of its ability.

Walter Gouza "is starting to get some things under control," Colelli said. "There's just so much that he has taken on that he didn't know about. He's trying to sort it out piece by piece, day by day."

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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