The state auditor’s office is investigating the Airway Heights volunteer fire department for possible misuse of public money.
City Manager Mike Patterson said Friday the fire department has blocked repeated requests for its financial records.
Patterson said he expects the state to cite the city for an accounting violation next week.
“We’re being dinged for something we wanted to provide but were unable to provide,” he said.
The fire department gets about $10,000 a year in city cash. The money is placed in an account that is inaccessible to city officials.
State auditors indicate the fire department shouldn’t have an exclusive account.
Firefighters “thought they had a lot more freedom with that money than they really had,” Patterson said.
Patterson said the fire department has refused to open its books for city officials, too.
He said firefighters indicate some money paid for functions they fear the state might force them to pay for out of their own pockets.
Pete Kordelski, president of the fire department, declined to comment on the investigation when contacted Friday.
Two state investigators were at Airway Heights City Hall on Friday, finishing their investigation, Patterson said.
The auditor’s office is conducting a routine audit of Airway Heights to make sure “the financial house is in order, and the city is complying with state laws and regulations,” said office spokesman Jerry Pugnetti.
He said the fire department’s finances are included in the investigation. He also said the state will not discuss its findings until its report is released next month.
Patterson said the department’s financial arrangement is similar to many other small-town departments in Eastern Washington.
He also said the department may not have misspent any money. “They might just be paranoid.”