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Fire company halts bingo until August

July 06, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

CLEAR SPRING

Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Co. officials announced at a Wednesday meeting that the department's bingo fundraising will be shut down through at least the first week in August.

At meetings held throughout June within the fire company, it was revealed that some workers were being paid to organize and operate the department's bingo and tip jar fundraising operations. An investigation into the department's finances by the Washington County Gaming Office and Maryland State Police began in May amidst allegations of wrongdoing.

Robert Downs, chairman of the company's standing committee, said an audit of the company's financial records should be completed soon. Officials met with auditors during a meeting last week, but they said they were unable to talk about the details of that meeting.

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Jim Hovis, director of the county's Gaming Office, said at the time that the meeting was private.

Two company members who were responsible for the station's bingo operations were forbidden from any further involvement in the fundraising during a meeting last month. The two, Tom Altman and Wanda Lynch, also were banned from company property.

At the time, fire company president Ronald Poole said he and some others believed this meant all fire company property, but it was decided that the ruling barred the two only from the activities center where bingo was held.

Altman and Lynch were at Wednesday's meeting. Poole said they are active, voting members, who are only restricted from any involvement in bingo until the conclusion of the investigation.

Downs said this was an administrative action, not a disciplinary one.

"We're working to resolve any problems that we have," he said. "We're in the process of retaining a lawyer to review the case."

The company will be sending out a letter to area residents with an explanation about the investigation and the steps the department's members are taking to make it right. The letter is signed by Poole.

"The membership and administration of our department are taking every step necessary to correct any deficiencies, and have cooperated fully with outside agencies throughout the process," the letter states. "... Our goal is to ensure that all financial proceeds are utilized in the manner for which they were intended, and that is to fund the continued operation of emergency services."

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