County wants increased accountability on gaming forms

Officials consider requiring more details about fire and rescue companies' revenues

Officials consider requiring more details about fire and rescue companies' revenues

October 06, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County officials are considering requiring fire and rescue companies to include details about their gaming revenues, expenses and profits on annual financial reporting forms that are filed with the Department of Emergency Services as a way to increase the companies' accountability, James B. Hovis, director of the Washington County Gaming Office, said Tuesday.

The gaming office already collects some financial data from tip jar and bingo operators, but that data does not include the total the operator realizes as profit, Hovis said. The gaming office is not authorized to collect additional financial data, so Hovis worked with Director of Fire and Emergency Services Kevin L. Lewis to draft a revised financial reporting form for fire and rescue companies.

The proposed revisions to the form would require companies to report their gross revenue from tip jars and bingo; their gaming-related expenses broken down into supplies, payouts, salaries and wages, food and beverage, and other; and their net profit or loss from tip jars and bingo.


County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said the data will be useful when responding to funding requests from fire and rescue companies. Some companies say they are grossly underfunded and can't afford replacement vehicles, maintenance or training, yet they have "a good bit of money" in their bank accounts, Murray said.

Hovis said he is also concerned about a lack of record-keeping by some companies, including some that do hundreds of thousands of dollars of business.

"This will make the fire departments maybe get their financial house in order to actually be accountable, to collect receipts on their profits, to take their register tapes, to actually be accountable and have some record of the business they're doing," he said.

It was unclear Tuesday whether the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association supported the additional reporting requirements.

Hovis said the initial response from association president Glenn Fishack was that he did not support the revisions to the financial reporting forms. However, Murray said Fishack's opposition stemmed from a misunderstanding about the food and beverage reporting, and after discussing that issue, Fishack was in support of the changes.

Fishack was not at Tuesday's meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Other members of the firefighting community who were at Tuesday's meeting were critical of the changes.

Tom Altman, former president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, asked whether the county would require the same level of detail from fraternal organizations.

"We're not hiding anything," Altman said. "Who is hiding something?"

Jay Grimes, another former association president, said he was in full support of accountability, but wanted the county to make sure it was requesting the right information so it didn't end up changing the reporting requirements again.

The changes to the form do not require approval from the commissioners, but Tuesday's discussion was intended to update the commissioners on the gaming office's progress toward its goal of developing a standard for review and accountability for fire and rescue gaming activities, Murray said.

Murray and Hovis said they would continue to work with the fire and rescue association to iron things out.

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