This story is unfortunate, and I genuinely feel bad for the trustee who lost this money — and was subsequently ambushed at her home by a news crew. But a mistake was made — and it was a big one. It just simply points to yet another instance of township government in Indiana not using taxpayer resources very effectively.
A township trustee who paid up front for a fire truck that never showed up is now facing scrutiny from the State Board of Accounts and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.
Pamela Crum, the trustee of Sheffield Township in Tippecanoe County, wrote a check for $332,970 to Elite Fire Apparatus of Wisconsin, but the company went bankrupt shortly after, according to an audit by the State Board of Accounts.
"The result was, they were just out the money and they were going to get no fire truck, and, according to the bankruptcy court, there were no assets to distribute," said Paul Joyce, deputy state examiner for the State Board of Accounts.
Indiana code states that public officials should not pay for goods or services up front, unless it’s a recurring expense, such as rent, 6News’ Kara Kenney reported.
"You’re not supposed to pay for anything in advance," Joyce said. "That’s because you might not get the goods and services you purchased."
Joyce called Sheffield Township’s $332,970 check the worst case the agency had ever seen of a public official paying for something that didn’t show up.
In an effort to recoup the money on behalf of taxpayers, the attorney general’s office sent out letters to Crum, the former board members who approved the expenditure, as well as Ohio Farmers Insurance and National Fire & Casualty.
National Fire & Casualty has a $500,000 policy on the township, and Ohio Farmers Insurance has a $15,000 surety bond on the township trustee, according to the attorney general’s office.
If they don’t pay within 30 days, the attorney general’s office may file a lawsuit to recover the public funds.
"I’m not happy, not happy," said Linda Gregory, a longtime Sheffield Township taxpayer. "For a small town like this, it’s surprising."