We want your opinions

April 15, 2007

ISSUE:

A former treasurer of the Riviera Beach Volunteer Fire Company has been charged with stealing more than $50,000 through a check-writing scheme, making him the first member of the Pasadena firehouse to face prosecution in a wide-ranging investigation.

Police have not served an arrest warrant for Kelly T. McColl, 40, who was charged March 31, but they continue to investigate accusations of mismanagement of company funds under former Chief Kenneth B. Hyde Sr.

McColl, whose last known address was in Surfside Beach, S.C., wrote dozens of checks from firehouse accounts to pay for his mortgages, credit card bills and car insurance, police said.

Hyde has not been criminally charged, but fellow firefighters have accused him of using the firehouse's money to cover his personal expenses. He admitted using Riviera Beach's Visa card to make automated teller machine withdrawals and pay for trips in his capacity with Baltimore, but he said he repaid the money.

According to rules set out in the county's charter, the Fire Department maintains operational control of the volunteer stations, meaning that it directs where the firetrucks and ambulances go and commands rescue efforts. But it can't open the books of any company or intervene with its internal politics.

County Council members and fire officials said they see no need to increase oversight of the volunteer companies, saying that Riviera Beach's troubles are isolated.

YOUR VIEW:

Should the county pursue more oversight of the volunteer companies, particularly their finances? Why or why not? Tell us what you think at arundel.speakout@baltsun.com by Thursday. Please keep your responses short and include your name, address and phone number. A selection will be published next Sunday.

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