Speakout!

We want your opinions

April 18, 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 his mortgages, credit card bills and car insurance payments, police said.

Hyde has not been 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 to pay for trips taken in his capacity as head of the Baltimore Fire Department's training academy - he is no longer in that position - 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 directs 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 greater oversight of the volunteer companies, particularly their finances? Why or why not? Tell us what you think at arundel.speakout@baltsun.com by tomorrow. Please keep your responses short and include your name, address and phone number. A selection will be published Sunday.

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