The New Year is a welcome sight for many of us who were battered by events in 2022, including the return of COVID cases and unpredictable weather patterns, which impacted not only our comfort levels but also our landscapes.
As 2022 came to a close, you may have heard in recent weeks about the incident involving the Fire Chief of the Emergency Services District #1 in Denton County. This group of firefighters serves five communities in Commissioner Pct. 4 that do not have fire departments of their own. The ESD is funded by an extra ad valorem tax which was voted in by the residents of the District in 2006.
The FBI has been investigating charges of corruption regarding the firemen’s pensions which have been under the jurisdiction of the predecessor to the ESD, the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department Board. During that investigation, the FBI arrested and indicted that Fire Chief in federal court. The Chief was the fire chief of both entities (AVFD and ESD) and was alleged to have misused the AVFD funds for his personal expenses. This incident is still being investigated, and further violations may come to light. However, it’s important to realize that since its inception and while this investigation is ongoing, the firefighters of the ESD have continued to perform their duties with speed and diligence. Additionally, your County Commissioners have been quick in our response to demand appropriate action promptly by the ESD Board, which is appointed by the Commissioners. Toward that end, the Commissioners have declined to re-appoint several ESD Board members whose terms expired on December 31, 2022, and instead appointed experienced, knowledgeable professionals who are tasked with competently overseeing the activities of the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Board as it is phased out while all assets and authority are transferred into the ESD.
In short, there are new faces on the ESD Board with more transparency and oversight of both the taxpayers’ money and the firefighters’ pensions. New auditors and an attorney are being hired by the ESD to examine both boards’ records. While the paperwork involved in the transition is cumbersome, the outcome will be both beneficial to the public who is served by the ESD and fair to the firefighters whose pensions have been shortchanged.