On Wednesday a local volunteer fire department on Long Island came under scrutiny by New York state. A damaging report accuses the Lakeland Fire District of using taxpayer money to fund their own personal vacations. The accusations were revealed by an audit done by the New York State Comptroller’s office.
The Comptroller office’s audit report found the fire department took five vacations and ended up skipping local conferences they were scheduled to attend. The most expensive account was of eight members of the department spending four days in Las Vegas. In total the trip cost over $13,000. Not only did they skip the Vegas conference but they never attended any training sessions either. On top of that the the firemen stayed at a discounted hotel.
“Clearly they were taking advantage of the system and were benefiting themselves more than district taxpayers,” Brian Butry, spokesman for Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, told CBS news.
A seven-day trip where they skipped out on a New Orleans conference cost over $9,000. Only one member attended part of the conference and all he showed up to was a 45-minute keynote presentation.
The firemen defended their Vegas trip by saying they spent their days meeting vendors and looking for the cheapest life saving equipment. State officials are now barring the Lakeland fire department from attending out-of-state conferences in the future. They will only be able to attend approved conference and Lakeland officials have agreed to these terms. They’ve also implemented a policy of their own making it mandatory to attend conferences.
Lakeland residents were split on finding out about their taxes going to lavish trips. Some felt taken advantage of and others thought they deserved these vacations because they risk their lives for the community.