Council members for the city of Huxley said they were caught off guard by the recent news surrounding the misuse of funds by Huxley Fire and Rescue.
During the closing comments of last week’s City Council meeting, Councilman Dave Kuhn expressed his frustration with the city and with the Huxley Fire Department for keeping details of the investigation silent for over a year.
“I was disappointed to learn of the discrepancies of the [Fire and Rescue Association] fund via the news and not have been privy to that from other means,” said Kuhn. “I feel it would have been appropriate to make the council members aware of what was going on.”
Former council member and current Deputy Chief Kevin Deaton responded by saying that everyone involved with the investigation, including Mayor Henry, was asked to “keep it under wraps” by legal counsel until the investigation was completed by the state auditor.
“It would have been great to give you a heads-up, but frankly, that report was supposed to be out six months ago, then four months ago, then three weeks ago, and then all of a sudden we found out the report was coming out at 8 a.m. the next day,” said Deaton.
Mayor Henry saved his comments until the end. He echoed Deaton’s remarks, telling the council he knew about it for over a year, but was advised to keep it silent. He also expressed large amounts of frustration with the entire process, especially with the way the state auditor’s office handled the investigation.
“I’m very disappointed in how this was handled,” said Mayor Henry. “The state auditor told us we were going to have this report six months ago. Then they told us we were going to have a meeting and it was going to be out within two weeks. Then we were told we were going to get a notification and a copy would go to our city attorney to be aware of it before it was released to the public. That didn’t happen.”
The audit report states that the investigation “was requested by Fire Chief Chad Anthony as a result of concerns regarding the propriety of certain financial transactions of the Huxley Fire and Rescue Association.” The report found $5,581.19 of improper and unsupported disbursements.
The funds in question were from 2012 to 2017. Deaton explained to the council that the fire department is working on implementing all of the guidelines suggested by the state auditor and over the last year, they have already implemented many of them.
In other council news, a tennis windscreen update:
An ordinance to amend the sign code which would affect future sign installation on public athletic fields was discussed, but later tabled by the council.
The consensus from the council was that the tennis windscreens, which were being questioned at Ballard High School can remain, but there was still dissenting opinion regarding the language of the amended ordinance amongst council members.
Under the current language, the school would be exempt from sign regulations on athletic fields. However, multiple council members are concerned the ordinance needs to be more regulatory and specific, potentially requiring city approval.
The council agreed to table the ordinance discussion for further review and bring it back to the agenda for discussion during the next meeting.