A former state law enforcement official asked county supervisors last week to investigate the Camden Fire District for what he alleged was ongoing fraud and misappropriation of funds within the volunteer fire department. 

James Stacy, a retired official with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said he is concerned about fire coverage in the Camden Fire District and worries that this two sons, both volunteer firefighters, don’t have the necessary equipment to respond to calls. 

Stacy recalled a recent call for a grass fire nearing a residence in Camden and his two sons responded to the call. 

“They go to get in the fire truck and the fire truck is out of diesel,” he said. “This is one of numerous problems we’re having out there.”

Stacy said by the time his sons were able to respond to the scene, the Farmhaven Volunteer Fire Department had arrived and put out the fire. 

He said tools have been stolen, the truck doesn’t operate half the time, and rescue equipment doesn’t work. 

“If I’m paying taxes, where’s this money going,” he asked. “It should be going to provide some fire coverage to my property.”

Board Attorney Katie Bryant Snell told Stacy that the Board of Supervisors really has no jurisdiction when it comes to policing fire district boards. 

She said supervisors appoint commissioners to the district, but each district is autonomous, adding supervisors have no authority to tell a fire district what to do. 

District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin said he attempted to contact the fire chief, listed on the county’s website as Thomas Gray, but could not reach him. Attempts by the Journal to contact Gray were also unsuccessful. 

Griffin did say that the department was moving in the right direction now after admitting in the past there were problems. 

“We’ve been working with the assistant fire coordinator on trying to enhance Camden over the period of time,” Griffin said. “Whether it’s being managed properly, I have no idea of that because (the Camden Fire Board) selected by the Board of Supervisors is the direct manager over it.”

He said he hasn’t heard one complaint from the Camden commissioners though

Stacy said there was so much “smoke and mirrors” swirling around the fire district. 

“There’s no clarity,” he said. “Can the Board of Supervisors do an investigation to see how the district is being run?”

Snell said the board can ask questions and are required to receive financials, but they have no enforcement authority and said any impropriety would need to be dealt with from the State Auditor’s Office. 

“It’s so bad, our information is the chief has to get a board member to go with him to fill a fire truck,” Stacy then pleaded. 

Stacy then said there’s been so much theft of fuel and property and people have lived in the fire station in the past. He also said parties have been thrown in the station. 

“As the Board of Supervisors, I ask and encourage you, would you investigate to see what’s going on,” he said, noting his time in law enforcement all they had to do was follow the money to find the bad guys. 

Griffin then responded, defending the department and saying they were headed in the right direction. 

“Right now, anybody can come in and make accusations on any department,” he said. “But, we have to find a reason to accuse someone and I don’t want to say anymore basically about the running of the department. I think the department is headed in the right direction now, even though there might have been some problems.” 

“It’s getting worse,” Stacy responded. 

County Administrator Shelton Vance told supervisors that ad valorem taxes in the district generate approximately $2,800 and the district receives another $10,000 per year from a fire contract. 

“In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think we would be talking about more than $13,000 a year that would be in question here,” Vance said. 

Supervisors asked the county fire coordinator and assistant fire coordinator to meet with the Camden Fire District Board and deliver a report at next week’s meeting.