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Fire chief defends group’s treasurer

By Staff | Dec 15, 2008

Despite some criticism and questioning on why financial reports for 2007 weren’t filed timely, the treasurer of the Winnebago Fire Relief Association plans to seek re-election to the post next year.

“It’s going to be up to the membership to decide whether they want me to serve again,” says Chris Ziegler, who was elected to the council in November.

The 25 relief association members will conduct election of officers in February.

Ziegler came under fire when the State Auditor’s Office contacted the city by letter and said $11,000 in 2008 fire aid was in danger if the reports were not filed by Nov. 30.

“This has been blown totally out of proportion. There’s nothing I could have done differently. I don’t regret or apologize for anything,” Ziegler says, who was elected to the council in November.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Councilmember Maryann McClain wanted an explanation on why the state aid was put in jeopardy.

McClain says some residents have expressed their concerns.

“It looks really bad. If there was a legitimate reason, you are excused,” McClain told Ziegler.

Councilman-elect Bob Weerts supported McClain saying actions of fire department officials need to be scrutinized.

On Nov. 21, Ziegler responded to the state’s notice. The forms were em-mailed so the association would not lose its funding.

Fire chief Todd Enger has come to the defense of his treasurer, saying he didn’t do anything wrong.

Enger says Ziegler has been on the job for less than a year and he has received little training.

In addition, Enger says unusual circumstances played a role in the reports not being completed on time.

He says the association was switching its accounts to another financial adviser and was unable to obtain the needed information to complete the paperwork for the state. “We were trying to transfer some funds and they were dragging their feet,” says Enger.

Another reason for the delay, says the fire chief, was a former treasurer was not cooperative in helping association officials gain access to some accounts.

“It’s been a frustrating time since this happened with Steve,” Enger says.

He was referring to Stevan Miner’s legal problems when he was charged in May 2007 after being accused of stealing $2,800 from the relief association.

Ziegler says codes and passwords were needed to obtain account information.

Ziegler says he and David Frundt, interim treasurer for 2007, kept in touch with state officials by telephone and e-mails regarding the delay.

“They weren’t keeping anybody in the dark. They kept in contact with the state auditor and me when they knew something,” Enger says.

Ziegler admits there were times when there was a “disconnect of information” with the fire chief, but it was not intentional. City officials also were not aware of the problem until contacted by the state.

“I wasn’t trying to hide or cover up anything,” says Ziegler.