CBS13 has learned that Garden Valley Fire Chief Bill Dekker is under investigation by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.
In an interview with CBS13, District Attorney Vern Pierson told On The Money he has opened a criminal investigation focusing on the fire chief’s purchases on the fire department’s credit card.
CBS13 has obtained copies of the questionable credit card billings, which include $3,400 in charges to something called Willingness to Change – a drug and alcohol treatment center – according to the website.The billings came from Bill Dekker, on the Garden Valley Fire Department’s credit card.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my 17 years as county auditor,” said Joe Harn, El Dorado County’s fiscal watchdog.
Harn has been scrutinizing the Garden Valley Fire Protection District’s spending and credit card purchases.
“I don’t understand why it would be the burden of the taxpayers in Garden Valley to pick up this $3,400 charge for alcohol and or drug counseling,” Harn told CBS 13.
CBS13 tried reaching the Garden Valley fire chief in person – and found the station door wide open – and no one appeared to be on duty.
“Hello, anybody home?” the reporter asked out loud.
Chief Dekker did not respond to phone calls at the fire station – or at his home in Greenwood. The Garden Valley Fire District Board was also silent on the matter.
CBS13 wanted to know why the board chose a chief with a checkered past – that includes a drunken driving arrest while Dekker was on duty as a fire chief in Nevada. Dekker “admitted drinking and hitting (a) victim with fire truck while driving”, according to the arrest report from the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, as documented in Case #96-0361.
Dekker was charged with driving under the influence, paid a $750 fine and completed a DUI workshop, according to court documents from Case #96-20021. Court records also show Dekker pled no contest to disorderly conduct charges in Arizona, resulting in his resignation as fire chief there, according to newspaper reports.
CBS13 found other questionable purchases on Chief Dekker’s Garden Valley Fire District credit card, including an $85 charge at a Good Feet store in Santa Barbara and a $34 charge at a Payless Shoe store in Placerville.
The El Dorado County auditor calls those purchases very unusual. Chief Dekker isn’t talking about any of his charges – but Garden Valley residents are beginning to wonder.
“That’s wrong,” said Melvin Howard, a Garden Valley resident.
“Yeah, it needs to be looked into a little bit to say the least,” said Lew Price, another Garden Valley resident.
The county auditor has already refused to issue $131,000 in other payments to the Garden Valley Fire Department – citing a breach of contract. As for the credit card purchases, Joe Harn says he has no control over that.
“There is a significant financial management problem at Garden Valley Fire,” Harn told CBS13.
“We opened a criminal investigation to look into this further,” District Attorney Pierson told CBS13.