MuskogeeNOW last month reported that the Keefeton Fire Department was likely in violation of state law regarding the keeping and spending of funds separate from county oversight.
A few days later, Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge issued an opinion that agreed; stating that rural volunteer fire departments in the county should close bank accounts independent of the county, and instead process all money through the county treasurer. His opinion was based on the same state audit cited by MuskogeeNOW in our story.
Later, Loge spoke with State Auditor Gary Jones, who told him the state had changed its mind since that audit and no longer considered the opinion in that audit as accurate. Jones then said he would send Loge a letter stating that.
Though the letter has not yet arrived, Loge said when he receives it, he will change his official opinion on the issue. When that happens, the official word will be that rural volunteer fire departments under Title 19 of state law are still independent operators, though under county oversight. That means they will largely operate independently, including their bank accounts.
MuskogeeNOW is reporting this news now instead of waiting for the letter because the previous story mentioned Speck Plunkett is in charge of the Keefeton Fire Department, and since he is also running for county commissioner, it would be unfair to leave that shadow over his campaign while knowing the official opinion on it is set to change, yet not in time for it to be cleared up before the election, which is tomorrow.
So in a nutshell, according to existing standards and state opinions, rural fire departments that are Title 19 (owned by the county) must process all money through the county treasurer. However, the state has changed its mind on that, and when it is official in writing, Loge’s instructions to rural fire departments will change to be in line with that official opinion.