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Former Police Chief Mismanaged 

Federal Grant Monies


By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, December 28, 2011

FORT FAIRFIELD—The town of Fort Fairfield recently had to pay back over $14,000 in grant money to Operation Stonegarden due to the sloppy bookkeeping of former Fort Fairfield Police Chief, Joe Bubar.

Operation Stonegarden is a collaboration with local police, the U.S. Border Patrol and Maine Emergency Management Agency to provide officers and vehicles above and beyond normal, local policing duties in an effort to spy on Americans, gather intel and report to the Feds any “terrorist” activity based upon a fluid, convoluted definition of “terrorist” by the U.S. Department of Homeland “Security” that ranges everywhere from U.S. veterans, to anti-abortionists, to Ron Paul supporters, to gun owners, and all of those who have pledged to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.

Fort Fairfield Police Department has been involved with Operation Stonegarden since 2005, with its officers logging in overtime for those anti-terrorism efforts and having those additional hours reimbursed by Homeland “Security” through MEMA. While the Chief of Police made the agreement with Stonegarden, and received money from the program, it was not anything the town manager or town council were directly involved in. “We really did not have a lot of oversight of this particular program,” said Fort Fairfield town manager, Dan Foster. “The rules, in terms of how you accounted for the resources that were being used - which is coming from Homeland Security, changed from 2005 up to 2009.

Around five months ago the Stonegarden grant monies got audited and significant issues were found. “All our grants get audited at some point and we've never had any issues. But, we had some significant issues with this audit,” said Foster. “The primary reason why was incredibly sloppy bookkeeping by our [former] police chief and very poor oversight by Maine Emergency Management.”

After an extensive audited it was found the town had been reimbursed more money than what they could account for.

What I ended up doing was going through all the payroll records from 2009 to 2011 and reconstructing the overtime that was done for Stonegarden. Rob McElwee, the director of MEMA says of the $86,000 that was received over those years, there was about $14,000 that should not have been received. I've gone through all the records and I concur with that decision. We have received money that we cannot account for in terms of hours worked or vehicles used. We have the money, it's not money that's been spent, and we need to pay it back.

The town council approved a payment of $14,500.59 back to MEMA, to go back into Stonegarden to reimburse money that should have never been paid to Fort Fairfield in the first place.

“I do not appreciate the fact that we were ever put in this position in the first place,” said Foster. “Part of the reason was that it was not something that went through the council. I've noticed particularly in Public Safety - the Fire and Police departments - that there are grants that are routinely available to them that do not require approval of the town council. I think that if there's been any lesson in this whole experience is that this is something that should not be happening.

In order to enhance oversight of grant monies, Foster has established a policy that says all department heads spending any money that is not part of the approved budget, must indicate that the money is being provided; the reason why they're getting it; and the accounting for how it's going to be handled and bring that information to the town manager and then to the council for their approval. “Hopefully we are doing our due diligence to ensure that any funds that we receive from either the State or Federal government are being handled in an appropriate way.”

The town council then approved unanimously the new policy regarding the new protocol on grant money.

The council then further approved a Memorandum of Understanding and continuing the relationship with MEMA and Operation Stonegarden.


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