The state Board of Ethics has dismissed charges against two Harvey volunteer firefighters accused of using their department’s checkbook and credit card for personal expenses.
The board discussed the matter in executive session Friday before dropping the charges originally filed in 2012 against Harvey Volunteer Fire District No. 2 Chief Scott Berthelot and Deputy Chief Michael Reason.
The two men were charged with theft earlier this year by Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s office, which accused them of spending taxpayer dollars excessively and for personal items.
Berthelot was acquitted while Reason was found guilty of misdemeanor theft and filing false records related to his purchase of expensive sunglasses and a penis pump, which he charged to the department.
The state’s charges were different from the case put together by the DA’s Office, said Kathleen Allen, the administrator with the Ethics Board who confirmed the agency’s action.
The state’s charges have never been detailed any more than to say the men used the credit card and checks “to purchase personal items, vacations and meals which (they) were not duly entitled to receive.”
The criminal case against the men, which was heard by 24th Judicial District Court Judge Glenn Ansardi in May, included allegations that the department effectively stole hundreds of thousands of tax dollars by using them for lavish parties and trips to conventions, as well as gifts.
The two men’s defense didn’t dispute the expenditures but claimed the money was no longer public once it entered the department’s coffers after being collected by the parish. The defense also said the spending was properly accounted for and that banquets and service gifts are a normal part of recruitment and retention efforts for volunteer fire departments.
Reason’s accounting of his $290 Oakley sunglasses as “fire goggles” and the $288 penis pump as a “hose coupling” — and only paying the department back for them after the investigation began — netted him his conviction. He was sentenced to probation, fines and community service.
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