Former St. Tammany Fire District No. 3 Chief Charles Flynn used public funds to purchase an engine rebuild kit for his AMC Rambler auto, then falsified documents to make it appear the kit was used on a district generator, according to a report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office.
Flynn, who retired in September, admitted to investigators that he tried to make it appear the $713 kit and approximately $6,300 worth of other parts he bought for his personal use were purchased for the fire district.
Flynn wrote vehicle numbers on invoices to make it seem that the parts he bought between January 2011 and September 2013 were being used for district vehicles, the report says.
Flynn originally told investigators he used personal funds to pay the vendors directly, but an audit showed he had paid only $1,787 of the total charges of about $7,000. The remaining $5,296 in bills were paid from district funds. By using the district’s tax-exempt status to buy the parts, Flynn was also able to avoid $654 in sales taxes, the report says.
When investigators initially questioned Flynn about the rebuild kit, he insisted he had used some of the parts from the kit to reseal a district generator’s engine. But the kit was specially designed for an AMC Rambler, and Flynn owned one, the report says. Flynn later acknowledged that he used the kit to rebuild his Rambler’s engine.
In a letter to the legislative auditor, Flynn admitted he improperly bought the parts with district funds, but he said he repaid the $5,296 three days after he received a copy of the audit report in late April. A copy of a check for that amount signed by Flynn and dated April 21 is included with the auditor’s report.
Flynn disputed some minor aspects of the report and said his nearly 20 years of service to the fire district should not be overlooked. He said he often used his own tools, electricity and background as a mechanic to work on district vehicles.
“I would also like to add that as an ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) master auto and truck technician I worked on the department’s vehicles for free!” Flynn wrote. “In my nearly 20 years of service to (the fire district) I have saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment and repairs.”
Flynn said his management of the vehicle repair program “was definitely flawed and in need of revision.” He also apologized to the commissioners who run the district.
St. Tammany Fire District No. 3 covers about 55 square miles and 8,600 residents in the Lacombe area.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter at @faimon.