State Audit: Nearly $20,000 in questionable payments and purchases by Nebraska fire chief

An audit of finances showed more than $17,000 of taxpayer money was mismanaged by the Alvo fire...
An audit of finances showed more than $17,000 of taxpayer money was mismanaged by the Alvo fire chief. (Source: KOLN)(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Jan. 3, 2020 at 5:55 AM CST
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Nebraska State Auditor Charlie Janssen is accusing Alvo’s Fire Chief of using public money for personal reasons, including to pay his home’s mortgage.

On January 2, Janssen submitted an audit of the 2018 fiscal year to the Village of Alvo’s Board. Janssen’s audit found questionable spending out of the Alvo Fire Department by Ben Glantz.

According to the report, Glantz is the Fire Chief, a Board Member, and the Village Water Operator.

A letter sent to the Village of Alvo said, “The APA’s [Nebraska Auditor of Public Account] examination of the records for the Alvo Fire Department c/o Ben Glantz bank account revealed that Mr. Glantz and his wife Taylor Glantz appeared to have used this account to make personal purchases with public money.”

According to the report, questionable spending between January 1, 2018 and September 10, 2019 totaled $17,965.62.

That total breaks down to Electronic Payments (4) at $5,141.41, Questionable Checks/Reimbursements (3) at $2,809.00, and Debit Card Purchases (138) at $10,015.21.

Electronic Payments

In the month of April, the State Auditor found four large electronic debit payments totaling $5,141.41. One of those payments includes a mortgage payment of $3,828.39.

On December 16, 2019, an investigator with the State Patrol, along with staff from the auditor’s office, met with Glantz at the fire station.

During the meeting, Glantz admitted that the $3,828.39 electronic debit to Home Point Financial was a payment to their mortgage company for past due accumulated amounts due on their mortgage.

In response to questioning, Glantz said “I was in a bad place. . .Life was pretty thin then, it really was tough.”

Questionable Checks/Reimbursements

Other information in the report include, “On June 12, 2019, Mr. Glantz had deposited a $1,080 check from the Lancaster Event Center for services provided by the Department. One day later, a check was written out to Ben Glantz for $1,088.”

That check was said to be reimbursement to “4 Corners,” which is a fire company run by Glantz.

Another reimbursement totaling $721 was paid to purchase of T-shirts for “4 Corners,” which the APA noted contained a signature that did not appear to match Glantz’s handwriting.

Debit Card Purchases

According to the audit, Glantz applied for a debit card through the Department’s bank account and was issued the card on July 24, 2018.

From August 10, 2018, through September 10, 2019, the card had been used at least 150 times. The auditor says the majority of the debit card transactions appear to be personal in use – including Amazon, Menards, Kansas City Royals Stadium, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Burger King, Casey’s, Dollar General, McDonald’s, Target, Taco Inn, Home Depot, Tack Room.

In response to the more than 100 debit card transaction, the audit said Glantz did not keep support for the transactions and “he said he could try to get receipts for some of the purchases.”

According to the audit, the questionable expenditures addressed give rise to numerous possible statutory concerns. The statutory concerns include theft by deception, abuse of public records, and official misconduct by a public servant.

The Nebraska Auditor also recommended the Village implement procedures that "prevent one person from being in a position both to perpetrate and to conceal financial errors or irregularities."

1011 NOW reached out to the Nebraska State Patrol, who released the following statement:

"NSP is aware of the report and is investigating. The investigation is ongoing at this time."

You can read the full letter to the Village of Alvo Board