9 Investigates allegations of embezzlement by local fire chief

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ANSON COUNTY, N.C. - A 9 investigation is uncovering allegations of embezzlement at a local fire department.

Channel 9 anchor Blair Miller spent months tracking down the financial records. What he found has town leaders angry and now state agents are also investigating.

Miller went to Morven in Anson County after a whistleblower came to Eyewitness News outlining serious financial concerns within the town’s volunteer fire department.

Miller obtained documents with details on the department’s general fund.

Pouring through the documents, Miller saw that Chief Mark Holloway had racked up hundreds of dollars in gas bills for the car that is designated for his own personal use.

In November, December and January, Holloway put gas in the car 36 times at a cost of nearly $1,400.

Yet, in those three months, the fire department ran just 29 calls or less that 10 calls per month on average.

Fire department records show firefighters had two calls on Jan. 18. Fuel records show the chief put $39 worth of gas in the car the day before.

But then again, on the Jan. 20, 22 and 24, but the fire department had just one call.

Morven town officials told Eyewitness News they are also curious about a $500 donation the town made to the volunteer fire department in February that was given to the chief.

There is no record of that check in the department’s general fund.

Channel 9 also looked into the general fund for money from the barbecue fundraisers that the Morven VFD holds twice per year – the most recent in March.

There were no deposits from any fundraiser in the general fund records Channel 9 obtained.

“We have a barbecue fund that no one seems to know anything about,” said Morven Town Councilman Ronnie Gathings.

Miller shared the findings with Gathings, who is also a volunteer firefighter.

He had just resigned as president of the fire department. He said because of concerns about how the chief handles the department’s money.

He believes Holloway’s gas purchases cross the line.

“I would think that's a misuse of taxpayer funds. We are funded by the county with taxpayer money and we should be good stewards with how we spend that money,” Gathings said.

Gathings is also concerned about where the town’s $500 donation ended up.

He is not the only one questioning how Holloway handles the department’s money.

North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation confirmed it is investigating allegations of embezzlement of funds from the fire department by Holloway. The investigation was opened at the request of the local district attorney.

The DA wouldn’t talk to Channel 9 and neither would Anson County’s sheriff calling it an active investigation.

For days Miller left messages and texts for Holloway. Channel 9 put together a request for information asking him for all of the fire department’s bank records, including the deposited check from the town of Morven.

Miller hand delivered the request at Morven’s Town Hall at the officer where Holloway works and at his home.

After seven days with no response, Miller went back to Morven where he found Holloway at a bank where the fire department keeps its account.

“I need to talk to you about the allegations,” Miller said.

“Talk to my lawyer,” Holloway said.

“I need to ask you about the fuel costs, the $500. Why won’t you talk with me? I’ve been trying to track you down.” Miller said.

“Did you hear what I just said? Per my lawyer, you’ll have to talk with him,” Holloway said.

Miller did talk to his lawyer, but the man he said was his lawyer told Miller it was the first he had heard of the allegations.

Morven’s fire department received $69,000 from Anson County last year, all taxpayer money.

Members of the county board said they have no oversight over the department and neither does the town, because it's a volunteer agency.

The department does have a board of directors, but none of them would talk with Channel 9.

Miller asked the chief to see all of the department's bank records, but he hasn't responded.
        
The SBI is still going through the records.

Channel 9 will update the story as our investigation continues to unfold.