Dipping Treasurer Takes Early Retirement
SARASOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA, FIRE Lieutenant Thomas "TJ" Rhoades notified the department on October 16 that he would be retiring on October 25 (today). The 16th was also the day an investigation was opened by the county sheriff department into funds missing from the Firefighters Benevolent Fund, a charitable organization that Rhoades had been serving as treasurer.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting:
The treasurer of the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund has been fired by the board and barred from access to the fund, after other board members noticed money missing from the nonprofit's accounts.
Sarasota County Fire Department Lt. Thomas "T.J." Rhoades has been removed from the board, according to Jason Wilkins, president of the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund.
After learning there was money missing, Wilkins said he immediately went to the fund's bank with another board member and had Rhoades' access to accounts rescinded.
"We pulled our financial records and then called an emergency board meeting," Wilkins said. "At that point we suspended T.J.'s rights as a board member, placed another board member in as interim treasurer and asked the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office to start an investigation. They have subpoenaed all the documents."
Wilkins said the scope of the loss is not yet known.
"It's greater than $50,000, but we won't know exactly how much for some time," he said. "We're working with an accountant and the bank to try to figure it out. It occurred over some period of time. We're trying to justify what was legit and what wasn't."
The Benevolent Fund is an independent charitable organization that is not affiliated with the county fire department. It was established in 1996 as a way to provide financial help to firefighters and their families who suffer a "catastrophic event," such as an injury.
It is structured as a 501(c)(3) and, according to documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, receives around $100,000 annually through grants, contributions and fundraising. The fund has a fidelity bond that will cover the loss.
Rhoades came on the job in 1988 and is currently earning $85,188 per annum.
WWSB-TV prepared this video report:
Read the full story in the Herald-Tribune HERE.
* * * * * * *