Maybe you saw this story in the papers yesterday and today...
ND: Group used federal disaster funds for booze, other questionable items, misspending $200K
BISMARCK, N.D. - Nearly a quarter of the federal disaster planning money spent by a North Dakota nonprofit was used for "unallowable or questionable" items, including alcohol, a state official said.
The North Dakota EMS Association, which represents about 1,800 ambulance and emergency workers, also spent money it shouldn't have on lobbying, cell phones, meals and some salaries and bonuses, an internal association audit and other records obtained by The Associated Press show.
Tim Wiedrich, chief of the North Dakota Health Department's emergency preparedness and response section, said Wednesday that the "unallowable or questionable" items made up nearly $200,000 of the roughly $810,000 the Bismarck-based group received between 2004 and last year to help produce a plan to fight bioterrorism and other mass disasters.
Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP)
As is noted in the story, this has the potential to turn into a federal criminal case.
A notable quote was in the middle of the story. It went something like this:
"I think we felt we spent money for the right reasons and that we were spending that money appropriately," Weber said. "We have nothing to hide. Every dime we spent was to promote EMS."
Bismarck Tribune (You know that game where you insert the words "in bed" at the end of your fortune cookie phrase? Well, I like to insert the words "on beer" or "for beer" in spots throughout this story and this quotation. For example, "Every dime we spent ON BEER was spent to promote EMS.")
Is it just me, or does that sound strangely familiar to anybody else?
I know a good lawyer who would have suggested to the good folks at the ND EMS Association that they should not talk to the press and they cannot talk to anybody else about these allegations. They might not have done anything wrong, but... I'm just sayin'.
It'll be interesting to see if Steve Cates sees this story in the papers and takes up the banner for all people accused of misspending public money on booze, lobbying and meals (or limos and hookers, for that matter). Maybe there will be another "guaranteed to have no lies, misrepresentations or inaccuracies" (ha!) 20 page, illegibly small font "story" that nobody reads in the Dakota Beacon.
The EMS Association has the potential to do some really important and really good things in a state like North Dakota, where we have vast expanses of rural areas that need adequate emergency medical services. I sure hope this story falls apart.