KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- An arrest warrant has been served on the former chief of a local fire department a day after he failed to appear in court to be arraigned on new charges stemming from an embezzlement charge filed against him in June.
Joseph T. Hayes, 44, of Murphy Road, was cited to appear in Vermont Superior Court on Monday to face four counts of violating conditions of release, which forbid him from handling any of the Bennington Rural Fire Department’s finances. Hayes is accused of mismanaging a fire department raffle by putting the department’s name on unsold tickets and entering them into the drawing without the department first buying the tickets.
According to court records, the arrest warrant was issued Monday and served on Hayes Tuesday. Hayes posted the $500 bail placed on him and is scheduled to appear for arraignment on Oct. 21.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean, on Aug. 19 he was presented with documents from the department’s Prudential Committee meetings dated June 18, July 3, July 16, and Aug. 19. On June 17, Hayes was placed under the condition he not "handle any money or finances for the BRFD." Dean wrote that all six of the documents he was presented with, which included board minutes, a account reconciliation’s, and a letter from Hayes, bore Hayes’ signature.
According to the affidavit, dated Aug. 29, Hayes is a member of the Prudential Committee which oversees the department’s funds. A letter from Hayes dated July 3 to Rural Fire Chief Shawn Gardner and Prudential Committee Chairman Steve Brusso says Hayes is appealing his suspension from the department and in the meantime will be participating in "calls, meetings, drills, and company business."
Dean was present at the June 18 meeting for a security detail. At that meeting, 15 firefighters who had been suspended for their involvement in the "Mudder’s Day" event were reinstated. A camper had been lit on fire for a mud-bogging stunt, but the Department of Environmental Conservation has been investigating it, alleging proper burn permits were not granted. The event was organized by a member of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, members of which attended the Prudential Committee meeting.
Dean wrote that he saw Hayes at that meeting, but he did not stay for its conclusion.
According to the minutes of June 18, Hayes participated in a discussion about chiefs attending a conference and who would pay for it. Hayes said the money should not come from the "fire school account." A motion was made for the department to pay to send the chiefs to the conference, with Hayes voting in favor.
According to the July 16 minutes, Hayes voted on whether or not the department should pay certain bills. He discussed a number of matters regarding the department’s funds and voted on motions. He also made a motion to purchase a shed for $3,900 but this did not receive a second.
Attorney William D. Wright, who represents Hayes, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday. Wright has said that his client is caught up in fire department politics, which will become clear as the case progresses.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.