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"Where there's smoke there's fire."
That old adage could ring true regarding the recent resignation of Raywick Fire Chief Chuck Helm. He resigned last week, but the reason for his resignation isn't exactly clear.
According to Helm, his out-of-town job commitments cause him to be away from the community too much, which is why he decided to resign.
However, Kevin Corbett, who was appointed to be the acting chief for the time being, said a "disagreement" between Helm and the fire department led to Helm's resignation.
And that "disagreement" could involve misuse of department funds.
"We really don't know what has went on," Corbett said. "There are a lot of rumors out there. All the officers are looking into the financial issues. We're looking into it to see if any monies have been misused."
When the Enterprise spoke to Helm Wednesday of last week, he said he had been contemplating resigning for several months. He said his job at a machine shop in Hodgenville causes him to be out-of-town often, and he didn't feel it was fair to the community for the fire chief to be away so much.
"It's nothing personal. It's just commitments to my job that keep me out of the county so much," Helm said. "We have a good group of officers and members. There are other guys that need that opportunity. I don't want to hang onto it just for the title."
The Enterprise tried to contact Helm Friday to discuss the alleged misuse of fire department funds, but were unable to reach him before press time.
Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Clements was recently approached by various members of the fire department about issues within the department. He said the firefighters didn't get specific, but said they were concerned with the leadership of the department. They called him and asked him to attend a meeting, which was held last week.
"They didn't know if there would be problems and they felt it would be better for law enforcement to be there," Clements said.
Clements said Helm officially resigned during the meeting and said that he would not be discussing any financial matters at that time.
"I believe he said that would be addressed by his attorney," Clements said.
Phyllis Troutman, former mayor of Raywick who helped get the Raywick Fire Department off the ground years ago, said she attended the meeting, but was told that it would be going into executive session so she went home.
The Enterprise contacted Don Blandford, a long-time Raywick firefighter, the day after the meeting and asked him if he knew anything about Helm's resignation, but he said he couldn't comment on it.
According to Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly, he was contacted by one of the Raywick firefighters about a month ago who had some concerns. Members of the department asked to meet with Judge Mattingly and Marion County Attorney Joe Mattingly, but because the Raywick Fire Department is an independent organization, it's not the county's place to interfere, Mattingly said.
"It's an internal affair," he said. "I'm hoping they can work it out."
However, the county gives money to the Raywick Fire Department annually. Usually, the county gives the department two allocations - $11,000 in July and another $11,000 in January. Last year, the county gave a $10,000 grant to the department and also gave them a $50,000 loan toward the construction of their new building. As a result, the county now withholds $5,000 per allocation to use toward the payment of that loan, which they are expected to pay back within the next five years.
Judge Mattingly said the department is expected to submit accounting documents showing how county funds are used. Mattingly said he hasn't received the Raywick Fire Department's 2010-11 fiscal year report.
Helm has been Raywick's fire chief since March of 2004.
In January of 2009, Helm was named the Outstanding Emergency Personnel by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.
Look for more on this in future editions of The Lebanon Enterprise.