Angry residents of a Montgomery County town are claiming that a former fire marshal accused of stealing from the fire department could have been stopped sooner if town officials had heeded the warnings.
Ronald Kenneth "Ken" Nolan, a former fire marshal and emergency coordinator who served as treasurer for the Upper Gwynedd Township Fire Company, was arrested last Friday when he turned himself into police following a detailed investigation.
Nolan is accused of stealing a quarter of a million dollars over the course of six years -- from 2006 until 2012, although he served as treasurer for 24.
Investigators say that Nolan took $116,000 in cash from the nonprofit fire company's bank accounts and the rest of the stolen funds were linked to two department credit cards that Nolan used to buy trips to Miami, Reno, Jamaica and 15 trips to Vegas. He's accused of buying those Vegas trips for his daughter's wedding guests.
He also used fire company money to purchase jewelry, computers and other luxuries, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.
NBC10's Deanna Durante says that some of the stolen funds were taxpayer's money, although how much has not been determined.
Nolan was voted out as treasurer in December 2012. It was then that the new treasurer began to look into the department's finances. He quickly discovered inconsistencies and alerted the proper authorities who have been investigating Mr. Nolan since last summer.
The firefighter was arraigned and is facing a variety of theft charges.
Angry residents attended a meeting Monday night, asking how township leaders could have missed such a large theft.
"The only person that they felt you ever talked to was Ken Nolan," said one woman.
Upper Gwynedd firefighter Steve Hudson, one of the original whistleblowers, claimed the town's board members had reason to know about Nolan's alleged embezzlement.
Hudson says township leaders were so distant that they conveniently overlooked concerns about Nolan. During Monday night's meeting however, town commissioners said they handed out $65,000 public dollars to the independent fire department with little followup involvement just as they do with other city contractors. They also said the only concerns they heard about Nolan focused on sloppy accounting rather than theft.
The Upper Gwynedd Fire Department is nonprofit, funded by both tax dollars and donations from residents. Township leaders say there is no way to know how much of Nolan's alleged theft came from either source.