Former Cotton Valley assistant fire chief Adam Hurley is scheduled to go to trial Monday, July 7 on charges of malfeasance in office and felony theft.
Hurley and former Fire Chief Dennis Meshell entered pleas of not guilty in Webster Parish District Court in July 2012.
The pair is accused of diverting funds intended for Fire Protection District 8 outside oversight by the board and legislative auditor.
"They basically had two checking accounts that only Chief Meshell and Assistant Chief Hurley had access to," Webster Parish Sheriff's Investigator Dustin Reynolds said at the time of the arrest. "The checks and all the records dealing with those accounts were stored at Chief Meshell's house."
The accounts bear the names "Cotton Valley Fire Fighter's Coke Fund" and "The Cotton Valley Firefighter's Hazmat Training Fund."
The pair was arrested in March 2012 on identical charges of malfeasance in office, injuring public records and felony theft, after a Webster Parish Sheriff's Office investigation into the finances of Fire Protection District 8.
Meshell and Hurley claim innocence based on their assertion that the board knew the funds in question existed. They also assert the "coke fund" in particular had been passed down from fire chief to fire chief for decades.
According to legislative auditor reports going back to 1995, Meshell served as treasurer on the district board until 1998.
The 2002 legislative audit for the district by Jamieson, Wise and Martin mentions a "coke fund," although not by the full name alleged to be on the account. It lists four expenditures that did not have an apparent public purpose.
"We understand from the district that a separate account is maintained by the firemen called the 'coke fund' to pay for flowers and miscellaneous items that are not considered a public purpose," according to the audit. "We recommend the following expenses be reimbursed from the 'coke fund' or the public purpose be documented in the minutes of the district if the funds are paid by the district."
The audit then goes on to list expenses for a cookout, gathering and flowers. One flower expense was reimbursed the "coke fund" from district funds.