In recent weeks, there has been a lot of publicity concerning the FBI arrest of the man who served as chief of both the Emergency Services District No. 1 and the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. and his subsequent indictment by a federal grand jury. (Coincidently, this chief was planning to retire early in 2023 and a new chief has been hired by the ESD, taking office January 1, 2023.)
These events both shocked and distressed your Commissioners Court and raised many questions not only for us, but also for the residents of the municipalities who depend upon the firefighters and EMTs to protect their lives and property. Many rumors, truths and non-truths are swirling throughout the county. So, I’d like to provide an update for you on this incident which involves both the AVFD and the ESD No. 1, and is still being investigated by the FBI.
As a matter of background, the Emergency Services District No. 1 is a political subdivision of the State of Texas dedicated to providing fire protection, fire prevention education, and emergency medical services in the communities of Argyle, Bartonville, Copper Canyon, Corral City, Northlake, and unincorporated Denton County. It was created in 2006 with voter approval of the additional property tax by the residents of those municipalities. The Emergency Services District No. 1 is governed by a board of five members and is primarily funded by ad valorem taxes.
Since its creation, the Emergency Services District No. 1 has contracted for fire and services with the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc., which is governed by a three-person board.
On November 17, 2022, the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. fire chief was named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury for multiple federal violations related to misuse and theft of funds from the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. operating and firefighters’ pension funds.
Since by contract, the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. fire chief also acts as chief of the Emergency Services District No. 1, the situation also impacted the voter-approved district.
As you may know, Denton County is organized under the constitution of the State of Texas and may provide various services to its residents, including emergency and fire services. Clearly, fire service to Denton County and other municipalities is of paramount importance to us for public safety and property protection. I want to emphasize that even within this shocking scenario, fire services to the communities being served have NOT diminished!
Through contractual arrangements, the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. has remained a distinct legal entity within the broader system of Denton County Emergency Services District No. 1 in order to preserve various pre-existing financial arrangements, including maintenance of employee retirement accounts.
As a governmental entity, Denton County requires transparency regarding the expenditure of public funds to be sure they are spent in accordance with all legal requirements.
While the ESD Board is appointed by the County Commissioners, via its own bylaws, the AVFD requires that two of its three members also serve on the ESD Board. So, on December 6, 2022, the Denton County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to request swift and decisive action be taken by both boards, the Emergency Services District No. 1 and the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc., including the following:
- Complete the acquisition and transfer of the firefighter employees of the Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. to the governmental entity of the Emergency Services District No. 1. That will allow employees to benefit from a closely monitored public retirement system such as the Texas Counties and Districts Retirement System (TCDRS). The Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. has already transferred most fire stations and fire equipment to the Emergency Services District No. 1;
- Complete a forensic audit on the operations and finances of both entities;
- The Argyle Volunteer Fire District Inc. shall be dissolved as soon as feasibly possible, and that its emergency services responsibilities shall be absorbed by the Denton County Emergency Services District No. 1.
Since the ESD Board is appointed by the County Commissioners, and some of the board members were up for re-appointment on January 1, 2023, we took quick and decisive action by replacing the appointee who had been treasurer for both AVFD and ESD Boards.
We believe these steps are in the best interest of our taxpayers, those who receive fire services through the Emergency Services District No. 1 and those who provide them. By the time this article is published, additional measures to right these wrongs likely will have been taken.
Contact Commissioner Dianne Edmondson by email at [email protected] or phone her at 972-434-3960. You can also stop by her office in the Southwest Courthouse, 6200 Canyon Falls Drive, Suite 900, in Flower Mound.