The Golden Valley Fire District (GVFD) Board has censured board member Steve Robinson and stripped him of signature authority involving district checks and bank accounts. The Board’s February 18 censure vote was based on a conclusion that Robinson violated district reimbursement protocol. The questioned reimbursement involved a total of $65.19 for Robinson’s purchase of napkins, donuts and cookies for a political forum the district hosted last fall. Part of the total involved gas mileage reimbursement that Robinson claimed for driving around Golden Valley posting flyers inviting the public to the voter information event. Board member Mark Vanik proposed the censure maintaining that Bill Whittington, the district’s primary legal counsel, previously instructed the board that no district funds could be expended for the forum. Robinson racked up the mileage and bought the treats anyway and submitted a claim for reimbursement late last year. Administrative Assistant Karen Christensen said she informed Robinson it “wasn’t best practice for a board member to sign his own check” when Robinson first asked her for reimbursement. She said it was a day or two later, December 24, when Vanik accidentally or mistakenly signed the Robinson check. Vanik explained he was reviewing claims and signing checks in assembly line fashion and that he signed the Robinson check because he was accustomed to approving Robinson’s mileage claims. Vanik said he regrets not remembering that Whittington had said no district funds could be spent on the forum. Vanik explained that district policy requires a second board member signature before a check is valid. Christensen said Gorham spotted and questioned the forum expense claim when he was signing checks on December 29. Gorham said he told Robinson the claim was improper and that he refused to sign the check. Christensen said Robinson visited the district office the next day, used an invective in reference to Gorham and asked her for the check. Robinson subsequently signed and cashed the check. Former GVFD Chairman Curt Hardy lodged a complaint with the district through a letter that was read into the record during the board’s January 21 meeting. “Chairman Gorham refused to sign a check in the amount of $65.19 for reimbursement to Director Robinson. Director Robinson had a check made out to himself and then SIGNED the unapproved expenditure,” Hardy’s letter stated. “It is my opinion this is misappropriation of district funds by Director Robinson.” The board took no action on Hardy’s complaint in January and the matter was revisited through the February 18 board approved censure resolution. “Board member Robinson had a check cut by the District to him and signed the check himself, in violation of acceptable financial oversight and best practice standards,” the resolution stated. “The Governing Board of the Golden Valley Fire District does hereby issue an order of censure against Board member Robinson for violating District reimbursement protocol…Board member Robinson is hereby removed as a signer on all District bank accounts.” Prior to the censure vote, Robinson, who did not attend the meeting but participated by telephone, asked if he could pose a question to attorney Whittington. Robinson was rebuffed when Whittington said he would not give legal advice in public. After the Board approved the censure resolution, Robinson complained he did not get to explain or defend himself with respect to the reimbursement scenario. “I was not given a chance to address the issues,” Robinson said, further stating that the matter had not been portrayed accurately. “I just resent bold-faced lies and false accusations.” Chairman Gorham cut Robinson off. “We’re moving on Steve,” Gorham said. “Steve, you can rant in person.” Christensen said Robinson used a money order to reimburse the district for the $65.19 on January 28, roughly three weeks before the censure vote.
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