'Nothing to hide' says association funding Spearfish volunteer firefighters

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SPEARFISH, S.D. -

An overdue report is creating friction between the city of Spearfish and its firefighters.

In late 2016, the city asked to see the financial records of the Spearfish Volunteer Firefighter Association that funds the volunteer firefighters to ensure no city funds are being used to endow the association.

Earlier this week, the city got a court injunction to prevent the association from spending or transferring money - except normal operating expenses - until the court can determine the relationship between the city and association.

"Spearfish has - like any business  - has to be audited and has responsibility to the taxpayers that they know where their money is going," said Kassie Shiffermiller, attorney for the city of Spearfish.

Spearfish has a unique situation, with a three-person city fire department that deals with day-to-day administrative and operational needs, and an association that funds equipment needs and provides the volunteer firefighters.

The association admits it has been slow to issue the report, but says it has been working through a transition to non-profit status and has nothing to hide. City officials are hopeful that the report will answer questions and that the two sides can continue the business of protecting Spearfish residents.

"The city has alleged - as far as I can tell - two different things,” said Eric Nies, attorney for the Spearfish Volunteer Firefighter Association. “One - they've alleged there hasn't been sufficient differentiation between this deferred comp money and the general fund. We disagree with that. And we think it will be shown that those two accounts, more than two accounts, were kept strictly separate. And the city has also argued that these donations were quasi-public funds, that the city should somehow have control of them. We disagree with that, and we believe that in court, that argument will be brought out by both the facts and the law."

Nies says that an official opinion written on May 4, 1977 by then Attorney General William Janklow stated that the funds were raised by a private organization, directly to the association. That made the funds private and not subject to public oversight. Read the opinion below.

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