- Associated Press - Saturday, February 17, 2018

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - A volunteer firefighters’ association in western South Dakota has filed a countersuit to a city’s lawsuit that alleges the association may have misused taxpayer funds.

The Spearfish Volunteer Firefighters’ Association has described the city of Spearfish’s lawsuit a month ago as a “grand misunderstanding,” the Black Hills Pioneer reported. The city’s suit questions whether the association used taxpayer money to create an endowment fund in January.

Court documents show the association contributed $1 million to establish the Spearfish Volunteer Firefighters’ Association Fund and $50,000 to create a scholarship fund through the South Dakota Community Foundation last October.

In response, the association filed a counterclaim Wednesday seeking damages for unlawful seizure and theft of property and assets by the city.

The association was formerly the Spearfish’s active volunteer fire department, and received the city’s financial support. Spearfish now provides the operational side of fire protection and the association offers public safety preparedness and education.

The association denies the claims in the city’s complaint. Its counterclaim says that the association is a separate legal entity from the city, though the city has taken “sole and exclusive possession and control of assets belonging, in whole or part, to the (association).”

Attorney Kassie McKie Shiffermiller, representing the city, said that the counterclaim was unexpected.

“The association’s new position that the Spearfish Fire Department’s use of firefighting equipment purchased with funds donated by the public amounted to theft and a violation of the association’s constitutional rights is baseless and without merit, to say the least,” she said.

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com


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