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Harrison Fire Department Fundraising Investigated By Westchester D.A.

Harrison firefighters, with kids by their sides, marched in the Mount Kisco Fire Department's parade in July. Fundraising accounts at the downtown Harrison Fire Department are being examined by the Westchester County District Attorney.
Harrison firefighters, with kids by their sides, marched in the Mount Kisco Fire Department's parade in July. Fundraising accounts at the downtown Harrison Fire Department are being examined by the Westchester County District Attorney. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

HARRISON, N.Y. -- The downtown Harrison Fire District is under investigation by the Westchester County District Attorney's office after a complaint about possible misspending from a volunteer fundraising account, officials from the Town of Harrison and D.A.'s office confirmed on Wednesday.

News of the criminal probe was first reported by The Journal News/LoHud.com, in an article that can be accessed by clicking here.

Harrison officials confirmed on Wednesday that William Powell -- the fire department's former treasurer -- was removed by fellow volunteer members in May after a meeting with elected wardens of the department. The wardens reportedly asked the county District Attorney and Harrison police to investigate the downtown fire house's financial records.

Robert Wolf, a spokesman for the District Attorney's office confirmed the investigation, but said he could not release any details. The D.A.’s Public Integrity Division is interviewing department members, according to LoHud.com.

Powell is well known in Harrison and along the Sound Shore as the owner of Powell Catering and Halstead Avenue Beer Garden, formerly known as Powell’s Clam Bar. Powell's catering jobs extended to other well-known clients such as the Rye Golf Club.

Financial accounts under investigation include money raised through volunteer firefighters' membership dues and donations from public fundraising events such as car washes and by letters of appeal, according to Harrison town officials.

A Harrison official stressed that no village taxpayer money -- which is collected for Fire District 2 -- was co-mingled with the money under investigation. The Town of Harrison's other two fire districts cover Purchase and West Harrison: They also are not being scrutinized by the county D.A., officials said.

The downtown Harrison Fire Department, located on Harrison Avenue in the village, has more than 50 volunteers. Its fire house is staffed by 12 full-time firefighters who are paid via the town-village budget. Harrison's comptroller and mayor-supervisor have oversight over the tax-funded portion of the fire department budget, officials said.

The downtown Harrison Fire Department automatically lost its nonprofit 501(c)(3) status three years ago because it didn’t file required tax forms for three consecutive years. Its most recent filing was in 2009, according to the state Attorney General's Charities Division. After losing its nonprofit status, donations to the volunteer department were no longer tax deductible, officials said.

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