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The Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority will hire a Charleston accounting firm to conduct an audit after an employee alleged the misuse of funds.

The ambulance authority’s board of directors on Wednesday voted to hire Arnett Carbis Toothman to audit the agency’s previous two fiscal years.

The investigation comes after an employee alleged the misuse of an “employee appreciation fund,” which employees contribute to in order to pay for staff parties and events.

The state Auditor’s Office has also opened an investigation into the allegation.

Steve Connolly, director of the Auditor’s Office Public Integrity and Fraud Unit, said last week the investigation would focus on the agency’s general fund and payroll.

“In this case there’s not a segregated fund called the employee fund,” Connolly said. “It is a line within the general fund. So there’s no way that we can just pull this one bank account relating to the employee fund, because it is an integrated account with an accounting line for that expenditure.

“So what we have to do is look at all the general fund and all the payroll fund... it’s kind of a holistic thing.”

With an $8 million budget and $25 million in assets, the ambulance authority is larger than some of the counties the Auditor’s Office investigates, Connolly said. The agency is cooperating with the investigation, he added.

“I really want to emphasize that as soon as we communicated with the board and their counsel about the concern and the allegations, they were an open book,” Connolly said.

Also Wednesday, the board voted to hire Monica Mason as executive director.

Mason was previously the deputy director and chief of medical services for the ambulance authority.

“I’m super excited to be the executive director of Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority and I look forward to our continued support to the citizens of Kanawha County and our day-to-day business that we have at KCEAA,” Mason said after the meeting.

Mason replaces Joe Lynch, who retired earlier this month after 42 years with the agency.

John Rutherford, board member and Kanawha Metro 911 director, recognized Lynch for his time with the agency.

Rutherford said Lynch worked his way up from emergency medical technician to director. Among his accomplishments were opening a medical clinic to serve county employees, and leading the charge to start a retirement system for paramedics and emergency medical technicians in the county.

“If any one of us are half the person Joe Lynch is, we will have a good life,” Rutherford said. “In closing, I want to say there should be a parade around this building today celebrating what Joe Lynch has done for this county. Once this audit is over, I hope we can all do that.”

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