Down East official told to pay back $7,500

Posted Oct. 14, 2008, at 10:06 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6 a.m.

CHARLOTTE, Maine — The former chairman of the Washington County Emergency Medical Services Authority has been ordered to pay back $7,500 in “overpayments,” authority officials said in a statement Tuesday.

George “Bud” Finch, the city manager of Eastport, said Tuesday he believes the order resulted from a misunderstanding between himself and the board of directors of the ambulance service and that he agreed to pay the money back to resolve the matter.

The full board voted to recoup the money at an Oct. 8 meeting at the Charlotte town office.

Minutes of the meeting were not made available to the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday.

“In 2006, WCEMSA treasurer Linda S. Pagels-Wentworth reported a financial irregularity to the authority’s financial auditor,” the statement said. “A review of the recent years’ expenses revealed that $7,500 had been paid to Mr. Finch as a board of director over a period of 18 months.”

However, under the bylaws set up by the authority, the statement said, board members are not paid a salary and only preauthorized expenses may be reimbursed. “The checks, which required two signatures, had been issued directly from Mr. Finch’s Eastport office,” the statement said.

Months after Pagels-Wentworth’s report, the matter was turned over to the Maine State Police and the District Attorney’s Office.

“After months of investigation by the state police and the District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Finch has agreed to pay $7,500 restitution to allow the WCEMSA to recoup their loss,” the statement said.

District Attorney Michael Povich said Tuesday the matter “was still under investigation and negotiations.” He did not elaborate.

Downeast EMS was created about 10 years ago to provide ambulance service to multiple communities after the owner of the county’s privately run ambulance service went to prison for Medicaid and Medicare fraud.

The WCEMSA, a quasi-municipal entity, also was created about 10 years ago to oversee Downeast EMS’ ambulance operations. A resident from each of the service communities — from Danforth to Calais, Lubec, Wesley and towns in between — serves on the authority’s board of directors.

Finch along with others worked for months to keep the ambulance service operating in the county even after the private service went out of business.

Shortly after the authority was created, Finch was appointed chairman of the board.

On Tuesday, Finch, who was out-of-state on vacation, said he believed the problem stemmed from a disagreement over re-imbursement.

“I agreed that it was just easier for me to repay the money and let the ambulance authority move forward to get things accomplished. It has been going on for four years and it is time that I removed myself from the issue of the ambulance service so that the ambulance service can continue to promote and pursue the most efficient and economical services for Washington County.”

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