Mass. Chief Suspected of Stealing from Firefighters' Relief Fund
MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Mass.
A Channel 5 Investigates report found $60,000 missing from the Hudson Firefighters Relief Association Fund and firefighters suspect that retired Chief John Blood is the culprit.
The Channel 5 report that aired Wednesday cited a police report that referenced missing money from the firefighters' relief fund and a separate investigation over credit card purchases made by Blood—who was placed on administrative leave in March and later retired—and charged to the town.
WCVB—the Daily News' media partner—found that Blood was treasurer of the Hudson Firefighters Relief Association, which provides money to firefighters and their families in times of need, since 1998 and was the only person with access to that money. In 2001, there was more than $60,000 in the fund, but over the years the account was drained and members told Channel 5 they don't know where it went.
In a statement released Thursday, Hudson Executive Assistant Thomas Moses said the $60,000 theft alleged in the Channel 5 report "has nothing to do with the Town of Hudson."
"The firefighter benevolent bank account was not set up, maintained or controlled by the Town of Hudson," the statement reads. "The town has no way of knowing what that account was used for, and was never entitled to receive its statements, nor empowered to audit it. No taxpayer funds ever flowed through that account. The Town of Hudson supports its firefighters and their efforts to achieve justice."
Hudson police referred the case to the state Attorney General's Office, but a Hudson police report revealed "the funds were drained by December 2010." A prosecutor's note referenced in the report that "there is no way to charge John Blood with the thefts" because of the statute of limitations, according to Channel 5.
"It is the Town's understanding that the statue of limitations, as reported on Channel 5, relates specifically to the alleged theft from the benevolent fund and not to any other event," the town statement reads.
Blood has not been charged, according to the Middlesex County District Attorney's office, but firefighters told Channel 5 they believe he took the money.
"The fire service is unique when compared to the rest of public organizations," according to a statement posted on the Hudson Firefighters Local 1713 Facebook page. "We are family. We spend more time with one another than our families. For a small example, we spend Christmas and Thanksgivings with each other, we are godparents to our co-workers' kids and we call each other 'brother and sister.' We have an inherently dangerous job that we do with a smile on our face knowing that our 'brothers and sisters' are right next to us while helping people in need facing these dangers. We trust each other unconditionally. This only scratches the surface of the pride a firefighter feels every day. Sadly, a person who was sworn to lead us violated this sacred trust. Our members feel categorically angry and betrayed."
Blood declined to comment in the Channel 5 report. Attempts to reach him Thursday were unsuccessful.
WCVB-Channel 5 requested credit card receipts and found dozens of unusual items—such as camping gear and white cabinets—that firefighters told Channel 5 were purchased for the department, but have not been seen in either of the town's two firehouses.
According to the town statement, Blood was at no time issued a Town of Hudson credit card. The town has extensive financial controls in place, including having outside auditors regularly examine the town's financial statement and operations.
"Hudson thoroughly investigates any and all irregularities when warranted and takes appropriate action to protect the assets of the town," the statement reads. "Furthermore, town leadership discusses any issues that do arise and seeks and receives legal advice on such matters. The town is committed to work with both internal and external law enforcement agencies to understand and prosecute crimes when they occur."
Blood receives an annual pension of $85,000, according to the Channel 5 report.
"There have been several social media posts regarding retired Chief Blood's entitlement to his pension," according to the town. "That decision is not the town's to make."
The town referred residents to contact the Public Employee Retirement Administration for more information on how personal or professional conduct may affect entitlement to a Massachusetts public pension.
The firefighters union ensured the community in its statement that these issues do not reflect the service that its members will provide to citizens and thanked the community for its support.