The Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s Office, Charitable Trusts & Organizations Section, filed a petition November 20, 2013 in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas against the Independence Fire & Rescue Company No. 1, a nonprofit organization for a rule to show cause why their charter should not be revoked and its assets distributed to appropriate successors.
The Independence Fire & Rescue Company No. 1 is the successor to the former Rice Township Volunteer Fire Department. An amendment was adopted by the current board of directors on July 26, 2013 and signed by Firechief Kevin Tombasco, adopting a new name for the corporation: Independence Fire & Rescue Company No. 1. with its principal place of operation in Luzerne County at 40 Willowby St, Mountain Top, PA 18707.
The Pennsylvania State Office of the Attorney General was notified on July 29, 2013 by Miller Stella, Jr. Chairman of the Rice Township Board of Supervisors that they had decertified for Rice Township Volunteer Fire Company for fire service to the township on June 25, 2013. A copy of the decertification ordinance was attached with the letter to the Attorney General’s office.
The Rice Volunteer Fire Company was registered as a non-profit corporation in Pennsylvania on March 7, 1955. Raymond Powell, Clarence Pheonix, Harold Richards, James B. Schwartz, Hayden Ferrance, Thadius Wayhinmeyer, Albert Williams, Charles Eddinger, Stephan Swantko, Joseph Jeckell and Harry Henry signed the application.
The Attorney General’s petition references several facts relative to the dissolution of the fire company: The fire company’s primary mission is “creating a unified fire defense for the protection of the lives and Property of Rice Township” and the respondent lost its first due or primary response territory on or about June 25, 2013; Rice Township does not intend to recertify the Respondent at any future time; As a charitable nonprofit volunteer fire company; respondent’s assets were obtained through grants and funding from the public for the purposes of enabling it to fulfill its charitable purpose; The respondent has not been fulfilling its charitable purpose and has continued to raise funds through various methods by sending out a solicitation for funds to the township residents and holding a spaghetti dinner on August 17, 2013 on the Fire Department grounds.
Under Pennsylvania Law, a charitable trust is subject to the parens patriae power of the Commonwealth and subject to the supervision and inspection of the Attorney General, who must protect the interests of the public at large. The petition states the non-profit corporation shall keep minutes of the proceedings of the members and to account for all funds received and expended for the period of January 1, 2013 to the present including surcharge of any wasted or mismanaged assets that may be indicated.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General may institute proceedings to revoke the articles and franchises of a corporation if it misused or failed to use its powers, privileges or franchises. The court shall have power to wind up the affairs of and to dissolve the corporation in the matter . . . provided by law. The petition concludes with a request that the assets be disposed of.