Former fire chief arrested, accused of bilking thousands from department

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MARION – The former chief of the Marion Fire Department faces a series of criminal charges related to abuse of power and undue financial gain from his position.

According to Grant County prosecutors, Stephen Gorrell faces 14 felony counts, including theft, forgery, official misconduct and corrupt business influence. Prosecutors accuse Gorrell of committing the acts between 2006 and 2011 during his time as fire chief. He was arrested Thursday.

In the probable cause affidavit, several former and current members of the fire department were interviewed along with civilian employees. Gorrell is accused of abusing the department’s vacation payback policy, misusing department property for personal reasons and accepting pay for training for which he was not eligible.

According to court documents, the department allows workers to sell back five unused vacation days and one sick day per year. However, department records show that Gorrell sold back 12 vacation days and a sick day in 2010, resulting in nearly $1,300 in extra pay. In the following year, those records show Gorrell sold back ten vacation days and one sick day, resulting in nearly $950 in extra pay.

Gorrell also benefited by accepting money for training even though he wasn’t eligible for it, court documents said. Between 2006 and 2011, Gorrell earned $5,400 for Dive Team Specialty pay. In order to get that money, a person has to conduct six dives per year. Records show that Gorrell made a single documented dive in 2008.

Department records show Gorrell earned $1,350 for CPR specialty pay in 2006, 2007 and 2011. He wasn’t entitled to that money because he didn’t have a valid CPR instructor card in those years. Gorrell earned an additional $1,750 for Instructor I specialty pay from 2007 through 2011 even though his required certification lapsed in July 2006, records show.

In another case, court documents said a commercial-grade freezer and a commercial-grade refrigerator were donated to the Marion Fire Department. When Gorrell discovered the appliances were too large for a firehouse, they ended up in his home. A fire department employee told investigators that he had personally seen the refrigerator in Gorrell’s garage.

When the department bought 25 sets of lights, only 20 were installed at Fire Station Number One. The rest were supposed to go in the station’s locker area; instead, an employee said Gorrell installed those lights in his own barn. He’s also accused of keeping a department-owned trailer for an extended period of time so he could use it to haul wood.

In September 2011, Gorrell and several members of the department went on a rafting trip unrelated to department activities. During that trip, a $264 meal at Lone Star steakhouse in Beckley, W. Va., was charged to the department. Gorrell told firefighters the meal was for “going above and beyond” for the department.

Another firefighter said Gorrell told him to file a blank reimbursement form to get the money back. Forgery was suspected, and that firefighter was suspended without pay, reduced in rank and forced to reimburse the city. When the claim was submitted, a “suspicious” supporting document was discovered that was traced back to Gorrell’s computer at the department. The rafting trip and meal were not part of any authorized department activity, according to the current fire chief.

Gorrell retired from the department in 2012. The accusations against him were part of an investigation by the Indiana State Police.

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