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A member of the Ozark Fire Protection District’s board has been fined more than $33,000 for violating Missouri ethics rules.

Last week, the Missouri Ethics Commission filed a consent order with board member William Reynolds, who agreed to pay a fee after the company he co-owns was paid $33,276 to outfit vehicles with lights, sirens and other equipment without formally seeking other bids.

State ethics rules prohibit board members from performing more than $5,000 worth of work a year for the political subdivision unless their company is the lowest bidder in a public, competitive bidding process.

The violation first came to light last year when a whistleblower contacted the Missouri State Auditor’s Office about potential wrongdoing in the bidding process.

In response to those allegations, an attorney for the board wrote in a letter that staff contacted the only two potential providers in southwest Missouri by phone to see if they planned to solicit bids.

“Both stated they would not submit a bid, and instead each of them would subcontract the lights, siren and emergency equipment installation work to NROUTE,” Todd Johnson wrote in January.

He said because the vehicles had to be taken to a shop, sending them elsewhere to Kansas City or St. Louis “was not considered a workable solution.”

“NROUTE was considered the sole source for performance of the work for these reasons, and the work was sent directly to them without prior competitive bidding,” the letter stated.

Still, the auditor’s office found the whistleblower complaint “credible” and forwarded it to the MEC for further review.

Ethics commission documents state Reynolds contended he didn’t intend to violate the rules and was unaware his actions could result in any filing with the MEC.

But last month, Reynolds signed an agreement to pay $6,604 of the more than $33,000 and follow ethics rules in the future. If he doesn’t, he’ll be on the hook for the whole fee.

When reached by phone, Reynolds referred questions about the filing to his attorney, who declined to comment on the matter.

The fire protection board, for its part, told the auditor’s office in the letter the district was revising its policy on purchasing to address the issues cited.

In a statement, Auditor Nicole Galloway said the agreement was an example of her office pursuing potential violations and working with other agencies like the MEC.

“The law is clear that public officials cannot use their position for personal enrichment,” she wrote. “When officials are serving themselves and not the people, we bring accountability.”

Katie Kull covers local government for the News-Leader. Got a story to tell? Give her a call at 417-408-1025 or email her at kkull@news-leader.com. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.

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