Fight Over Fundraising Arm is Latest Twist in Egg Harbor Fire Department Squabble

New board of directors issues life support to dissolved organization

The charitable arm of the Egg Harbor Fire Department – the Egg Harbor Firefighters Association, Inc. – is not actively fundraising right now due to COVID-19, but the organization is alive.

That status seemed questionable in late January, according to a press release issued by Andy Staats, chief of the Egg Harbor Fire Department. The release, still posted on the department’s website, said the association had been dissolved in May 2017, as conveyed in a Jan. 25 letter from attorney Randy Nesbitt. 

The association had a December 2020 fund balance of $52,821.83. Since its 2014 inception, it has raised tens of thousands of dollars to equip the fire department and rescue personnel with the tools they need: defibrillators for all the engines and trucks, electronic jaws and spreaders that free emergency responders from connection to a truck’s hydraulic line, a rescue truck retrofitted into a giant tool box full of rescue tools, and the new Chevy Tahoe that’s currently used by the fire chief.

But even though active fundraising, meetings and equipment purchases were all in operation, the association had apparently flatlined years ago without anyone knowing about it locally.

Following Nesbitt’s advice in the Jan. 25 letter, Staats’ press release indicated that the association’s funds would transfer to the Town of Egg Harbor for the fire department’s use. Meanwhile, the release stated, the officers within the Egg Harbor Fire Department would refile with the state to become reinstated.

But the association had already been reinstated. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions issued a Certificate of Good Standing, effective Jan. 29, 2021, that officially put the association back in business. 

The reinstatement happened through the association’s five-member board of directors, which is now led by a new president, Dan Kiehnau; and a new vice president, Terry Havel. Kiehnau is the former Egg Harbor firefighter who had taken a leave of absence with others over the appointment last July of Staats as fire chief. Staats later fired Kiehnau and his son, Dustin. Havel retired from the department after being disciplined by Staats for also requesting a leave of absence over Staats’ appointment. 

Yet both Dan Kiehnau and Havel had remained on the association’s board – Kiehnau as vice president and Havel as a member. On Jan. 12, 2021, they were elected to lead the association. The remaining board members are Justin MacDonald, an officer in the Egg Harbor Fire Department who serves as the association’s secretary; Egg Harbor EMS member April Moeller, who serves as its treasurer; and Egg Harbor firefighter Bobby Mueller, who was newly elected to fill out the five-member board. 

Former Fire Chief Steve Schopf had been the association’s president since the charitable organization began in 2014. Schopf tendered his resignation letter during the association’s annual meeting Dec. 8, 2020, effective when a new president was elected. 

According to the chronology of events as recorded by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, the association is considered a charitable nonstock corporation that’s required, by state statute, to file an annual report with the state. In January 2016, two years after incorporating, the association became delinquent. A year later, the state recorded that it had sent notices of administrative dissolution to the registered agent, listed as Steve Schopf, in January 2017 and again in March 2017. The official dissolution took place in May 2017.

Yet no one locally seemed to know the association had been dissolved until later in January 2021. Staats’ Jan. 26 press release did not indicate why the association had been dissolved or who was responsible. 

And Schopf said Monday that he didn’t learn about the association’s dissolution until he was looking into the bylaws for something else. He said it was “still unclear” to him why it was dissolved. When asked whether he had filed annual reports with the state, he said Kiehnau was supposed to have handled that.

“He was taking care of it, doing everything every year with his accountant,” Schopf said.

Kiehnau said he was responsible for filing the association’s federal 990-N – a form used by small, tax-exempt organizations for annual reporting – and that his accountant filed that form every year on behalf of the association. 

“It was only resolved at the state level because the federal [portion] was never dissolved because we kept it up,” Kiehnau said.

But Kiehnau said he didn’t know about the state requirements, and if notices were sent to Schopf, as the registered agent, Schopf never passed those along.

When the association’s board members learned about the dissolution after the Jan. 12 meeting, Kiehnau said they were “flabbergasted.” To rectify the situation, they contacted the state, filled out the paperwork, paid the back fee and filing costs totaling $115, and got the association reinstated. The Certificate of Good Standing arrived last week, with a Jan. 29, 2021, effective date.

Now that the organization has been reinstated with Kiehnau as president, he’s listed as the association’s registered agent. 

“Now all the paperwork should come to me, and there’s no reason for it to be dissolved in the future,” Kiehnau said.

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