Community members avow support for Arbala firefighters

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

August 8, 2008 - As the community meeting regarding Arbala Volunteer Fire Department got underway Thursday evening, it soon became apparent those present had a few things on their mind.

Obviously, they wanted their questions answered regarding exactly what resulted in the volunteer fire department's secretary/treasurer being arrested for theft, as well as future implications resulting from the theft.

But the crowd of approximately 50 people from the community also rallied in support of the department.

Several community members made a point to let AVFD's other members know the community supports the firefieghters and the department. They emphasized the people of the Arbala community do not harbor any ill will toward the department, nor do they blame any of its members for what Yadira Darden is accused of doing.

The meeting was called following the arrest of AVFD secretary/treasurer Yadira Darden, 42, for theft of $69,000 from the department. The gathering was intended ot clarify what is going on and to let community members voice concerns and ask law enforcement officers questions about the case.

Law enforcement authorities ensured those present that after combing over records for a day and a half, they found no indicators that anyone else was involved in or had knowledge of the electronic thefts.

The officers also explained that the unauthorized transactions were made from only one of the department's two accounts. One, a checking account, requires two signatures to make an transfers, but the electronic transfer circumvented the need for signatures, according to the district attorney.

Sheriff's officers were presented with information of suspected illegal activity on the fire department's account on July 31. Bank and other account information was obtained Friday by sheriff's investigators, who worked into the early morning hours Saturday poring over the paperwork. After reviewing two years worth of records, investigators observed a pattern of funds being transferred from the volunteer fire department's account into a personal account belonging to the deparement's secretary/treasurer, Hopkins County Sheriff's Investigator Lewis Tatum and Texas Ranger John Vance said Monday morning.

Darden was arrested Monday morning and later arraigned on a third-degree felony theft charge. Her bond was set at $50,000.

Look for a more detailed account about the meeting in the weekend edition of the News-Telegram.

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