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Spearfish sues volunteer firefighter association

SPEARFISH (AP) — A city in western South Dakota has sued the community's volunteer firefighter association amid questions over whether taxpayer money has been misused.

The city of Spearfish filed the lawsuit Monday after learning that the Spearfish Volunteer Firefighters' Association transferred $1 million to create an endowment fund, the Black Hills Pioneer reported. City officials question whether the transfer contains taxpayer funds.

Fourth Judicial Court Judge Eric Strawn issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday. The order limits how the association can spend money until a court decision is made.

The association said no taxpayer funds were included in the transfer. It said proceeds from the endowment fund would be used for fire protection and public safety services, training, victim assistance and scholarships.

The association is no longer an active volunteer fire department. It provides public safety preparedness and education to the area. The city provides the operational side of fire protection.

The association receives financial support through entities within the Spearfish Fire District, including the city. It also seeks donations from the public.

City Attorney Eric Davis said the association refused requests to provide an audit of the funds. Davis said that taxpayer money that's used for unauthorized purposes would create "irreparable harm" to the city.

Eric Nies, who represents the association, said it understands it owes the city some financial information. Nies said the information in question would likely be provided by the end of the month.

The association has 30 days after the lawsuit was filed to answer the service of the complaint.