Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

State Probes Loan to Official ; Boone Ambulance Director Got $103,000 to Enhance Retirement; He Says He'll Pay Back

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

State Probes Loan to Official ; Boone Ambulance Director Got $103,000 to Enhance Retirement; He Says He'll Pay Back

Article excerpt

Boone County Ambulance Authority Director Randy Lengyel secured an illegal $103,000 personal loan from the agency and used the money to enhance his retirement benefits, according to a letter that summarizes a state investigation. Boone Prosecuting Attorney D. Keith Randolph has directed Lengyel to pay back the no-interest loan in full by Sept. 30 - or face possible ethics charges.

In an interview with the Gazette-Mail this week, Lengyel said he would reimburse the ambulance authority immediately.

"I'm paying it back now - in full, Lengyel said. "Everything's going to be taken care of. It will all be paid back, and there won't be an issue."

The state Legislature's Commission on Special Investigations started investigating Lengyel in May, directing the Boone Ambulance Authority to turn over bank statements, meeting minutes and loan documents, according to a letter obtained by the Gazette-Mail.

In September 2013, Lengyel persuaded ambulance authority board members to loan him $103,000 so he could switch from the West Virginia state employees retirement plan to a more lucrative plan set up for emergency medical service workers. Under the loan's terms - which the board never voted on - Lengyel agreed to pay off the no- interest loan in monthly installments of $350 after he retired.

Under state law, the ambulance board had no legal authority to make a personal loan - "let alone a personal loan to an employee, according to a letter sent by the Boone Prosecuting Attorneys Office to Lengyel on July 31.

In 2012, Lengyel asked then-Delegate Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln, to introduce legislation that would allow ambulance directors across the state to bolster their retirement benefits, Stowers confirmed this week.

The bill gave a one-year window for directors to switch from the Public Employees Retirement System to the Emergency Medical Services Retirement System. The EMS plan comes with significantly higher monthly retirement payments. EMS plan recipients also can retire and start collecting payments 10 years earlier than state employees.

"Randy approached me about wanting to buy into the EMS retirement system," Stowers recalled earlier this week. …

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