Opening statements delivered in former NACFD chief’s trial
KINGMAN – The trial of Wayne Eder, who is charged with misuse of public funds and conflict of interest in relation to approximately $1,300 worth of maintenance performed on a Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District firetruck, began with opening statements Tuesday.
The case focuses on a $1,300 fire engine repair at a shop owned by former board member Vic Riccardi, who was on the board at the time of the alleged crimes.
Prosecutor James Schoppmann told the jury that about five days before the firetruck maintenance took place, the NACFD board of directors voted 3-2 to have board members Jim Bailey and Mike Collins sit on the selection committee for the process of hiring a new fire chief for the district. Riccardi, Schoppmann said, was the swing vote. Then, five days later, Riccardi’s shop submitted an invoice for around $1,357.
Schoppmann said the work wasn’t put out to bid as was required, and also said the jury would hear from a Ford mechanic who received the firetruck about a month after Riccardi’s shop worked on it. The prosecutor said that mechanic had to fix the issue that was reportedly fixed by Riccardi’s shop, and that the work costed about $500.
Schoppmann said the conflict of interest charge comes from Eder “aiding and supplying” the work to Riccardi. The misuse of public funds, he said, more directly applies to Eder as a steward of public monies.
“Mr. Eder, the defendant, should not have tried to grease the skids, if you will, with a sitting board member without following proper law and procedure,” Schoppmann said. “And it shouldn’t have cost so much.”
Lee Novak, Eder’s attorney, gave the defense’s take on the case. Novak said when Eder was interim chief, there were board members who “did anything but support him.” Upon becoming interim chief, Novak said Eder was taking inventory of the district’s equipment when he found a collection of firetrucks in a state of disrepair. What the issue boils down to, Novak said, is that Eder wanted to fix a firetruck that was detailed specifically for brush fires.
“Wayne Eder didn’t try to hide anything because he had no criminal intent,” Novak said speaking to how the $1,357 check was easily accessed by the board.
He also said that Riccardi, who designed the engine in question, was in the process of selling his shop at the time of the alleged crimes and that he may not have even been the owner.
While Novak said the charge of conflict of interest will depend on the facts of the case, he believes the charge of misuse of public funds does not apply to the case because the funds were used to fix a fire engine.
Eder’s trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 10 in the court of Judge Rick Lambert.