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Mizpah fire chief, firefighter charged with conspiracy and theft
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Mizpah fire chief, firefighter charged with conspiracy and theft

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Jay Davenport II and Craig Paxton

Jay Davenport II, left, and Craig Paxton of the Mizpah Volunteer Fire Company were charged with official misconduct, conspiracy and theft.

MAYS LANDING — The chief of the Mizpah Volunteer Fire Company and another member have been charged with official misconduct, conspiracy and theft, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said Thursday.

Chief Jay Davenport II and Craig Paxton, both 38, were processed and released on summonses, according to a news release from the Prosecutor’s Office.

The investigation of fire company members is connected to allegations of the creation of one or more unauthorized accounts at NAPA Auto Parts, using the fire company’s funds and tax-exempt status, authorities said.

Members of the prosecutor’s Office of Professional Standards and Accountability and the Hamilton Township Police Department executed a search and seizure warrant Tuesday at the fire company, according to the release. Davenport and Paxton were charged after the warrant was executed.

Their first appearance in Atlantic County Superior Court is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 28. Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer represents the state.

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Officials first announced the closing of the fire company Tuesday morning, citing a criminal investigation.

The Press of Atlantic City submitted an Open Public Records Act Request to the township for Mizpah’s bank statements and bills. However, the township does not keep records of the company’s day-to-day expenses or bank statements, according to a township official responding to the request.

Tuesday evening, the Township Committee decided to launch its own investigation into the company’s financial operations and physical inventory.

During the committee meeting, the governing body voted to temporarily seize and secure township-owned vehicles, equipment and supplies, cease immediately all funding of the company and freeze all financial assets.

The committee also decided to have township police Chief Greg Ciambrone coordinate with other local fire companies and mutual-aid departments to continue to provide fire services to the Mizpah section of the township. It also directed Township Administrator Arch Liston to coordinate an investigation of the financial operations and physical inventory of the company with the Prosecutor’s Office, the Police Department and any other agencies as needed.

The township provides funding for five independent volunteer fire companies, including Mizpah, which provide fire and emergency services to the community.

Officials have said there will not be an interruption in service for residents during the time Mizpah is closed, citing the proximity of nearby fire companies. They also said they intend to keep the Mizpah firehouse as a polling station on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Contact: 609-272-7241

mbilinski@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

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Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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