On Friday, Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards sentenced former Grays Harbor Fire District #5 Fire Chief Danny “Dan” Prater for the theft of funds from the district while he was still in the lead role.
In April of 2019, Prater was placed on administrative leave and subsequently terminated from his role of Fire Chief after it was discovered that he had used public funds for personal use, as well as issued himself Vacation Leave pay beyond the amounts he had earned.
An internal investigation into the theft discovered approximately $150,000 in public funds were illegally used by Prater.
Following his exit, Battalion Chief Adam Fulbright was named as Fire Chief.
At the Friday Superior Court sentencing hearing over Zoom, the prosecutor requested a 4-year state prison term and additional restitution, beyond the total amount taken, as stated during the court proceedings. Judge Edwards spoke on that recommendation, stating that he did not feel it aligned with the charges and those penalties were more suited to a violent crime. Judge Edwards did state that since Prater had been in a position of public trust when the thefts occurred, it made the accusations more egregious.
Judge Edwards added that if anyone watching the case was anticipating a term in prison as punishment, or a sentence that exceeded beyond what would come for a violent crime, he was not going to impose that. He would, however, issue a sentence that fit the crime.
“He has committed what has been characterized, by the law, as a major economic offense. And he did so while in a position of, and abusing his position, of trust. And that makes this case more serious than almost any other type of theft case, and the punishment has to fit the crime.”
In his sentencing, Judge Edwards addressed the charge of Theft in the 1st Degree and stated that despite immediate restitution for the over $150,000 being immediately available he was sentencing Prater to a term of 6-months within Grays Harbor County Jail. This was described as being double the recommended 90-days due to the trust that was violated because of the position held by Prater at the time of the crime.
Since the discovery of the theft of funds, local voters overwhelmingly approved combining the fire/EMS services of Grays Harbor Fire District #5 and the City of Elma, with over 80% approval for a merger into the now named “East Grays Harbor Fire and Rescue” with Fulbright remaining in the role of Fire Chief.