GREEN RIVER — Former Fire Chief Michael Nomis changed his plea Tuesday afternoon to guilty of embezzling funds from the Green River Fire Department Foundation.
Originally, Nomis pleaded not guilty to felony theft and wrongful appropriation of public property at his arraignment May 21 in Sweetwater County 3rd District Court. Nomis decided to change his plea despite the lack of a plea agreement in the case. Nomis entered his pleas before Judge Suzannah G. Robinson via video conference Tuesday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sentencing will be at a later date, and bond was continued at $15,000 cash or surety.
Nomis told Judge Robinson that between Feb. 4 and Dec. 23, 2019, he used money that belonged to the Green River Fire Department for personal use in an amount more than $1,000. Some of the items he mentioned buying included fuel, lunches and tools. He also admitted to wrongfully possessing and converting public property for personal use. Nomis was emotional throughout the hearing and had difficulty speaking at times. He said that he is a lifelong resident of Green River and worked as a firefighter, sergeant and lieutenant with the fire department before becoming fire chief.
Sweetwater County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Nomis and his wife, Stephanie Nomis, on March 2, assisted by special agents from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s Southwest Enforcement Team. Michael Nomis was chief of the Green River Fire Department at the time.
In Wyoming, theft of $1,000 or more is a felony punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine; and wrongful appropriation of public property is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.
Stephanie Nomis pleaded not guilty to felony theft in the case of the funds missing from the Green River Fire Department Foundation during her arraignment in June. Her trial is scheduled for Oct. 5, 2020.
ABOUT THE FOUNDATION
The GRFD Foundation was established to supplement the budget provided to the fire department from the city, according to a press release issued in March. The foundation fund includes three separate bank accounts designated for different purposes such as equipment, victim services, etc.
Each of the accounts holds money that is donated by local community organizations and businesses until it is needed by the fire department. The GRFD Foundation also has a social fund that is subsidized directly from the paychecks of the department’s volunteer firefighters. Any expenditure from the four accounts is strictly regulated by both foundation and city bylaws.