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DuBois organizations announce alternative event after fire department cancels Community Days

 A photo of an information stand in DuBois

Six organizations in DuBois are working on an alternative to a popular annual event that brings in thousands of people. The DuBois Volunteer Fire Department, which usually hosts the Community Days and Fireman’s Parade, says the event will not happen this year.

In a Facebook post, the fire department said there is not enough time to organize or enough donations. It’s usually funded with taxpayer dollars and private donations.

Community Days is under scrutiny because of its connections to former city manager Herm Suplizio. He’s accused of stealing more than $600,000 in city funds, including from the Community Days event.

Six local organizations are working to offer the new event to fill the gap. The six organizations are Downtown DuBois, Turnabout Boxing, Invictus, NAFCo, and the Greater DuBois Chamber of Commerce, and DuBoisLIVE.

Shawn Lesky is the founder and editor of DuBoisLIVE, which is a news site covering the city and the region. He said they got a tip a day before the announcement that Community Days would be canceled.

“And that's when I started making phone calls to various politicians from the county level, to the local level, to the state representative [and] to the state senator in this jurisdiction,” Lesky said.

Lesky said the support from lawmakers and the community has been overwhelmingly positive since he started organizing the new event, which hasn’t been named yet. It will take place June 14 and 15, the same dates that Community Days would have been held.

Lesky said he and other organizers for this new event are open to cooperation with the volunteer fire department, which Suplizio also once led.

“We believe, overwhelmingly, that the fire department is an organization that we can and should be proud of, whether or not there has ever been a couple bad apples in the bunch,” Lesky said. “You know, that doesn't necessarily mean the organization itself should suffer so much harm to its reputation because of the acts of a few or or even just one.”

The DuBois Volunteer Fire Department said it will reassess next year and hopes to host Community Days again in the future.

Lesky said many community members are worried about funding transparency ever since the start of the investigation into Herm Suplizio. Lesky said the six organizations reached out to the City of DuBois to handle the funds since it has an automatic transparency policy.

“That would have been our plan A, however, there's a hesitancy from the city [that] had never managed it before. So [the city] didn't necessarily want to take it on for the first time with a fledgling group that had never produced an event like this before,” Lesky said.

The six organizations planning the alternative Community Days event are considering going to a third party accounting firm to manage the funds. Lesky said they are waiting to hear back for approval from those board members.

This event will take place on Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15. Lesky said it could extend into Sunday, June 16 if they get certain approvals.

Sydney Roach is a reporter and host for WPSU with a passion for radio and community stories.