DRAFT ~ SFD PUBLIC BOARD BUSINESS MEETING MINUTES
Station #1 – 2860 Southwest Drive – West Sedona – Multipurpose Room, Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @ 5:30 PM
Executive Session – and – 6:00 PM Business Meeting
I. CALL TO ORDER/ROLL CALL.
Board Present: David Blauert – Chairman; Charles Christensen – Clerk; Craig Dible, Phyllis Erick, and Ty Montgomery – Members
Terry Keller, Interim Fire Chief
Gary Johnson, Fire Marshal
Karen Daines, Business Director
Sandi Schmidt, Finance Manager
On and Off –Duty SFD Personnel
Kris Kazian, Fire Chief Appointee (Telephonically)
Tricia Greer, Recording Clerk
Patrick Whitehurst, Sedona Red Rock News
Approximately 20 Members of the Public
II. EXECUTIVE SESSION – 5:30 PM.
A. Vote to go into Executive Session Pursuant to ARS 38-431.03(A)(3), Legal Advice; and (A)(4) Consultation/Instructions to Attorney – Re: Completion of Fire Chief Contract.
Chairman Blauert opened the meeting and entertained a motion for Executive Session pursuant to ARS 38-431.03(A)(3) and (A)(4); Mr. Christensen so moved, Mrs. Erick Seconded, and the motion passed at 5 to 0. The Executive Session then adjourned at 5:50 PM.
III. PUBLIC SESSION – 6:00 PM
A. Salute to the Flag of the United States of America and Moment of Silence to Honor American Men and Women in Service, Firefighters, and Police Officers.
Board Clerk Christensen led the Pledge of Allegiance and Moment of Silence.
B. Discussion/Possible Action: Contract for new Fire Chief.
Mr. Blauert announced Fire Chief Appointee Kris Kazian is participating in this meeting via telephone from Illinois.
He entertained a motion from the floor regarding approval of the employment contract for the new Chief; Mr. Dible so moved; Mrs. Erick seconded; Mrs. Erick commented the cell phone stipend originally listed in the contract was at $125, as mirrored in previous-Fire Chief Nazih Hazime’s contract, but the Board subsequently reduced the amount to $75 per month. Mr. Blauert asked her if she would like to amend the motion on the contract; Mrs. Erick then amended the motion to approve the contract with the stipulation of changing the cell phone stipend from $125 to $75 per month; Mr. Dible indicated he would accept that change to the motion. Mr. Blauert asked Chief Kazian if he understood the motion and Chief Kazian agreed and said he would be fine with accepting the amount; Mr. Dible provided a second to the previous motion. Mr. Blauert clarified there was a motion made to accept the contract with a second by Mrs. Erick, which was amended to include the change in stipend amount moved by Mrs. Erick and seconded by Mr. Dible. Upon calling for the vote, the contract, as amended, was unanimously approved.
Chief Kazian thanked the Board.
IV. CONSENT AGENDA.
A. January 25, 2012 Business Meeting Minutes (With correction on page 16 as noted by Board Member Craig Dible).
B. January 25, 2012 Executive Session Minutes.
Mr. Blauert entertained a motion to approve the Minutes from the January 25, 2012 SFD Business meeting, as corrected, and the January 25, 2012 Executive Session Minutes; Mr. Christensen so moved, Mrs. Erick seconded, and the motion was unanimously approved.
V. PUBLIC FORUM.
Fire Marshal Johnson introduced the following individuals who wished to address the Board:
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Dave Norton, Village of Oak Creek: Good evening, members of the Board and the public here…My comment here this evening is to assure you of two things. There was a cartoon posted on the Internet that some of you may be aware of; it is a video cartoon and the comments underneath that disparage me by name directly. I will assure you of two things: A – I didn‘t create it as the comments claim I did, neither did I create the other website that they attribute to me. I don‘t have an account on that site on the website. I don‘t know how to do that stuff and any comments that I make about the fire district or questions that I ask of the fire district are asked right here, so you know who it is. I don‘t know to hide behind a pseudonym or a sign-in name or anything else. The second thing I will assure you of is that whoever is the poster of the comments needs to know that my legal team is already working on a response. So, hopefully, they take the comments down because they are totally inaccurate. Thank you for your time.
Karen Schmitt, Chapel: If you didn‘t think the McGladrey audit was a waste of time before, we can all see it clearly now. Here are the facts. After $190,000 of taxpayer dollars and many weeks of necessarily having to be educated by staff, McGladrey has uncovered nothing that wasn‘t already prior knowledge. The bottom line is that the SFD District is a well-run, efficient, effective district whose employees have intelligence, good sense, and integrity, which is why we are losing yet another manager, Karen Daines. I vacillate between feeling happy she‘s found an excellent position close by and anger at this Board‘s despicable treatment of her while she was serving the taxpayers of Arizona. With the exception of Mr. Montgomery, the finger of shame points at every member of this Board. I spent a portion of the day today perusing the 230 page report. At a cost of $190,000, I would have expected a professional document. However, in just a cursory reading, I found grammatical, as well as spelling errors. When McGladrey presented the final report, I‘m wondering why they never brought up facts like I read on page 157, that says, SFD EMS and fire personnel are paid a smaller base salary than the average district.
Or, on page 158, that SFD pays 30% less to our Fire Marshal. All that money paid to that organization to supposedly get to the facts, but inexplicably, the same old accusations and charges are still being leveled. People continue to question hiring and staffing levels on this evening‘s agenda, even though McGladrey takes no issue with current staffing levels.
Unbelievable. Mr. Blauert is talking about further cuts – cutting the mil rate to even more irresponsible and unrealistic lows. Really? Should we consider lowering the tax bill on each of your seven buildings before we consider salaries of those who would risk their lives for you in a heartbeat. Unlike most of the Board Members, these young people have families to support. Charles Christensen implied to me that McGladrey found questionable items in the audit, but they‘re keeping it from the public report so as not to embarrass anyone.
Mr. Christensen, are you kidding me? This Board reminds me of the prosecuting attorney who refuses to admit he charged the wrong person with a crime, even when faced with irrefutable DNA evidence; he just can‘t admit he wrongfully sent someone to prison because of something he erroneously believed. How many more employees will leave before this Board is escorted out the door by the voters? Thank you.
Wendy Tanzer, VOC: At the beginning of every Public Forum, as I‘m sure he did tonight, the Chairman announces, ―No personal attacks will be tolerated.‖ It seems to me there is a colossal lack of understanding between members of this Board and the public with regard to what constitutes a personal attack. The five currently seated members of this Governing Board are, from my left, Ty Montgomery, Charles Christensen, Dave Blauert, Phyllis Erick, and Craig Dible. Placed before each of us is a placard bearing your names. As those placards are facing the public, it stands to reason they exist for the sole purpose of identification. When speakers reference statements of fact regarding business conducted by members of this Board on behalf of the people or in some cases — in spite of the people — or reference direct quotes from prior meeting minutes, it is not, as Mr. Christensen asserted during our last Public Forum, ―unacceptable‖ to use names of Board members. Neither, Mr. Blauert, does referencing yours or any other Board member‘s name in that context constitute a personal attack or cause for you to bang that gavel. Throughout the course of these meetings, recorded blunder upon blunder upon blunder do, in fact, reflect very negatively on your individual performances. It is understandable that you might like to distance yourselves from any personal responsibility – instead, preferring to indict the entire Board. However, when, as a matter of record, Board member Phyllis Erick — autonomously and without prior Board consent — commits taxpayer funds, after which all the members of this Board must come together to either approve an already paid invoice or ratify the expense of long previously utilized legal services,
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she must, by name, be held accountable before the people. When Board Chairman, Dave Blauert repeatedly fails to call for a vote after a motion has been made and seconded or frequently forgets the verbiage of motions before him, he too, must by name, be held accountable before the people.
When Charles Christensen, in the face of documented facts, many of which he himself called for, says, ―I just don‘t buy it‖ then he, as well, must be held accountable, by name, for his frequently erroneous, but doggedly held opinions. These are public meetings. You are public servants — not deities. Like most people under most circumstances, you are treated with the respect you have earned. Your days on this Board are coming to a close, as even those who once believed the fallacies you put forth as fact, are now ashamed and embarrassed to have placed you in office. Thank you.
A. Items from Staff:
1. Discussion/Possible Action: Resolution #2012-03 to Remove Karen Daines as Bank Signer for SFD’s Bank of America Payroll Account. (Finance Manager Schmidt)
Finance Manager Schmidt stated this is a formality and a document Bank of America requires for any changes to the accounts. Upon Mr. Blauert entertaining a motion to approve Resolution #2012-03, Mr. Dible so moved, Mrs. Erick seconded, and the motion unanimously passed at 5 to 0.
2. Discussion/Possible Action: Payment of Invoice from Sedona Rouge for $130.35 for use of room to hold Executive Session for the 1/11/12 Fire Chief Committee meeting. (Note: This failed for lack of a motion at the 1/25/11 Board meeting, but per the direction of a Board Member was paid and requires formal action of the Board.)
Mr. Blauert entertained a motion to approve this payment; Mr. Christensen so moved, Mrs. Erick seconded, and the motion passed with a vote of four ayes to one nay from Mr. Montgomery.
3. Discussion/Possible Action: Purchase Order for an estimated $40,000 from Yavapai County Elections for a SFD Fire Board Recall Election to be held on May 15, 2012.
Mr. Blauert entertained a motion to approve the estimated Purchase Order for the SFD Fire Board Recall Election; Mr. Montgomery so moved, Mr. Dible seconded, and the motion passed with three ayes and two abstentions from Mrs. Erick and Mr. Christensen.
4. Discussion/Possible Action: Revisions to Midway (Chapel) Fire Station Design by LEA Architects. (Interim Fire Chief Terry Keller – From 12/14/11 and 1/25/12.)
Lowell Johnson, Sedona: I read #4 here for discussion/possible…oh, the design. Why are we designing and spending time at these expensive salaries of our staff here spending time on this with the architects in regard to this Midway Station that hasn‘t been approved by the Board yet? It‘s a waste of time, waste of money. And that‘s what I want to say on that… #4, I think, is very serious. You got a Board here that did not approve the Chapel Station and you got an Assistant Fire Chief here just going off on his own. You all know it and I think it has to be curtailed because it‘s taxpayer money and time being spent. Thank you.
Mr. Blauert asked Interim Chief Keller to address this item; Chief Keller said this is an update of the previously suggested revisions to the Fire Station design, for which he received consensus of and instructions from the Board to work with LEA Architects to get a proposed price to revise the design; he pointed out to the previous speaker, Lowell Johnson, that his actions were by Board consensus. He talked to LEA last week and they have yet to complete their proposal, but will, hopefully, have a price to revise the design based on the proposal previously submitted at the next Board meeting.
5. Discussion/Possible Action: Purchase Order #6135 to United Fire for $19,913.00 for Firefighting Turnout Coats and Bunker Pants. (Battalion Chief Scott Schwisow)
Lowell Johnson, Sedona: I live here in Sedona 24 years. I read here spending $19,900 on coats and bunker pants. Now, that is a lot of money. I would suggest – I‘m sure the Board hasn‘t looked at any to see if we need it. I would suggest that you wait until the new Fire Chief comes to check that item. It‘s a lot of money – $20,000. It‘s taxpayer money and just to throw it out here and approve it on a Board, on a meeting like this, it‘s ridiculous, especially with a new Chief coming in. Thank you.
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Mr. Blauert stated these items were proposed for $22,000 in the approved budget; he said he talked to Fire Chief Appointee Kris Kazian who told him if that is Chief Keller’s recommendation, then they are needed and that he would not jeopardize the firefighters in any way, as long as it was within the budget of last year.
Chief Keller reminded all that Chief Kazian was on the speaker phone and suggested we ask his opinion. Chief Kazian commented he talked to Chief Keller and Battalion Chief Schwisow today and the district has a replacement plan in place, which is very common for turnout gear; he said turnout gear is, obviously, one of the more critical safety pieces and is expensive. He pointed out in years past, this budget has been cut and staff is proposing to only purchase ten, and with a lifespan of 7 to 9 years depending on use and exposure, is a pretty standard process for turnout gear; Chief Kazian recommends the purchase and buying these 10 sets of gear will keep SFD on track with its replacement plan going forward. He said he discussed the specifications today with staff and it is in line with what other firefighters are wearing.
Chief Keller commented SFD scaled back in this program since we originally programmed 15 sets and have now cut to 10; originally, there was a 5 year replacement program which we are stretching to 7 years; he said this gear is routinely worn in the field by firefighters doing their jobs; he said during the most recent mobile home fire, one of our young firefighters operating the exterior suffered second degree burns to his shoulder, which means he got blisters through his older turnout gear. Chief Keller said these are on a replacement plan and every year, staff takes some “guff” for it, but this is a cost of doing business and instead of one lump-sum purchase every 7 years, it is stretched out over the years.
Mr. Montgomery moved to approve P.O. #6135 to United Fire; Mr. Dible seconded, and as there was no further discussion, the motion unanimously passed.
B. Item from Board Member Phyllis Erick:
1. Staff Response to SFD Resident Dave Norton’s Questions: (Tabled on 1/25/12)
1. Were firefighters recently hired by the District?
2. If so, how many?
3. What positions are they filling?
4. What is the cost of salary and salary plus benefits?
5. If personnel were hired, who made the decision to hire?
6. Was the Board made aware of the need to hire and the associated costs in advance?
Mrs. Erick said this was something sent to the Board on district e-mail, and she sent it to Ms. Daines and Chief Keller for a response, but she said she had not requested it be placed on the Agenda. Chief Keller said these questions were asked publicly and he is prepared to answer; Mrs. Erick said he could proceed.
Question #1: Yes, within the last six months on 7/25/11.
Question #2: SFD hired two people to fill vacancies that were within the approved budget rank structure of the organization.
Question #3: One of them was a Captain position that left the organization and another firefighter hired on to another agency, which left two vacancies; he said they were budgeted positions and both were filled with lower-paying Firefighter positions, which actually resulted in a salary savings for the organization.
Question #4: The cost of the salary for entry-level Firefighter is $40,993 and with benefits, translates to about $62,800 annually.
Question #5: The Fire Chief made the decision to hire by policy and practice.
Question #6: The Board was made aware through the budget process, which they approved a year ago; this was to refill previously existing positions.
(Note: The subsequent exchange between Chief Keller and Mr. Norton has been redacted until a legal determination is reached.)
2. Discussion/Possible Action: Authorization of funds to publish McGladrey finding to taxpayers.
Scott Jablow, Chapel Area: In reading this item, authorization of funds to publish the McGladrey Report is kind of vague. I‘m certainly hoping you are not looking to waste more money on top of the $190,000 already spent for the ridiculous report that has just come out. The McGladrey Report is easily
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accessible to anybody who wishes to access it through the Sedona website or the fire department website. I do it all the time. It‘s very easy reading. It‘s in PDF form. Anybody can easily print it to their heart‘s content. Why waste any money or even sit here to discuss wasting any money to print this report? The comments here are my own and don‘t necessarily represent any of the boards or commissions that I‘m a member of. Thank you.
Lowell Johnson, Sedona: I represent about 20 to 30 people who we‘ve had discussions almost daily, as to why this wasn‘t published in the newspaper. We know the local newspaper is pro the fire department. They wouldn‘t even publish anything about the McGladrey report. I thought it was terrible that we have a newspaper that can be that biased. I did talk to a couple of you about authorizing these funds. It should have been done immediately. There‘s people out there waiting to hear what this $190,000 was spent and as a result, and I‘ve read it, at least once if not a half again on next time, you can come out… you should hire a PR person or get someone to do it that knows how to write and establish highlights of that report. It‘s too voluminous for anybody to read on the Internet and come out with the highlights and show that they can save $2 million. You spent $190,000. You‘ll spend $10,000 publishing it and save $2 million. It states in there that we pay 53% more than the peers of this…of stations like this for salaries. The people need to know it. It‘s in the report. You can tell the people and they are waiting. We‘re saying why isn‘t it put in the paper? Your newspaper‘s not going to put it in there free, but you can buy the pages. It doesn‘t cost anything. You just approved $19,000 just like that, no one questions it and yet, you spend $190,000 and don‘t tell the taxpayers what the result was. Thank you.
Mrs. Erick moved to authorize funds to publish the findings of the McGladrey audit report findings; she stated her reasoning is we spent a substantial amount for this audit and there was a trial scenario written up in the newspaper regarding this audit, which did not give information the taxpayers needed to see and believes all the information from the report – good and bad – should be published for the public.
Mr. Blauert asked Mrs. Erick how much it would be; Mrs. Erick said a full-page ad would be $1,285 and spot color adds $120, depending on the position of the page; she wants to keep it as low as possible, but we owe it to the taxpayers to print it.
Mr. Blauert asked who would write the summary of the report; Mrs. Erick suggested Mr. Dible and she work up a summary. She stated we should not exceed the amount Chief Hazime spent on an ad he placed in the Red Rock News, which would be no more than $1,800. Fire Marshal Johnson commented the amount of information in the McGladrey Report would not comfortably fit on one newspaper page, and one page may not be sufficient even for summary.
Mr. Blauert asked for a second for the motion on the floor; Mr. Christensen seconded. Mr. Dible commented Fire Marshal Johnson’s remark should be considered and suggested rather than he and Mrs. Erick summarize the report, to ask McGladrey to prepare a one-page newspaper page ad with their in-house personnel. Mr. Christensen agreed with Mr. Dible and commented McGladrey could easily present a one-page summary of their recommendations; he then amended the motion to so read. Mr. Blauert asked if everyone understood the amendment; Mrs. Erick asked Mr. Christensen if the amendment should be to include McGladrey in putting together the ad; Mr. Christensen responded affirmatively. Mrs. Erick recommended contacting McGladrey before including them to find out their input before authorizing funds; she then withdrew her motion and requested it be tabled. Mr. Blauert asked who would like to contact McGladrey to get their input; Mrs. Erick responded she would do so.
Mr. Montgomery stated he is not in favor of spending more money to publish these results as they are available on the SFD website, as are all public records, and he definitely does not agree with Board Members summarizing and printing an independent, objective third-party opinion because they would be accused of putting a “spin” on it; it must be taken on its value as an independent report.
Mr. Blauert asked Mrs. Erick to provide McGladrey’s response in written form prior to the next regular Board meeting for the Agenda. Mrs. Erick added she felt it is important to publish because some people still rely on the newspaper for information. Mr. Christensen commented he did not quite understand what Mr. Montgomery said, but would leave it to Mr. Dible and Mrs. Erick to present a summary that would be effective of the report for the newspaper. Mr. Blauert said we are going to ask McGladrey for a summary and asked Mrs. Erick in her discussions with McGladrey to ask if they would “step up to the plate”.
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C. Items from Board Member Ty Montgomery:
1. Monthly Update: Current Fees to Date for Legal Services Provided to SFD.
Mr. Montgomery stated he would defer this item and move to item #2.
2. Discussion/Possible Action: Chairman David Blauert’s authority to terminate legal representation services to SFD from Attorney William R. Whittington. (Tabled on 1/25/12)
Mr. Montgomery said the purpose for bringing this item before the Board is because when he came to the December Board meeting, he found that Attorney Bill Whittington was not present and the new firm, Ridenour, Hienton & Lewis, had been placed with no formal action of the Board; further, he stated he was not informed of this change.
Mr. Montgomery said when he asked Mr. Blauert why this occurred, he did not receive a good answer, only that Mr. Blauert said he and other members of the Board had a problem with Mr. Whittington. He said that begs the question, what was discussed outside of public meetings regarding hiring or terminating legal services; he said Mr. Whittington served SFD for more than 20 years and citizens have asked him why he is no longer associated with SFD; Mr. Montgomery stated he does not have an answer for them. He then requested an explanation from Mr. Blauert.
Mr. Blauert said Mr. Whittington was not terminated in any form whatsoever in any formal action; he said we have contracted with a new firm, Ridenour, Hienton & Lewis, for the services we all authorized and signed a letter to utilize them for the services we are now receiving.
Mr. Montgomery told Mr. Blauert he has not addressed the reasons why the change was made and why that decision was not made as a Board, and that, apparently, Mr. Blauert made a unilateral decision, or made the decision after discussing it with other Board Members besides him, which, he said, begs the question – why was this not brought before the Board for discussion. Mr. Blauert responded the legal firm of Ridenour was brought to the Board and a contract provided to the Board; Mr. Montgomery said that was done after they had begun providing services at the meetings, and asked, again, what happened with Mr. Whittington.
Mr. Blauert responded that he met with Mr. Whittington and went through a couple of items with him that he had mistakenly made errors in and at that time, Mr. Blauert said, “I don’t know if we’re going to need your services anymore”; he said at the following meeting, we brought in the firm of Ridenour. Mr. Montgomery said, “So, you decided that he’d made mistakes which you did not communicate to me. I don’t know if you communicated it to other members of the Board” and made the decision to no longer utilize his services; upon asking Mr. Blauert if that was correct, Mr. Blauert responded, “yes”. Mr. Montgomery said he has a very big problem with Mr. Blauert making that decision without consulting the Board in public and believes it was out of line.
Mr. Dible referred to the Minutes of the November 29, 2011, Board meeting which contain the approval of the agreement to retain Ridenour, Hienton & Lewis, and noted Mr. Montgomery was absent at that meeting; the Minutes reflect that Blake Whiteman of the Ridenour firm stated the motion was not to replace any attorney or substitute this contract for another; Mr. Dible said, therefore, we have not terminated Mr. Whittington and the Board is simply employing another firm, and still retains the right to use Mr. Whittington’s services. Mr. Montgomery said his point is the decision of who was going to attend the meetings as legal representation was made unilaterally by the Chairman, which he does not believe was correct. Mr. Blauert took offense to the statement and said the services of Mr. Whittington, as we all witnessed here, did not have knowledge on certain items and it became apparent that Mr. Whittington did not “have his heart” into this district and he felt, at the time, he needed to meet with Mr. Whittington and he did so, but he did not terminate him; he said since that time, they have employed the Ridenour firm.
Mrs. Erick stated her understanding was there was no contract with Mr. Whittington and that he was “at will”; Mr. Blauert agreed with her understanding and said there was nothing to take away from him because he had no contract with SFD. Mr. Montgomery said he understands, but that is not his question; his question was “why was a change in representation at this meeting made without the Board making a collective decision” and stated he believes the answer is that Mr. Blauert made the decision and he does not agree with it. Mr. Dible asked if this could be resolved by placing it on an Agenda for voting.
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Attorney Scott Wakefield said as previously stated, the Board voted to retain his law firm, Ridenour, and if they want to vote to terminate any representation by Mr. Whittington’s law firm, it can be placed on the Agenda for a vote. Mr. Dible asked if that would be satisfactory for Mr. Montgomery, to which Mr. Montgomery responded, he believed the “ship has sailed here” as it has already been done without any discussion with the Board; he asked what would be the difference if they had a vote now or not.
Chief Keller requested and received permission to speak and commented that in reviewing the legal bills from the Ridenour firm, the agreement with that firm was for $200 per hour and down for attorney’s services depending on the level, and asked Mr. Wakefield if that was correct; Mr. Wakefield responded he was not the attorney who secured the representation, so is not familiar with the details of the contract; Chief Keller stated he is going from memory and could be wrong, but on a recent invoice from the Ridenour firm, one attorney is listed at $250 per hour and asked Mr. Wakefield to check into it, as it could be an error with the agreement; Mr. Blauert stated he believes Chief Keller is correct and said that needs to be addressed; Mr. Wakefield agreed to look into it. Mr. Christensen said he thought the Board had voted on this and that he would have to check the Minutes, but otherwise, he does not know how Mr. Blauert could have made that decision independently; he stated he was sure if the Minutes are reviewed, that Mr. Montgomery would find this was properly handled by parliamentary procedure with a vote taken at that time; Mr. Montgomery disagreed. Mrs. Erick asked that this be placed on the Agenda next month.
3. Discussion/Possible Action: Staff Response to Performance, Cost, and Management Audit Report of the Sedona Fire District by McGladrey.
Mr. Montgomery said he has been asked by a number of constituents to have staff present a response to the McGladrey Report, and has requested they do so. Business Director Karen Daines then gave the following PowerPoint presentation along with her comments:
Thank you, Mr. Montgomery, for asking staff to comment on the McGladrey audit process and the report findings. Last month, when the McGladrey team presented their report, staff was not permitted to ask questions or to comment on anything contained in their presentation or in the larger report. Tonight, we are grateful to have the opportunity to share our experience with this process, and to discuss the many issue areas that McGladrey evaluated, but that were not discussed publicly. We will talk about the findings of the financial audit, as well as the operational or service provision findings. We will also offer management‘s comments on the four recommendations for cost reductions, and close with some general comments and observations.
There has been a lot of discussion over the last few months around whether or not McGladrey was the best suited firm to conduct this audit. From management‘s perspective, there were two distinct tracks to this project – one was the ―forensic‖ audit piece to evaluate our financial management (our accounting, auditing, and recordkeeping practices, etc.), the other was to conduct a managerial study to make recommendations about how we may be able to provide services more efficiently. McGladrey is a
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firm that is highly experienced in conducting financial audits, testing transactions, looking at supporting documentation, evaluating compliance with financial policy, etc. But, SFD already has an outside audit firm that conducts a comprehensive financial audit of SFD books every year, so this process was largely a duplication of effort, essentially resulting in paying for a financial audit twice. You will find as we move through this discussion, that McGladrey validated every finding of the other audit firm.
For the managerial analysis, McGladrey is not a firm that is experienced in conducting managerial or service studies for fire and EMS agencies. In fact, this was the first study of this kind that these particular consultants had done. None of the McGladrey staff had any background in the public provision of fire or emergency medical services, or dispatch services. While they reported in their proposal and in their report that they consulted with a fire service industry expert for this engagement, only twice during the course of the engagement did that expert consultant ever make contact with any SFD staff members – that was during the kickoff meeting where no business was conducted, and during the only subsequent visit he made to Sedona. No phone calls, no emails, no other correspondence.
During the first few months of the engagement, Chief Keller and I kept asking the McGladrey project lead, when we were going to start interacting with the subject matter expert, and asking whether or not he was weighing in on their work. We could not get an answer or were told that they did not need him yet.
Finally in December, the project lead and the fire service expert came to Sedona for one day. During this visit, I asked their expert if he had been consulting with the McGladrey team all along over the last few months, when it came to operational evaluation of the District. He told me he had not even heard from anyone at McGladrey since his first visit at the project kickoff in September, and he really was not sure what his role was on this visit.
That confirmed to us that the engagement of this experienced fire service professional was largely window dressing to create the façade that there was someone qualified to evaluate our organization involved in this process. This was also problematic for staff, because we spent an inordinate amount of time, trying to educate accountants and business analysts on the fire service, just to try to bring them up to a rudimentary understanding of how and why things are the way they are.
We would not have had to spend this time were we working with a firm who was experienced in fire and EMS and dispatch services; we may have actually learned something and we may have also seen that expertise come out in the findings and recommendations, which we do not believe we saw in this case.
Last month, McGladrey wrapped up the project and gave their presentation. It was surprisingly brief, given the vast scope of their project; they talked about the four cost saving recommendations, but failed to make any mention of the dozens of issue areas where they evaluated and validated what staff has been doing and saying over the last few years. We intend to cover those tonight.
When staff asked to make comment or have discussion about the McGladrey presentation, we were told by Mr. Blauert that if we had questions about what was contained in the report, we could submit those questions in writing to McGladrey and wait for their written response. This felt insulting to us, as we and many members of the staff, bent over backwards for months to be incredibly responsive to anything that the McGladrey team wanted or needed. Now, we were not being permitted to seek any clarification or discuss any of the errors or omissions in the report. This evening we will discuss those issues and report on the full findings of the McGladrey audit starting with the financial evaluation.
Again, the analysis of financial management is an area that staff acknowledges that McGladrey is well qualified to evaluate. Their team is highly experienced in conducting financial audits – management takes no issue with the process or findings related to financial management, but also
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believes that the validation given by McGladrey through this process is worthy of being shared with the public, which is why we are doing so tonight.
The management of district finances has been an area that many of the current Board members have been very concerned about and has garnered a lot of attention as a result of the Board‘s vocal questioning and comments regarding perceived financial mismanagement at SFD.
No such wrongdoing was found by McGladrey. McGladrey conducted a very thorough review of financials.
As I mentioned, these have been areas that several Board members have been critical of staff. For instance, Mr. Christensen, in an interview with the Democrats of the Red Rocks last September, when discussing the McGladrey ―forensic audit‖ stated that there are quote, ―potential irregularities that could have repercussions for employees of the District‖ and stated ―over the years I‘ve been here there have been a number of serious irregularities‖ and ―after this forensic audit, I think a lot of things are going to be clearer‖ and he said, quote, ―at the risk of going any farther without the advice of legal counsel, that‘s all I can really say‖
August 31, 2010, Sedona Eye conducted interviews with the then-three Board candidates, including Phyllis Erick and David Blauert, they stated, ‗all three candidates are running as a slate and all three are frustrated by the lack of an independent audit; the Slate claims the Sedona Fire Department conducts internal reviews of the financials, but has failed to conduct a financial statements and process audit by an independent agent for over ten years. The slate points out the Sedona Fire Board may claim it has done audits, but internal reviews are not appropriate for a department of this size‘.
Also, in a Sedona Red Rock News letter to the editor in 2010, Craig Dible asked ―Has Sedona Fire District been cooking the books?‖ These are pretty bold and damaging accusations and, of course, would concern residents of SFD to hear that from elected officials or Board candidates, people who by virtue of their position have credibility.
Although we have had comprehensive financial audits every year per State Statute requirements, all of which have been clean, and it was unfortunate that the duplication of staff and consultant efforts had to occur, at a large cost to the taxpayer, we are thankful that McGladrey, at the Board‘s choosing, was able to come in and thoroughly and independently evaluate all of the various areas of financial management and that McGladrey‘s findings clearly answer Mr. Dible‘s question with a resounding ―NO, SFD has not been cooking the books!‖ McGladrey gave us a completely clean bill of health with regards to all financial management.
Another topic related to the financial management of the District that was outlined by the Board in the scope of work for McGladrey to evaluate, was the management of grants. Current management has been more than forthright over the last few years about the fact that in 2009 existing staff identified several issues with grants dating back to 2002 where mismanagement of grants occurred. No one currently working here was
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involved in that mismanagement, nor did the mismanagement result in any financial malfeasance; there was no stealing or misspending of funds. That mismanagement had to do with failure to complete projects in a timely fashion, not inappropriately spending funds or anyone lining their pockets on SFD grants.
It was current staff who disclosed and rectified the issues back in 2009, and then developed internal policies and procedures pertaining to grants to ensure that kind of mismanagement cannot occur in the future. And it has not. McGladrey verified that. Again, validating what management has been telling the Board and the public for the last few years.
In the same June 2010 letter to the editor, where Mr. Dible questions whether or not SFD is ―cooking the books,‖ he questioned the variance between the annual Arizona Department of Health Services cost report on ambulance service versus the revenue figures SFD reports for ambulance transport fees for service and the calculations of expenses and what would happen to expenses and revenues if ambulance service were to be privatized. He questioned what he deemed ―discrepancies‖ between the reports.
Further, in April 2010, Mr. Christensen published a document called ―Ambulance revenue and cost reports 2004-2009, an analysis with questions for management and staff.‖ That document questioned many aspects of DHS report, and implied that the numbers were inaccurate or misrepresented.
Staff has explained the methodology and figures on each of the reports, and has repeatedly said that the two reports represent two completely different things so they should have different figures. The Board asked McGladrey to look at the figures in both reports from an independent perspective and to address why there were discrepancies between these two reports. McGladrey has done so and has validated staff‘s methodologies used to fill out both the annual DHS reports and the ambulance privatization report.
That is exactly what your current management has been saying for the last several years. Again, McGladrey validates staff.
The last topic related to the financial management of the District that has been questioned over the years, and as such was included for McGladrey to look into, is the cost recovery for out of district wildland deployments. The allegations were that SFD was not recouping its costs to participate in out of district wildland fire suppression activities.
Staff has assured the Board over and over that not only are 100% of the costs reimbursed by the Feds through the state, but that this endeavor is actually a revenue producer for the district, and that revenue is used to offset taxes to support in-district activities. Again, McGladrey validated that what staff has been saying for years is accurate and that we are managing the district well and doing the right things for the community we serve.
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While I have previously discussed why management believes that the McGladrey team was not best suited to address operational issues and the provision of services to the community, I do not say it because McGladrey did not agree with management on operational topics; in fact, McGladrey endorsed almost all of the various aspects of how SFD is currently providing service; we just believe that they were not equipped with the industry specific background, knowledge, and understanding to adequately pass judgment on these areas, and instead of doing a comprehensive evaluation based on qualitative and quantitative data and their many years of experience and expertise in the industry, they were incapable of conducting more than a cursory evaluation of what we do.
We will review their operational findings anyway. The first finding related to Operations was with respect to staffing. During the December 14, 2011, Board meeting, Mrs. Erick stated that SFD was currently overstaffed and should not be.
McGladrey does not agree. According to McGladrey, not only they endorse current staffing levels in all areas, they further recommend ADDING positions because they have found the District to be short staffed.
McGladrey was asked to evaluate the outsourcing of ambulance transport services and ambulance billing.
McGladrey found that it would cost the taxpayers more money to run the rest of the district if ambulance transport services were privatized due to the loss of revenues that go along with providing that service.
The amount of expenditures reduced would not be near the amount of revenues lost, so it would not make sense from a financial perspective. This has been articulated by SFD staff for the last few years. And in fact, McGladrey used staff‘s analysis from our report on ambulance privatization from two years ago, validated the methodology used by staff, and used the same methodology in their analysis.
Another issue area/are of criticism is how SFD units respond to incidents. It has been said that there is no need for multiple units to respond to one incident; for instance, questioning why a fire truck and an ambulance respond together to EMS calls. McGladrey found that SFD‘s response protocols were appropriate.
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McGladrey suggests that there will be a $473,000 savings annually, if the suggested outsourcing to Flagstaff Regional Dispatch Center is pursued. The rate that McGladrey used is the base rate.
The actual cost per call varies amongst their agencies based on the systems that are utilized. SFD currently has: a Firehouse feed from CAD, Mobile CAD capability (not utilized), Agency specific alpha paging from CAD, custom in-house designed media reporting, custom in-house designed reports for ambulance billing, immediate access to CAD data and custom reporting, GIS data feeds, burn permit reporting, and others.
These different services and connections IF allowed by Flagstaff would all be at an additional cost.
McGladrey suggests that there will be a $473,000 savings annually, if the suggested outsourcing to Flagstaff Regional Dispatch Center is pursued. The rate that McGladrey used is the base rate.
The actual cost per call varies amongst their agencies based on the systems that are utilized. SFD currently has: a Firehouse feed from CAD, Mobile CAD capability (not utilized), Agency specific alpha paging from CAD, custom in-house designed media reporting, custom in-house designed reports for ambulance billing, immediate access to CAD data and custom reporting, GIS data feeds, burn permit reporting, and others. These different services and connections IF allowed by Flagstaff would all be at an additional cost.
Also, when questioned, the new Flagstaff Communications Center Manager‘s reaction to Flagstaff being willing to take over dispatching for SFD was incredulous.
She stated that was not what she said.She stated they would entertain taking over dispatch for Pinewood, which is a small district in Coconino County.
In looking at the idea of dispatching for Sedona Fire last year, when SFD staff broached the subject, the then manager took the idea to the other partner agencies that have a large say in who is dispatched by the Flagstaff center. The comments from most of the agencies were at the time that they were not interested in dispatching for SFD.
The manager told us that if that changed, she estimated a very large startup cost based on a remodel of the Flagstaff center at the joining agencies cost. In that case, only Sedona Fire and Pinewood would be allowed to join.
Since SFD would bear the entire cost with no chance to recover any from other agencies, this was not deemed a viable, cost effective option.
McGladrey suggests that there will be a $473,000 savings annually, if the suggested outsourcing to Flagstaff Regional Dispatch Center is pursued. The rate that McGladrey used is the base rate. The actual cost per call varies amongst their agencies based on the systems that are utilized. SFD currently has: a Firehouse feed from CAD, Mobile CAD capability (not utilized), Agency specific alpha paging from CAD, custom in-house designed media reporting, custom in-house designed reports for ambulance billing, immediate access to CAD data and custom reporting, GIS data feeds, burn permit reporting, and others. These different services and connections IF allowed by Flagstaff would all be at an additional cost.
It is also irresponsible to make a recommendation such as we should have Flagstaff dispatch for us, without disclosing the service aspects that would be reduced or compromised. We may very well be able to save a few hundred thousand dollars a year, but we will also reduce service in the following ways by doing so…
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This is a highly technical field. I oversee both Telecommunications and Regional Communications for SFD and have for several years, I would not pretend to be able to analyze the technical aspects of outsourcing this function. Making recommendations based on a sophomoric, cursory evaluation and total misunderstanding of this highly technical field, is irresponsible at best.
I am not saying that our dispatch services could not be done by another type of consolidation. In fact, we are working on a consolidation project right now with Cottonwood Police Department and other Verde Valley agencies, which McGladrey ignored.
I am also not saying that the current costs for dispatching should not be more proportionately shared by other users, but this is a topic that requires a more in-depth analysis than what McGladrey did, or I believe, was even capable of doing. This is a highly technical field.
I oversee both Telecommunications and Regional Communications for SFD and have for several years, I would not pretend to be able to analyze the technical aspects of outsourcing this function. Making recommendations based on a sophomoric, cursory evaluation and total misunderstanding of this highly technical field, is irresponsible at best. I am not saying that our dispatch services could not be done by another type of consolidation. In fact, we are working on a consolidation project right now with Cottonwood Police Department and other Verde Valley agencies, which McGladrey ignored. I am also not saying that the current costs for dispatching should not be more proportionately shared by other users, but this is a topic that requires a more in-depth analysis than what McGladrey did, or I believe, was even capable of doing.
The next recommendation that McGladrey made was to modify our current medical insurance model. They estimate the savings to be $478,000.
McGladrey looked at a benchmark survey that was done in 2009, published in January 2010 of all the comparable-sized fire districts in the State. They looked at that benchmark survey and they picked the one district out of the ten or twelve cited, who had the least medical benefits.
It does not take much sophistication to suggest that if you cut wages or you cut benefits that your cost will be reduced. That does not mean that it makes sense for recruitment, for retention, or for market comparability to do so.
They also did not disclose that the district used for comparison has the highest base and supplementary wage scales of all the districts in the survey, much higher than SFD, and other attractive benefits that SFD does not offer.
Wages and benefits must be evaluated as a package. I do not think that SFD wants to be the lowest in industry for wages and benefits.
At this point in the presentation, Interim Chief Keller presented the following: The third McGladrey recommendation was to implement a Reserve program with a recommended savings of $344,000 annually.
It may not be known to many people but there was already a process in place with Ty Montgomery and myself, with Chief Hazime prior to his departure, we were talking about implementing or re-establishing a Reserve program, using Reserves to offset overtime usage for vacation, sick leave, or training events, for example.
The recommendation by McGladrey, however, was to replace 12 full-time benefited Firefighters with 12 full-time non-benefited Firefighters at a lower hourly rate. Obviously, there were some concerns expressed previously about whether this is even legal under Equal Employment Opportunity.
It certainly creates a second-class of employee and lowers the level of morale; and, it does not include the cost per person for training, equipment, turnout gear, uniform allowance, State pension
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system enrollment, which is required if they are full-time. It also does not include the cost of a program coordinator and training officer, which McGladrey recommended, of $120,000 annually to manage the Reserve program and training. So, the $344,000 is actually not $344,000.
The other thing McGladrey recommended was to track FLSA sleep time for a recommended saving of approximately $170,000 annually.
There is some provision in the FLSA law that says if someone does not get at least a minimum of five hours uninterrupted sleep as a firefighter or other professions, you do not have to pay them, necessarily, the wages through that period of time; however, the cost of tracking each individual sleep pattern every night and translating that to payroll would be a huge administrative burden.
McGladrey does not make any recommendations how that would realistically be tracked or even managed. They do not even come up with a suggestion of who would do that. Also, they do not acknowledge that there is no other fire department or district in the State of Arizona that currently uses FLSA sleep time.
They did recommend one in Park City, I believe, using FLSA sleep time. This obscure and archaic FLSA provision also states that the employees must agree to have this change, in essence, done to them, and McGladrey talked about that a little bit that it would probably end up being a difficult challenge to get that accomplished.
Ms. Daines continued: Some of the other findings…the ―per capita‖ analysis is something we have talked about on multiple occasions. That evaluation ignores the fact that there are many, many high-end, large-scale commercial taxpayers who also pay taxes in this district and gives no credit to them. It also ignores the fact that there are second homeowners in the district.
So, even though those property owners, according to the Chamber of Commerce, upwards of 40% of the residential units in Sedona are second homes; that means that those individuals are not included in the population counts, but they do pay taxes for those properties and they do support SFD services.
As far as McGladrey‘s analysis of per capita, on Page 175, they said the cost per resident is $675; on Page 178, they said the cost per resident is $442; on Page 41, the cost per resident is $283. That is just one example of many data discrepancies in this report.
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In fact, I mentioned the benchmark survey – the Bullhead City survey – that they used was also a 2009 survey published in January 2010, so now, it is several years old and they also did not update any of that information.
They did not contact those agencies. They did not get updated figures so they could do a true and accurate comparison.
They took that information verbatim and drew conclusions based on it. We shared that with them. We shared it with them to give them the format and to give them the contacts of the other like-sized organizations, so that they could, hopefully, do an update.
We expected we would get an updated survey out of it. They did not do that.
The publisher of that survey, Rick Southey, the Fire Chief of Bullhead City, sent a four-page comments and questions to McGladrey through the website process and cited multiple, upon multiple, discrepancies of that data.
His concern is that is being utilized to draw conclusions based on erroneous information. He also said that was not consistent and was not, necessarily, an apples to apples comparison either; it was supposed to be a guide, a tool for all of the districts to use when evaluating, and then, if we were doing something more specific, we would be expected to follow-up on our own and drill down into it. That was not done.
The other errors and omissions, I have information pertaining to that and I will not go into the details.
Management went into this process with an open mind. We were actually hopeful that we would have industry experts who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience and expertise to offer to us ways to improve our services or efficiencies. We had hoped to learn from these experts and be left with a roadmap for the future, for future management to use in years to come. That is not what we received. There is not one thing that McGladrey offered us in the way of findings or recommendations that we could learn from or that gave new perspective on challenges facing the district now or in the future. We are saddened by that fact.
There were no questions for staff from the Board following the presentation.
4. Discussion/Possible Action: Board response to McGladrey Audit.
Mr. Montgomery stated he added this item to give the Board an opportunity to respond. He said in his review of the report, he found very little information we did not know; their ideas and references were certainly not original; they did not conduct their own research as would be expected for that amount of money; they used incorrect assumptions in multiple places within the report. Mr. Montgomery stated outsourcing dispatch has been in discussion since the Board was elected and we are all aware that money could be saved in the Regional Communications Center; however, the cost of the transition was not addressed, nor were any concrete recommendations made.
He said McGladrey simply suggested SFD consider outsourcing dispatch services without offering any specific way to accomplish it.
Regarding modifying health insurance, their recommendation states it could save $478,000 from our current costs; however, as Ms. Daines pointed out, they used 2009/2010 figures, so actually, Ms. Daines saved the district over $200,000 last year, which they did not take into account and therefore, Mr. Montgomery said that number would be cut in half; he said they did not have the correct current health insurance figures upon which to base their recommendations.
Mr. Montgomery said regarding the Reserve program, not only was SFD already pursuing this, but McGladrey used his own recommendations to show that it would work. His initial presentation to the Board was very specific on how to proceed with a Reserve program, and McGladrey, essentially, copied that work and presented it back as a recommendation.
He said their fourth recommendation to track FLSA sleep time is archaic and punitive; it would also require significant administrative time to accomplish, which was not addressed; he said very few departments nationwide utilize this system due to its inherent difficulty and the toll it takes on staff morale; Mr. Montgomery said it was “really scraping the bottom of the barrel” in his opinion looking for money.
Regarding other recommendations from McGladrey, such as vehicle maintenance, Mr. Montgomery said that Board Member Charles Christensen has been “all over this” for years, and then, McGladrey brought it back as something to look at; he said it seems to him we talk about vehicles at every Board meeting and it is not a new idea. He said sick and vacation time accrual rates may be some place to look to save money, but it is not going to return the monies they are claiming in the short term; he said it would be a
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long-term process to adjust; he said this is also not a new idea. Additionally, as mentioned by Ms. Daines, the wage study they used was at least a year out of date and was done informally by the Bullhead City Fire Chief; Mr. Montgomery said Chief Southey has advised that his numbers were not to be used as a reference and asked why McGladrey did not do its own wage survey for $190,000.
Mr. Montgomery said he found the McGladrey audit to be surprisingly thin on substance and absolutely lacking in giving SFD any significant, new ideas to utilize in attempting to save on costs for the district. He said although he was against spending the money for this audit, he did hold out hope that SFD could possibly gain some new perspective and get some new and unique ideas to address challenges, but that was not the case in the results of the audit; he said he feels the results were a tremendous disappointment and waste of taxpayer money and most of the constituents to whom he has talked agree.
Mr. Dible said he would defer comments until after he has had a chance to review the concerns presented tonight. He responded to Ms. Daines saying the letter to the editor she quoted was from years ago and he was not a member of the Board at the time. He said it resulted from seeing dramatically different numbers on the ambulance service presented to the Arizona Department of Health Services versus the ones presented locally; he said the letter did garner attention in its use of the term “has the Board been cooking the books”; he said that was not an accusation, just a question, but that, subsequently, staff has explained in great detail why that variance exists and he would answer his own question, and that would be “no, you have not been cooking the books”.
Ms. Daines thanked Mr. Dible for saying that and commented she wishes, as many of the statements made over the years, that instead of writing letters to the editor or making public accusations or questions that raise suspicion, that he had asked directly of staff to explain why the variances occurred between those two different reports.
Mrs. Erick commented there have been issues raised here tonight and she believes McGladrey should come and answer those, but not at SFD’s expense.
Mr. Blauert agreed and said he would send the Minutes of this meeting. He commented that when he was first elected, he was only allowed to talk to one staff member at that time, Tricia Greer. Ms. Daines stated she would be happy to attend a future meeting with McGladrey in attendance to address the issues directly with them. Mr. Montgomery agreed that McGladrey needs to answer these issues.
5. Discussion/Possible Action: Legal Representation of SFD Fire Board.
Mr. Montgomery stated he would withdraw this item because Mrs. Erick had requested it be placed on the March agenda; Mrs. Erick asked since it is on this Agenda, why it could not be addressed now. Mr. Dible said the Board agreed to postpone it. Mr. Wakefield said a more detailed recitation in the Agenda as to what is intended for the vote may be appropriate and it would be prudent to wait for a future Board meeting. Mrs. Erick agreed.
6. Discussion/Possible Action: FY 2013 Budget Recommendations.
Mr. Montgomery said there has been little to no discussion of the budget and at this point last year, we were holding Budget Workshops and with the impending loss of Business Director Karen Daines and the hiring of a new Fire Chief, he is very concerned about getting this budget put together in an adequate amount of time.
He commented to Chief Kazian that it will be tough for him to learn the organization and put a budget together in such a short period of time. Chief Kazian agreed and stated Interim Chief Keller and staff are already working on some budget issues; he said the process must be started “sooner than later”. Mr. Montgomery said staff made their recommendations and no further work has been done. Chief Kazian said there is a lot of work ahead and there are some bigger issues on the table that must be addressed; he concurred with Mr. Montgomery.
Mr. Blauert said we definitely need to get rolling on this and that we were asked to postpone it in the last Board meeting and asked Chief Keller if he would like to meet with him tomorrow to begin the budget effort. Chief Keller referred to the December meeting when staff put out philosophical budget questions to the Board, to which they are still awaiting responses. Mr. Blauert said we were asked to postpone those responses until after the audit was completed and received; in the meantime, there was the process of hiring a new Chief; he said in defense of the Board, we were asked to postpone this.
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Chief Keller asked the Board to review the recommendations made by staff regarding the budget at the December Budget Workshop; he stated staff needs Board responses to those philosophical questions relative to the preparation of the budget. Ms. Daines asked for clarification from Chief Kazian regarding a potential $1 million shortfall mentioned in an e-mail; she said she has not met with Chief Kazian regarding next year’s budget, but at a mil rate of $1.40, the budget projection is a $3 million shortfall for a total of $9.5 million with total revenues from taxes at $7 million and approximately $2.5 million from FDAT and non-tax revenue; she said staff estimates a minimum budget of $12.5 million to maintain existing services; she said the current budget is $13.28 million and the reduction to $12.5 million was what staff projected at the Budget Workshop in December; she stated she wanted to make sure everyone understands that moving forward.
Mr. Blauert said this is the first he has heard about this reduction. Chief Kazian asked for clarification; Ms. Daines said it was in reference to TheSedonaCitizen.com article that stated there would be a $1 million shortfall in revenues for the district next year; she said the shortfall is actually $3 million.
Chief Kazian said he met with Interim Chief Keller and Finance Manager Sandi Schmidt regarding the budget and the number he was given was $1.16 million shortage; Chief Keller stated that was if all savings and reserves were used to make up the shortfall; Ms. Daines said the reduction was $1.1 million to tax revenue and we had already used $2.5 million of reserve funds to balance this year’s budget; she said if you take this year plus the reduction made, plus the reduction to assessed value in tax revenue, there is a resulting $3 million shortfall; Chief Kazian said he will need firm numbers and start to move forward and appreciates the corrected information.
Mr. Blauert, again, stated he had not received the information about the income from taxes; Ms. Daines said that information was in the presentation made to the Board on December 14th; Mr. Blauert said at that time we did not have the firm tax figures; Ms. Daines responded we presented our estimate and were within 10ths of a percentage point of what came in.
Mr. Montgomery said he received all that information and Mrs. Erick also said she remembered it. Ms. Daines thanked them.
D. Items from Board Chairman David Blauert:
1. Discussion/Possible Action: Approve Expenses for Selected Fire Chief Candidate’s Visits to Sedona.
Mr. Blauert opened this item for discussion. Chief Keller asked if there was an estimated dollar amount; Mr. Blauert said he does not have those figures. Chief Kazian said he has not submitted any receipts, but talked to Mrs. Schmidt today about it; he said there would be airfare, car rental, and related expenses.
Mrs. Schmidt said she suggested this be added to the Agenda because these expenses were not covered under the approved Fire Chief Search expenses and should be kept separately for clarity. Mr. Montgomery requested this item be brought back to the Board with the dollar amount, when submitted. Chief Kazian said he would put his expense report together and have it for the next Board meeting.
2. Request for Forensic Audit of Board Activities and Actions for the duration of time that this current Board has served. (Requested by SFD Citizen Gayle Kirsch)
Mr. Blauert said this item was requested by Mrs. Kirsch, but because she is attending Ash Wednesday services tonight, requested it be tabled until she could be present to address the item.
3. Response to Information Requests from SFD Citizen Gayle Kirsch: (Tabled on 1/25/12)
The use of “Attorney Client Privilege as a Shield”.
The use of an attorney for the Fire Chief’s Committee.
All the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the attorneys the Board has used for legal advice on behalf of the Fire Chief’s Committee, e.g., in the 7/13/2011 Fire Board Minutes regarding the Fire Chief Selection Committee, Mrs. Erick stated she had spoken with an attorney and the attorney advised her it was not necessary to have Human Resources involved in the Fire Chief Committee. Who was this attorney and how much did he/she charge for this advice, along with his/her rationale?
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Mr. Blauert asked Recording Clerk Tricia Greer to read Ridenour, Hienton & Lewis’ full response to these questions into the Minutes. (Recorder‘s Note: That document is attached to these Minutes.) Mr. Blauert stated this answers the questions and would look forward to any other requests from Mrs. Kirsch.
4. Discussion/Possible Action: Dissolution of SFD Fire Chief Search Committee.
Mr. Blauert requested a motion to dissolve the SFD Fire Chief Search Committee; Mrs. Erick commented she did not believe the committee could be dissolved until the Committee Chairman Joe Demme dissolves it first; Attorney Wakefield said the Board established and could dissolve the Committee. Mr. Christensen so moved, Mr. Montgomery seconded, and the motion unanimously passed.
5. Discussion/Possible Action: Resolution Establishing Standards by which Services may be Contracted to Private Parties by the Sedona Fire District. (Tabled from 1/25/12)
Doug Ayres, Village of Oak Creek: 26 year Sedona property tax payer. I am up here again to offer a good government approach. Thank you for considering this. This is the fourth or fifth time it has been on the Agenda. The Resolution, which I supplied you several months ago does two things, but in some detail. I‘m just going to give you two real short things. It establishes binding policy and procedure that would guarantee that tax monies transferred to SFD contractors would be subjected to a detailed, researched, and open analysis as to both efficiency and effectiveness and compared to in-house duties by SFD employees. It also would assure, if adopted, to the extent legally possible, that no SFD employee or Governing Board member would personally or politically benefit from any outsourced contract. If you have any questions, I‘m here to provide answers.
Mr. Blauert said this was turned over to staff and asked Ms. Daines to comment. Ms. Daines stated staff recommends an attorney specializing in fire district law should review the Resolution to determine if each provision complies with Arizona State Statute as it specifically pertains to the powers and authorities of Arizona fire districts; she said Mr. Ayres’ application of this Resolution was predominantly in municipalities, and as they have different powers and authorities than fire districts, wants to make sure it has legal review; she said provided the Resolution passes legal muster, management supports it in its entirety. Ms. Daines commented it is critical that this Resolution be reviewed by an attorney who specializes in fire district law as it has to do very specifically with powers, statutory authorities, and limitations. Mr. Wakefield responded fire district law is not a specialty recognized by the State Bar and that being said, generally, ARS 48-805 regarding fire districts is rather short and his firm would be capable of handling such a review, but requested a copy of Mr. Ayres’ proposal before stating they would be qualified to opine. Mr. Blauert requested Mr. Wakefield’s firm give an opinion no later than in March.
Doug Ayres continued: In the meantime, there has been something come up relative to this that is, to me, a potential problem. It‘s relative to my presentation research in non-political, non-personal profit approach which I have offered you. There‘s another matter connected to it.
I would request that the three Board Members subject of the coming election insist their supporters stay within the boundaries of civility and law, you‘re going to have to stay with me on this, I‘ll get to it. I have already been anonymously threatened multiple times and warned that I am marked man and being watched.
As a West Virginia hillbilly, I do not take kindly to such implied threats. I assume those came from your political supporters. If not, I apologize and retract. But, that‘s one for you to find out. I will not back off advocating well researched and valid, good, and economical government. Others who have been critical of your governance style also have been advised they have guns. I have no way to respond to anonymity, but here. Those who make such irrational statements appear to be psychiatrically-challenged, as well as ignorant of proved facts, which they hope to remain.
For 60 years, I have advocated good government practice with care and empathy – 35 of those years were spent as founder, CEO of several well-administered, low overhead multi-million dollar corporations, one of which I sold to Merrill-Lynch. The others were spent in superior local governments. All those organizations, corporations and local governments all had great respect for their employees. Those who, like me, have taken umbrage at the style of governance practiced by four of the current Board have continually requested you to tone down the toxic demeaning of employees and of the public who question your collective and individual approaches to governance.
The disharmony and combative tenor that you have laid on the employees is inexcusable. What has transpired seems as if the Board wanted employees to leave, which would be extremely destructive and very
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expensive for SFD employees, not the Board but the organization. Why should those that are being castigated agree to meaningful discussions relative to pay and benefits? The Board needs to re-establish civility and respect for all and now.
Mr. Blauert said he would look to staff in how to respond at the next Board meeting.
6. Response to Yavapai County letter dated January 26, 2012 Re: Tower Grant.
Mr. Blauert said he received a copy of a demand letter to SFD for $65,000 to be paid to Yavapai County regarding a grant that was not repaid. Ms. Daines said this was a project from years ago before she was hired by the district, that SFD agreed to facilitate a project for Yavapai County to put a communications tower on land near Sunset Point; she said SFD was approached by Yavapai County to be the facilitator because we had the in-house expertise and they did not; she said there was a purchase order from the vendor in Oregon and ultimately, Yavapai County could not secure the land, so there was no place to put the tower.
Ms. Daines said the purchase order was in SFD’s name because the County gave us the money to purchase on their behalf; she said that money has been retained by SFD so that in the event the vendor, Valmont, wants to hold SFD to the purchase, the money would be available and at no expenditure from SFD taxpayers; in the last couple of years, SFD staff has tried on many occasions to contact Yavapai County staff; however, just like the personnel involved with this at SFD are no longer employed here, neither are those with Yavapai County; we have reached out with the understanding it is Yavapai County’s tower and they paid for it; she said Valmont needs a soil sample from the land where the tower would be located to build the foundation correctly.
Ms. Daines said SFD has gotten no response from Yavapai County after numerous attempts; the County has hired a new Emergency Manager recently and he told Chief Keller in January that they do not want the tower and are never going to execute this project and have requested a refund of their money; she said staff has since gone back to Valmont to ask if they would let SFD out of the contract and no longer hold us responsible for purchasing the tower, as it is not a tower SFD needs nor wants; SFD received a letter a few days ago from Valmont with the confirmation they will allow us out the purchase order and will no longer hold us responsible and therefore, SFD has cut a check back to Yavapai County in the amount of $67,461.21 which represents the original amount plus interest, which SFD has held that amount and collected interest on it to be refunded to Yavapai County.
Mr. Christensen asked if this is connected with Homeland Security from several years ago when some people had promised to do some work and had taken funds through grant money; Ms. Daines said this was not a Sedona Fire District grant; it was a project agreement with Yavapai County and was the County’s money; some of that project was grant funding to Yavapai County, but never to SFD.
Mr. Dible said he concluded from a letter from October 2009 that Yavapai County took the money and contracted with SFD, so the money will be returned. Chief Keller said this was included in today’s check run and signed today. Mr. Blauert said this money was not in our budget and requested where it was held; Ms. Daines responded, just like all public sector entities, SFD has a fund accounting system, which means we segregate funds based on their nature, such as grants or projects, in a separate fund because it must not be co-mingled with general operational funds for the district. Mr. Blauert requested a copy of the correspondence; Ms. Daines said she would provide it.
VII. STAFF REPORTS.
A. Monthly Staff Report – Interim Fire Chief Terry Keller.
Chief Keller reported since the last Board meeting, there were 23 fire incidents; 171 EMS calls including one aircraft crash, 16 motor vehicle accidents, 4 technical rescues including a shorthaul helicopter operation, and 5 emergency transports; 54 interfacility transports as well as 59 special duty incidents for a total of 307 calls during the last four weeks.
He stated it has been his privilege and honor to serve the community and district during the last months as Interim Chief; he wished Chief Kazian luck. Chief Keller said he has done his best under difficult circumstances and challenging times, both fiscally and politically and stated he has remained ethical throughout. He thanked the community, Board, and district for their support during his tenure.
B. Presentation Honoring Business Director Karen Daines for her Service to SFD.
2/22/2012 SFD Fire Board Meeting Minutes / Page 20
Chief Keller said whenever he goes into Karen Daines’ office, he sees the many plaques and awards Ms. Daines received from Peoria Fire; he feels it is ironic there is nothing in either of their offices that is from SFD for appreciation of their dedication; he then presented a plaque to Ms. Daines for her service to the community.
C. January Financial Report.
There were no comments from the Board regarding the Financial Report.
D. Fire Marshal’s Safety Message.
Fire Marshal Gary Johnson said SFD responded to a garage fire a few days ago; he said a gentleman cleaned out his fireplace ashes, placed them in a plastic container, and put them in the garage; those ashes should have been placed in a metal container; fortunately, his wife noticed the smoke and used a fire extinguisher. He reminded all to think about consequences when performing simple tasks and offered courtesy inspections of individual’s homes for fire safety.
The meeting adjourned at 8:30 PM.
David Blauert, Chairman of the Board :tg