Station #1 – 2860 Southwest Drive – West Sedona – Multipurpose Room
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
4:30 PM Executive Session – 5:00 PM Public Budget Workshop –
6:00 PM Business Meeting
~ MINUTES ~
I. CALL TO ORDER/ROLL CALL.
Board Present: David Blauert – Board Chairman; Charles Christensen – Board Clerk; Craig Dible, Phyllis Erick, Ty Montgomery – Members
Staff Present: Kris Kazian – Fire Chief; Terry Keller – Assistant Chief; Gary Johnson – Fire Marshal; Sandi Schmidt – Finance Manager;
Tricia Greer – Recording Clerk
Others Present: 22 Members of the Public
II. EXECUTIVE SESSION – 4:30 PM.
A. Vote to go into Executive Session:
1. Pursuant to ARS 38-431.03 (A)(1), Personnel and (A)(3) Legal Advice – Re: Complaint against Board Clerk Charles Christensen and Subsequent Investigation. (Tabled from 3/28/12 Meeting)
2. Pursuant to ARS 38-431.03(A)(3) Legal Advice and (A)(4) Instruction to Attorney – Re: Receipt of Demand Letter.
3. Reconvene into Public Session:
a. Discussion/Possible Action on above referenced items.
Mr. Blauert opened the meeting at 4:30 PM and entertained a motion to go into Executive Session; Mr. Christensen so moved; Mrs. Erick seconded and the motion unanimously passed. The Public Session was then reconvened at 5:20 PM.
Mr. Blauert stated due to involvement of some Board Members in the complaint and investigation of Board Clerk Charles Christensen, Mr. Montgomery chaired that portion of the Executive Session. Mr. Montgomery then said this issue related to what Board action, if any, should be taken; the information was provided to the Board with the name of the complainant redacted; the Fire Board and accused did not know the identity of the accuser, and after consulting with the Board’s attorney, he moved to take no Board action on this matter; Mr. Dible seconded, and the motion unanimously passed.
Mr. Blauert referred the second Executive Session item regarding receipt of Demand Letter to Chief Kazian, who stated the recommendation was no action be taken at this time based on discussion with the attorney; he said this item would be forwarded to a future Board meeting.
III. PUBLIC BUDGET WORKSHOP – 5:00 PM.
A. Salute to the Flag of the United States of America and Moment of Silence to Honor American Men and Women in Military Service, Firefighters, and Police Officers.
Mr. Christensen led the Pledge of Allegiance and Moment of Silence. ~
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B. Fiscal Year 2012/2013 Public Budget Workshop.
Chief Kazian informed the Board and public that Arizona House Bill 2184 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer; this allows fire agencies to extend mil levy caps from $3.25 to $3.75 along with some caveats and demonstrates the dire concerns and financial constraints some fire districts are facing and the importance of making sure SFD makes good financial decisions; Sedona Fire is currently at $1.40 mil levy, but must make sure we continue to budget appropriately during difficult economic times. He distributed handouts (attached) to the Board relative to wages and salaries; it shows the proposed wages and benefits initially presented at last year’s budget; subsequently, there was a discussion and decision by the Board to take $1.5 million into a contingency fund, of which $628,000 was earmarked for wages/salaries, which equated to a 10% reduction in salaries for all personnel for six months.
Chief Kazian said the top of page 2 shows approved wages and benefits, which went down by more than $628,000; he said in this year’s budget, staff is proposing a total of $9,032,144 in wages and has been asked by Board Members why some numbers look larger than last year, he explained because the 10% came out for six months, the salaries looked smaller; when we take away 10% of wages for six months for a $100,000 employee, it equates to a $5,000 deduction in that line item; all those separate wage accounts roll-up into a big category called Wages and Salaries, which has had enough money in it due to the position vacancies; this enabled SFD to sustain payroll up to this point; however, at the Board meeting of December 14, 2011, staff discussed needing to move money, but the Board decided it was not necessary; he said that is why the numbers look different; there are step and cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases proposed in 2012/2013; he said by holding the 10% for six months, the data was skewed and does not give a clear year to year picture.
The first column on the handout shows what is being proposed in the budget; the second column shows the original budget requested and then, after the 10% reduction in wages; he said the far right column indicates positions and where we are “plus or minus” employees; he said they moved positions around in the budget to more accurately reflect those areas, such as the Executive Assistant being moved from the Fire Chief’s budget into Administration this year.
Chief Kazian said Mr. Dible asked about the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System pension increases; he referred them to the last page showing the increase in the employer contribution up to 18.51%, as well as the employee contribution increase; those numbers are calculated and mandated by the State pension system, not SFD.
Chief Kazian said it shows SFD is down five employees in the budget; salaries and benefits are still lower than last year even adding in the step raises and COLA; the only caveat is staff does not yet have the final health insurance figures, so there could be slight adjustments in the numbers. The last page of the handout is the expenditures broken down into operating and non-operating budgets to total $12,323,151 to run an efficient and effective fire district.
Chief Kazian recommended, based on the pending recall election, the Fire Board only discuss concepts today, as he does not believe it would be prudent for them to take any action other than discussing where SFD’s budget needs to be as an efficient and effective fire district; he said any action taken on this budget should be by whichever Board is elected on May 15th.
Mr. Dible asked if Chief Kazian has a dollar total on the 3% COLA; Chief Kazian replied it is $234,573 and with the proposed step increases of $89,611, the total is $324,184.
Mr. Dible asked how long the step increases have been frozen; the Chief replied he believes it has been for three years. Chief Kazian asked Chief Keller to explain the step range program; Chief Keller replied SFD uses a seven-step wage scale for each position with entry level wage, and following a favorable annual review, receive 5% increases yearly for seven years.
Chief Kazian said this is a typical process in many fire agencies across the nation.
Mr. Dible asked how many staff members would be involved in the step increase;
Mrs. Schmidt stated she would have to look that up, but would guess more than 50% of our employees are at the top step as they are long-term employees.
Chief Kazian said requesting the step increases is partially due to concern about retention and being competitive in the market due to the three-year freeze on step increases and COLAs, along with employee increases in payment for pension and health insurance.
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Mr. Christensen said he wanted to give praise where praise is due, and is very impressed with Chief Kazian’s immediate “hands on” knowledge of budget fluctuations;
Chief Kazian thanked him, but stated he had good people behind him.
Mr. Montgomery asked why we were only filling one of the three vacant firefighter positions;
Chief Kazian said we are currently down three firefighter positions which were not filled during the current fiscal year, and staff’s recommendation is to fill one position per year for the next three years.
Mr. Montgomery said we want to maintain core services and cut overtime, and asked if by not filling those three positions, we were creating additional overtime;
Chief Kazian said he could not guess a close number of overtime savings in correlation to those two positions not being filled, although some overtime is created by it; he said staff could entertain bringing in three firefighters, but it would increase the budget.
Mr. Montgomery said it is “penny wise and pound foolish” to create overtime by not filling positions; he said if our staffing level is appropriate and this Board has said they are dedicated to maintaining core services, is where the “rubber meets the road”.
Chief Kazian said every new firefighter SFD brings on costs roughly $76,000 with wages and benefits, and so adding two more to the budget would equate to about $150,000 to the bottom line of the budget;
Mr. Montgomery said the same dollars could be spent in overtime;
Chief Kazian commented he does not believe $150,000 would be dollar for dollar in overtime;
Chief Keller said it would be challenging to try to put an exact number to that because of injuries, vacation days, etc.; he said there would be some implication of overtime, but not a guarantee that one less on a given shift would cause overtime based on what is happening on that particular day.
Chief Kazian said from an incremental standpoint, the staff approached balancing the bottom line as best as possible in hiring the firefighters over several years;
Mr. Montgomery said the plan is not to reduce staffing and Chief Kazian agreed.
Chief Kazian said they would be happy to add those two positions if they receive direction from the Board to do so, and SFD’s staffing model is based on those numbers.
Mr. Christensen stated although he appreciates Mr. Montgomery’s comment, the Board has been criticized for micromanagement and he believes these are the Chief’s calls.
Chief Kazian said many factors must be considered in staffing, but there is a breakpoint when overtime requires the organization hire more people; he said he would take everything under advisement and discuss this more in the future.
Mr. Blauert asked if the five reduced positions were all administrative;
Chief Kazian said two are firefighter positions and three and one-half administrative positions – Business Director, Human Resources Manager, Telecommunications Technician, as well as a part-time Telecom position – were cut from the proposed budget; he reminded the Board that a Training Officer was added to the budget.
Mr. Blauert recommended not having another budget workshop until after the recall election on May 15th and requested a recess until the 6:00 PM public session.
IV. PUBLIC SESSION – 6:00 PM.
A. Consent Agenda.
1. February 7, 2012 Executive Session Minutes.
2. March 19, 2012 Special Meeting Minutes.
3. March 19, 2012 Executive Session Minutes.
4. March 28, 2012 Special Workshop and Business Meeting Minutes.
5. March 28, 2012 Executive Session Minutes.
Mr. Blauert reconvened the meeting at 6:00 PM and entertained a motion for approval of the Consent Agenda, as listed; Mr. Christensen so moved, Mr. Montgomery seconded, and it passed unanimously.
B. Community Plan Update – Presented by City of Sedona Staff Member Mike Raber.
Mike Raber said the City of Sedona is about two years into the Community Plan process and wanted to update the Fire Board on its status; the Plan update is required by the State every 10 years and is the community’s vision for the future of the City. Mr. Raber said the City is taking a much more comprehensive look at the Plan than the last time. In order to include the community, City Council appointed a Citizen Steering committee comprised of 9 citizens, a Planning & Zoning commission
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member, and one City Council member with the charge to lead community outreach in creating a new plan for the community; since May of last year, the process has focused on getting the community ideas, comments, frustrations, and issues including three community-wide meetings, topical workshops, on-line idea forum, community plan “party in a box” with meeting materials, as well as meeting with community groups. They received 1,000 plus comments and are focusing on how to respond through plan alternatives and common vision. A draft Community Plan will be produced later in the year and be placed on a ballot in November 2013.
Mr. Raber said a Community Plan room has opened in the Vista Del Norte Plaza for working teams and steering committee, as a repository for community plan-related materials. He announced the City would keep the Fire District informed of progress. The next community meeting is scheduled for May 14th at West Sedona School at 6:30 PM to see where they are in the process.
Mr. Raber entertained questions.
Mr. Blauert asked if attention could be placed in the Community Plan on the water needs for fire protection of the community to help improve SFD’s ISO rating.
Mr. Raber said the Plan has water resource elements in it by State Law, but is unsure of its ISO effect.
Chief Kazian said he, Assistant Chief Keller, and Fire Marshal Johnson would be happy to work with the City on fire-district related planning.
C. Public Forum.
Joan Shannon – Uptown: What I’m going to say, a lot of people think is very trivial, but sometimes, it’s the trivial things that get to me. A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting, I think there were about 20 or 30 people there, and I heard one of the most unkind, meanest things I’ve heard in a long time.
And that’s what you said Mrs. Erick, when you asked for the Chief to fire a long-time 20 year-plus employee, as a solution to our budget crisis and outsource his job. One employee was your solution to our budget crisis. That was extremely mean and unkind. And Mr. Christensen, you said at a public forum recently, and I was not at the public forum, I must say, it was what I was told by several people.
Mr. Christensen interjected that was “hearsay”.
Mrs. Shannon: You quote hearsay all the time. You said the fire department was nothing but an ambulance service. Excuse me. People who are rescued in the creek, I saw a rescue once because I’m the one that called 9-1-1. Our fire department is not just an ambulance service. If this is your way of moving forward, well, I’m sorry, we are in dire straits, if this Board continues.
Jim Evans – Chapel Area: Last month, Mr. Dible spent time questioning the validity of the statement regarding 4 million annual visitors to Sedona. I agree with him. No one knows how many visitors come here every year. First, we do not have turnstiles to count them arriving. Second, we don’t have a definition of what a visitor is, and do we count visitors or visitor days. Is someone here for four hours counted differently than one who stays for a month? Am I a visitor if I rent a home for three months? Or if I visit Uncle Homer for six weeks? What am I if I come here as a baby with my grandfather? I have no money and my grandfather has no teeth. What do you call the people who live outside the fire district, but come here every day to work? What do you call the people who live in Cottonwood, drive through Sedona to work in Flagstaff? Does it make any difference if I’m one month old or 72 years old? Who knows and who cares? However, we do know two things. First, at various times of the year, this area has more people in vehicles than normal. Secondly, some of those individuals are going to call 9-1-1 because they have an emergency and the Sedona Fire District will respond without asking in advance if they are a visitor. So, to sum it all up, we all know that Sedona has a large, but forever unknown, number of visitors each year that are good for the local economy and that add workload to the fire district. And, that’s the way it is.
Carol Rizzi – West Sedona: Firstly, welcome to Sedona. My first time seeing you. I want to let everyone know that I have great respect for the fire department and the EMS service here, but I also commend anyone that’s on the Board. It’s not easy being an elected official, no matter what you do, you can’t please everyone. This has certainly been a very contentious couple of years for this Board and I congratulate this Board because they were elected because of the budget that we had for the fire
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department and so I commend them for their efforts and I think it’s horrible the way they’ve been treated and maligned and I definitely support all their efforts. I think as it’s been written, the Sedona Fire Department is one of the highest budgeted fire departments within all of Arizona. It has been written. I’d like to see some stats, more stats on the website, as if you… I happen to know the New York Fire Department very well and going on their stats and their web page, they do have stats on the amount of fires they go to, the amount that are EMS, and we don’t see those stats on any of the fire websites here, that’s Flagstaff, Prescott, as well as Sedona. So, I think it would be nice to be able to see those stats. I just think for the size of Sedona, we do have a large budget. If it’s just… and I know it’s not just dollars and cents, we do have to take care of the people that we support here and the tourists, but I believe our fire department can run on a smaller budget because Prescott and Flagstaff do, I think we can as well. So, I definitely think this Board has done a good job and I am in support of this current Board. So, thank you.
1. Items from Staff:
a. Discussion/Possible Action: Proclamation for National Administrative Professionals Week, April 22 – 28, 2012. (Fire Chief Kris Kazian)
Chief Kazian said today is the official recognition for Administrative Professionals Week and to honor all the administrative professional team of SFD, he, Chief Keller, and Fire Marshal Johnson sponsored lunch. He then read the proclamation presented to the Fire Board (attached) and thanked employees.
b. Discussion/Possible Action: Purchase Order for Station #1 Generator. (Fire Marshal Gary Johnson)
Fire Marshal Johnson said this project was originally evaluated by Battalion Chief Jayson Coil along with Station 4; he said the current Station 1 standby generator does not meet station needs or our Emergency Operation Center for SFD and the City of Sedona.
It was determined the station needed a 150 kilowatt generator; the City felt the project was important enough to offer $12,500, which is one-quarter of the approximate cost. He received a bid from Houston-Galveston Area Cooperative (HGAC) for public agencies for a new generator to be installed by our staff with the assistance of an electrician; when Station 4 replaced its generator, SFD took advantage of a local bid and as a result, used a company out of Glendale, Arizona, called GenTech; he received a bid from GenTech, but did not go out for a formal Request for Proposals; however, the HGAC, which is a political subdivision of Texas, meets our bidding requirements.
The two bids from GenTech and HGAC are almost “a wash”, and recommended to the Board, they approve the purchase from GenTech as it is an Arizona company, even though it does not meet the purchasing procedure that staff must follow.
Fire Marshal Johnson said GenTech’s advantage is it a local company; HGAC does not provide start-up and in-service once installed, which would require SFD to find a company to maintain it at approximately $1,700 and additionally, GenTech offers a better warranty with two years for parts and labor.
Chief Kazian pointed out this item is in the current fiscal year SFD budget and asked if the Board would be willing to consider the proposal from HGAC which has been through a formal bidding process or choose an Arizona company with a very competitive offer; he said there is a timing issue for SFD to purchase and receive this item in this current fiscal year.
Fire Marshal Johnson said HGAC’s offer is $40,300 and GenTech is $43,200 but with the additional service.
Mr. Montgomery stated it made him a little nervous going outside of SFD’s RFP process.
Fire Marshal Johnson pointed out staff is restricted to the purchasing procedures, but the Board has the ability to look at the total “picture” and decide if it is in the best interest of the district to purchase from another company.
Mr. Montgomery agrees that selecting low bid is not always the best option, but believes in following procedures.
Chief Kazian stated we are capable of utilizing cooperative purchasing per SFD policy; he said they only brought an alternative option to the Board based on past direction from the Board to buy local, when possible.
Mr. Blauert stated Fire Marshal Johnson has diligently looked into options for generators including surplus.
Fire Marshal Johnson said the Texas cooperative believes delivery of the generator would be in this fiscal year, but it could be the week before or after.
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Mr. Montgomery asked if SFD would be able to sell our current generator;
Fire Marshal Johnson responded affirmatively and the plan is to sell the current Station 1 unit, the old one from Station 4, a unit that was planned for another project, and one at Station 8; those have all been evaluated to determine there is no need for them, and can be sold as surplus.
Chief Kazian said SFD also has a policy provision for sole source service and GenTech has provided SFD other units in the past and would allow continuity and compatibility with other SFD units.
Mr. Montgomery says if this option meets our policy, he has no issue with it;
Chief Kazian said the GenTech bid meets the spirit of the policy in sole sourcing for continuity and for the best price, although we have gone through an RFP process through HGAC; he stressed if the Board is uncomfortable choosing GenTech, staff has absolutely no problem in going with HGAC.
Mr. Montgomery confirmed SFD would receive the $12,500 from the City of Sedona towards the purchase in either option selected; Fire Marshal Johnson confirmed same. Mr. Blauert affirmed that GenTech is a reputable company.
Mr. Montgomery moved to approve the purchase order from GenTech for the Station 1 generator, as presented; Mr. Dible seconded and the motion unanimously passed.
c. Discussion/Possible Action: Authorization to Appropriate Funds from Board Contingency Budget Account #6-02-9710 for Wages/Salaries and for Professional Services. (Fire Chief Kris Kazian)
Chief Kazian said the fiscal year is more than 75% completed and there are a few items, mostly Board contingency funds of $1.528 million, that need to be properly allocated in the budget. He said as part of this, the commission of the $190,000 for the McGladrey Report needs to be allocated officially from Board contingency, and in order to become solvent in the wages account item, $250,700 must be allocated from the $628,000 Board contingency line. He said as discussed at the December 14, 2011 Board meeting, the problem with keeping funds in contingency is it distorts the historical view of the budget.
Chief Kazian stated SFD expects to be under in overtime this fiscal year at about 60% expended and the extra will be “swept” at the end of the year; this will help keep the line item clear so that, historically, we can know what was spent in overtime.
Additionally, Chief Kazian recommended $100,000 be moved from Board contingency for legal fees, which will take that line item over the designated $250,000 including $190,000 for McGladrey for a total of $290,000 allocated for professional services. He said there may be further professional service fees that will need to be allocated from Board contingency before the end of the year. He then requested a motion by the Board to authorize Board contingency funds to be appropriated for wages and for professional services.
Mr. Montgomery so moved that the Board approve contingency funds to be properly allocated, as Chief Kazian stated, for $190,000 in professional services for the McGladrey Report, $250,700 for salaries/wages, and $100,000 for professional services in legal fees.
Mr. Dible seconded and asked what would be the total amount to move from Board contingency; Chief Kazian replied $540,700 total.
Mr. Blauert then called for the vote which passed with Blauert, Dible, and Montgomery voting in favor and Christensen and Erick abstaining.
d. Discussion/Possible Action: Purchase Order for Replacement of Computer Servers. (Telecommunications Supervisor Bob Motz)
Chief Kazian stated this is another item approved in the budget, and although late in the fiscal year, Telecommunications staff has been working hard to decide how to configure these servers; he said there were 10 servers from approximately 2003, which can now be replaced with 7 servers through newer technologies; he said these servers run “24/7/365” and are well past recommended service life for critical response-related issues including EMS reporting and TeleStaff modules.
Chief Kazian said if critical failure occurs, SFD would be in a bad position and furthermore, Telecommunications Supervisor Bob Motz was able to save approximately $30,000 in configuring this properly.
Mr. Blauert asked if this item was in the current fiscal year budget and Chief Kazian confirmed it was.
Mr. Montgomery moved to approve the Purchase Order in the amount of $42,938.93, as written; Mr. Dible seconded and asked if the 15 Optiplex were included as part of this purchase; upon recognition by Chief Kazian, Chief Keller responded there are several standalone PCs integrated into the system that function in various capacities,
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all of which date to around 2003.
Mr. Dible asked what the expected lifespan of the equipment would be;
Mr. Montgomery responded that, generally, lifespan for hardware is 5 years.
Mr. Blauert then called for the vote which passed with Blauert, Dible, Erick, and Montgomery voting in favor and with Christensen abstaining.
Chief Kazian expressed appreciation for the Board’s support in completing these initiatives and moving forward.
Mr. Montgomery pointed out these were planned purchases.
2. Item from Board Member Craig Dible:
a. Discussion/Possible Action: Workforce Management System for Employee Time and Attendance.
Mr. Dible said he met with Chief Kazian today and asked him to share the conclusion.
Chief Kazian acknowledged the hard work, time, and dedication put into this effort by all involved, but at this time, in the interest of financial impact to the organization and, especially, in light of the items approved tonight, he recommends not going forward with this contract at this time.
Chief Kazian said as the Fire Chief, he will assure accountability of employee attendance to be efficient and effective, and using the systems already in place can save taxpayer dollars and will be best for all parties involved.
Mr. Dible agreed.
3. Item from Board Member Ty Montgomery:
a. Monthly Update: Fees from April 2011 to current for Legal Services to SFD.
Karen Schmitt – Chapel Area: Mr. Blauert ran on a platform of accountability. So, it’s strange that the first time you are criticized for spending too much money on attorneys, what was your defense? Right. You blamed the public here at the meeting. To quote you, “everyone in this room is at fault”. I’ve even seen your full page campaign ads where you blame others for your outrageous use of attorneys and abuse of our tax dollars. Pathetic. You solicit voters to visit you or call you at your office, but ignore those who attend this meeting when they disagree. You’re supposed to represent all of us, whether we agree with you or not. We all pay taxes. Privately, you have told me, it’s my fault for reporting the Board to the A.G.’s Office for Open Meeting law violations. Do you remember what I replied? Quit breaking the law and I’ll have nothing to report. At last month’s meeting, you called out my husband and me by name when blaming the public for your Board’s exorbitant legal fees.
Mr. Blauert acknowledged he had misspoken.
Mrs. Schmitt: I understand that, but it’s a fact. OK? Do you not realize that this information can be verified or debunked as the case may be? In other words, I can find out how much my complaints have cost. Just to clarify things, I’m here to take responsibility along with several others for the $9,917.30 of the $145,000 you’ve spent and if it’s helped make the Board adhere to the law, I consider that a bargain. That’s approximately 6% of what this Board has spent. Who will you choose as your scapegoat for the other 94%? I’m sorry, Mr. Blauert, but it’s your responsibility as the Chair to monitor legal expenses and not allow individual Board Members and former unsuccessful running mate to call attorneys every time they don’t know what to do. As I have observed over time this Board has been seated, the reason your legal bills are so out of line are two-fold. One, you hired your own personal divorce attorney out of Phoenix who charges travel time, a higher rate than our former attorney, and in my opinion, from time to time, gives advice I would politely call, questionable, which has necessitated ever more lawyers to be hired in at least two cases. Number Two, instead of following protocol and asking for information and assistance from the SFD professional staff, you’ve turned them from allies into adversaries and made their working conditions so intolerable that they’ve left the district. By the way, just one more way you refuse to be accountable in spite of the mass exodus of employees since you were seated and your own McGladrey survey saying 60% of those left are looking to leave the district, you continue to publicly insist it has nothing to do with this Board – that it’s just a coincidence. Thank you.
Mr. Montgomery announced legal fees for the month of March were $6,095.88 (attached) and dispelled the notion that anybody in the community can call the SFD attorneys and we pay the bill; he said that is absolutely not true and he has looked through the entire itemized bill from the current attorneys, as well as former SFD attorney, Bill Whittington, and they do not have the authority to engage for services with anybody who “calls them off the cuff”, and that if the attorneys did, they would not work for SFD anymore because it would be “bill padding”. He said if a member of the public calls our attorney, the
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attorney will ask if it is something the Board wants addressed; he said anyone saying legal bills are high because the community is calling the lawyers is not true. Chief Kazian stated last month, he spoke of making corrections to errors on the legal bills and with the help of staff, reported the contract has been adjusted to the correct billing rate for future services and SFD has been given a credit of about $6,900.
4. Item from Board Chairman David Blauert:
a. Request for “Forensic Audit” – not Financial Audit – of Board Activities and Actions since Current Board took Office in December 2010. (Requested by Citizen Gayle Kirsch – Tabled on 3/28/12 for clarification of item from Mrs. Kirsch.)
Gayle Kirsch – West Sedona: Just so you know that I know what I’m talking about, I am attorney in the HR arena, having spent 35 years in that field. I’ve said that once before and I’m going to say it again just so you’ll know. I also want these put in the records (indicated documents).
These are the e-mails, Chairman Blauert, that you said you didn’t know anything about, along with numerous phone calls regarding all the requests I’ve made and I want these put in the record. It is the second time I’ve put them in the record. And, on top, your assistant, Marilyn Chilicas, I apologize for the mispronunciation, said in an e-mail that you asked her to send that the Ridenour law firm would provide me with the answers to my requests.
Well, I got answers and the answer to the request was attorney-client privilege and I’ve never received any answer other than that. And, based on my experience, I know that a lot of this is public record information. This is the reason I’ve asked for the forensic audit. A forensic audit is just not financial or to deal with criminal issues; it is an examination of an organization’s affairs conducted by an impartial party that result in a written report. Forensic is only an adjective which means, belonging to, used in, or suitable to courts of judicature, or to public discussion and debate.
These audits are routine in organizations. In fact, I have conducted many over the years. There are many actions taken by this Board that have resulted in adverse results to the SFD. There are numerous outstanding employee complaints, as a result of this Board; the employee morale has been adversely affected by this Board’s action, and the turnover is a direct result of the Board’s action.
A good example of this is the hiring process undertaken to hire our current Chief. With all due respect, Chief, nothing to do with you. This process was a sham and a fraud, and it perpetrated upon the good citizens of the SFD. In addition, Ms. Erick, Board Member, has refused to provide the name of the attorney that told her HR should not be involved in this process.
In your article to the Red Rock News, you stated that the high attorney fees were because HR was not involved. Well, that was as a direct result of your actions, and I still want the name of that attorney, to which we are entitled.
Mr. Blauert asked to clarify something and stated Mrs. Erick’s comment about her speaking to an attorney did not cost the district “one penny” and so, she does not have to give that name to the public.
Mrs. Kirsch replied: Yes, she does if she used it as advice to this Board and as a matter of the Board record. Yes, she did and it’s in the Board Minutes. I will show them to you.
Mr. Blauert again stated there was no cost to the district.
Mrs. Kirsch: It doesn’t matter. She consulted an attorney that provided advice and she put it in the public record. And we are entitled to know who that attorney is. We may not be entitled to the information she got, but if she put it in the record and stated that she consulted an attorney, I know for a fact. Attorneys have differences of opinion all the time, but this is a fact.
The Board Members are not employees of the SFD, but elected officials. The citizens of the SFD are entitled to the information I have requested in all of these e-mails. I ask that an outside law firm be engaged to review all actions of this Board, as set out in my e-mails and provide the citizens of SFD a report of these actions, as they are entitled to. I know that an investigation is now underway regarding disparate treatment of the candidates for the Chief’s position. There was a letter from an applicant. I believe an employee complaint has been filed. While the citizens may not be entitled to the investigatory documents.
The citizens are entitled to know if this Board and the Chief’s hiring committee’s actions resulted in adverse impact for the SFD. We are entitled to know what the inappropriate actions were and the subsequent repercussions and costs of these actions. This goes for all actions taken by this Board in the HR arena. The Ridenour firm is in the Board’s pocket. We need an objective third-party to get at the truth. I ask this Board vote yes for this audit tonight. The veracity of this Board is at stake and a no-vote
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is a symbol of that veracity. And I must say, you can tell how passionate I feel about this. And I might be one of the ones that have costs some of the attorney’s fees – justly. Thank you.
Mr. Blauert stated the complete Minutes of all Board meetings are available with Board actions.
Chief Kazian stated Executive Assistant Tricia Greer and he have been working to completely understand Mrs. Kirsch’s request, which has been forwarded to an HR firm; however, they were unable to clearly identify what is being requested; he said as he recalls, the request was for a forensic audit of all Board actions from December 2010 and related repercussions and costs of such actions.
He said the request is somewhat broad and he is trying to understand where such an investigation would begin; Mrs. Kirsch said the request is not broad and experienced HR firms would understand.
Chief Kazian said staff would go back to the “drawing board” to see if there is anything to be done, if there is no Board action tonight. He said an attorney at the HR firm to which he spoke stated it is very broad and difficult to come up with an estimate of how much it would cost to complete.
An audience member, Joan Shannon, interjected that Mrs. Erick should just answer the question whether she consulted an attorney regarding this.
Mr. Blauert stated he would not allow such conduct from the audience.
Mr. Montgomery said he understands Mrs. Kirsch’s feelings and frustration, but at this point, he cannot expend more legal fees, as they just allocated $100,000 for those; he apologized to Mrs. Kirsch, and stated it might start an investigation of Board Members no longer sitting on the Board after the Fire Board recall election, and as with the budget, should wait.
Mrs. Kirsch responded her point is many employees have been affected and the public is expending a lot of legal fees to date to investigate and answer complaints, and this issue is not going away and covering it up will not change it; she said no matter which Board is sitting, these problems are here.
b. Retention of Attorney for Public Record Advice.
Chief Kazian stated, as he understands, the attorney who has done the independent audit of the Fire Chief Selection Committee, recommended the Board hire an attorney specializing in public records retention and Open Meeting Law to guide SFD in its decision of how to handle that investigation; he said this is mostly necessitated because Attorney Scott Wakefield was part of the process as legal counsel and a party to the matter; the investigator’s recommendation is to hire Attorney Fredda Bisman, who has provided a resume and contract for services that would allow the Board to receive the investigation results and address it in the proper manner;
Chief Kazian said the estimate is two or three hours of the attorney’s time at a rate of $250 per hour; the initial investigation of the matter is complete. Mr. Blauert entertained a motion to hire an attorney for public record report and verification; Mr. Dible so moved; Mr. Montgomery seconded and clarified the need for this attorney is because we cannot use our current law firm because of a conflict; Chief Kazian concurred and said it is this attorney’s field of expertise. Mr. Montgomery asked if the motion could be amended to be no more than four hours of this attorney’s time; Mr. Dible agreed and stated it must not exceed $1,000; Chief Kazian said the benefit of not specifying would be to retain the use of this attorney for possible future issues; Mr. Blauert stated the cap would be for purposes of this particular matter only; Mr. Dible so amended his motion; Mr. Montgomery amended his second and the motion passed with four ayes and Mr. Christensen abstaining.
E. Staff Reports.
1. Monthly Staff Report – Fire Chief Kris Kazian.
Chief Kazian reported the following:
Statistical information for the last month (report attached) in categories to emphasize the core services SFD provides and stated there were 325 total incidents in the month of March with 173 ambulance calls; he stated two weeks ago, all four SFD ambulances were on simultaneous calls. He presented emergency response times in different categories; in non-emergency calls (such as beeping smoke detector, etc.) response times are not as critical, and asked all to understand the dispatch software used and dispatchers’ resources and skills determine what calls are emergency; he said of the 325 total calls, 105 of them were emergency responses, which could include emergency ambulance calls; he said emergency calls that require “lights and sirens” take great risks on Firefighter/EMS staff, as well as the
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public. He explained “within six minutes” for response times means up to six minutes, not 6 minutes and 1 second, etc.
Chief Kazian stated 74.29% of calls are responded to within 8 minutes, but only 53% of the time in less than 6 minutes and that we would work to improve those times. The last page of the report concerns dispatch monthly activity including number and types of calls the Regional Communications Center receives. SFD incidents responded to year-to-date versus last year provide a “snapshot” of activity on the last page.
Announced an Open House at Station 1 in West Sedona this Saturday, from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Annual Awards Picnic will be held on Saturday, May 12, 2012 to honor employee award recipients.
Reminder that an active wildland fire season is predicted, similar to 2006; he asked all to reduce flammable vegetation near homes.
SFD continues to work to be efficient, effective, and financially responsible.
Chief Kazian stated he has enjoyed every minute of his time at SFD so far and appreciates the faith and trust in moving in the right direction.
2. Recognition of Fire Inspector Craig Hassebrock’s Retirement from SFD.
Fire Marshal Johnson stated his Fire Inspector, Craig Hassebrock, is retiring on May 4th after almost 20 years with SFD; he started as a volunteer firefighter in 1992, progressed to Paramedic, worked as a full-time Communication Specialist (dispatcher), and has worked as a Fire Inspector for three years. Inspector Hassebrock will be missed by SFD.
Chief Kazian agreed and congratulated Fire Marshal Johnson, with the help of HR Assistant Dottie Oliver, for holding a successful assessment center for candidates to replace Inspector Hassebrock’s position and the new Inspector will be announced shortly.
3. March Financial Report.
Chief Kazian called the Board’s attention to the financial report, showing where SFD is for property tax revenue, ambulance billing, and other information; there were no questions from the Board.
4. Fire Marshal’s Safety Message.
Fire Marshal Johnson reinforced Chief Kazian’s statements about preparing for wildland fire season; high temperatures, strong winds, and fire are a deadly combination; he asked all to be especially careful.
His “lesson learned” for the month is from a barbecue fire this weekend with the gentleman involved having trouble lighting the grill; he repeatedly removed the regulator from the LP tank and put it back; unfortunately, the last time he did not get it back on tight, and when it was lit, a fire occurred and the man was burned, although fortunately, not too seriously.
He reminded all to use their barbecue grill safely and make sure the regulator knob is tightly connected.
The meeting adjourned at 7:24 PM.
David Blauert, Chairman of the Board