Commissioner Gates read into the minutes of the regular meeting last week their official response.

 

No mention of the fact that one commissioner submits and gets paid for ‘volunteer’ meetings.

 

And the fact remains that there is no yearbook, the idea has been canceled and there are no plans to rejuvenate it (other than just hope Jerry forgets about it) and that Commissioner Fossos took over $700 of your tax dollars with no plan to produce and sell anything to cover his wages.

 

Click here to read the response from the fire department

After reading tell me if they addressed the waste issue or just covered it up, again.

 

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Original post:

Commissioner Fossos never saw a meeting he didn’t like. Or would charge the taxpayers for, apparently.

 

Time after time we see the public being played the fool when it comes to how the district wastes our money.

 

On October 30, 2009, Commissioner Fossos and Chief Church became co-chairs of the newly formed special 60th Anniversary Yearbook Committee.

 

Should the taxpayer pay?

 

Among the many decisions that needed to be made was how was the yearbook to be paid for.

 

Apparently there was some discussion about whether the public should be responsible for any of the expenses of the yearbook and, at the next two board of commissioner meetings, these concerns were discussed and presumably resolved. Chief Church is cited as having asked legal counsel and confirmed no public funds could be spent.

 

Finally, a motion was made at the December 17th 2009 regular meeting for the department to pay the upfront costs but “the costs will be built into the cost of the annual so in the end the department will be reimbursed for all upfront costs once the books are sold”. This was apparently on advice from counsel that the expenses for the yearbook should be “self sustained”.

 

The commissioners were trying to make a public showing that we would not have to pay one dime for this special internal publication.

 

That is of course, all the costs except for the $634 dollars that Commissioner Fossos was paid to attend the meetings.

 

You see, every time Commissioner Fossos goes anywhere that could remotely be construed as district business, he submits a reimbursement for meeting pay. And sometimes intra-district mileage to leave his home and travel the 10 miles to get there, and the 10 miles back. Whether he shows up at a Chili cook-off, a friends funeral or convicted embezzler sentencing, it goes on his expense account and your tax dollars pay for his pleasure or to ease his grief.

 

Back to the case of the non-existent yearbook.

 

After several meetings, dinner with the publisher and a lunch where someone who thought the district was paying had lobster, (although it was eventually paid for by the CFO), the entire yearbook idea was scrapped. Not one page was produced.

 

$634 for Nothing

So, I ask, what about the $634 dollars that Commissioner Fossos got paid for this failed effort? And why did he continue to submit, and get paid for, meetings for an activity that was suppose to cost the taxpayers nothing?

 

Even if one concludes that the cost was budget neutral, should the yearbook have been published and sold, were the buyers aware that they were paying Commissioner Fossos wages of between $50 to $104 an hour for the ‘honor’ of being on this special committee.

And, I think there is some evidence here as to why it failed. Bringing the actual wasted cost to over $721, in March of 2010, one firefighter was paid $87.78 in OVERTIME pay to attend the meeting. Even though the yearbook was to cost the taxpayers zero dollars, it becomes obvious that the commissioners gotta-get-paid attitude is infectious and was wearing off on others.

Read the November board meeting and you will see where Commissioner Fossos said they need a lot of “volunteers”. But the committee had none stepping up to the ‘Honor’. Even paying them overtime was not enough to generate interest and a yearbook.

Of course, the word volunteer means nothing to Commissioner James Fossos either. These exciting and honorable efforts were just another opportunity cooked up by the commissioner and the chief to create a way of getting paid.

 

How was the decision to abandon made?

There is no mention in any of the minutes as far as I can find and seems to have simply been abandoned as not being feasible or viable.

 

When I submitted my public records request, I actually expected to get confirmation of a yearbook being published and sold. I was wrong. After wasting several hundred tax-payer dollars, Commissioner Fossos decided that no such publication would be completed.

 

Accountability

Worse yet, because of the reporting and reimbursement policy within the district, not even the other commissioners are usually aware of the meetings and mileage that James Fossos bills for.

Absolutely shameful performance for one of your elected officials.

 

 

 

o   Reference from the November 17, 2009 regular meeting, (red and pink highlights added):

o

o   Commissioner Fossos reported that we had our first 60th Anniversary Yearbook meeting; it went very well and lasted over two (2) hours.  The group made some good decisions, we will be needing volunteers to help, and the co-chairs will be Commissioner Fossos and Chief Church.  He added that he would like to have a Motion from the Commissioners supporting the yearbook and that it will be a bonifide department project.  The department may need to pay some expenses in advance but all costs associated with the yearbook will be paid back to the department via the sale of the books. Commissioner Hershey made a Motion to approve the yearbook and some expenditures for the yearbook, it should be self sustained.

o   The Commissioners approve the concept but after some discussion they want to check with legal counsel and make sure that this is not a use of public funds.  Commissioner Gates tabled the Motion to the December Commissioners meeting. The table to the Motion passed unanimously.  It was requested that this be added to the December agenda

o

o   Reference from the December 17, 2009 regular meeting, (red highlights added):

o

o   DEPARTMENT ANNUAL (YEARBOOK) UPDATE

o   Chief Church reported that we have a Department Annual (Yearbook) Committee meeting scheduled for January 19th at 1:00 pm at Station 62.  He added that he and Commissioner Fossos are the Co-Chairs and he has checked with Legal Counsel, in regards to the department paying upfront costs, but the costs will be built into the cost of the annual so in the end the department will be reimbursed for all upfront costs once the books are sold. There was a motion on the table from Commissioner Hershey from the November 17th meeting.  Motion to approve the Yearbook and some expenditures for the yearbook, it should be self sustained.  Motion passed unanimously.

.

.

Update 3/22/11

 

Read into the minutes of the March 22, 2011 Regular Board of Commissioners meeting (my mistake on the $800 figure, should have been “over $700”):

Comment on 60th Anniversary Yearbook,

Records indicate that in November and December 2009 the Board of Commissioners formed and approved the Yearbook committee only after Chief Church consulted with Legal Counsel and agreeing that there would be no use of public funds.

According the minutes of those meetings, all costs would be recovered through the proceeds of the sale of the yearbook. And Comm Fossos is on record as stating that “The group made some good decisions, we will be needing volunteers to help”.

Anyone hearing this would conclude that the yearbook would indeed not cost the taxpayers any money and further would be supported by volunteer efforts.

Both in the actions of this board and in the publication entitled Commissioner Guidelines, reference is made that only meetings or activities which directly benefit the public qualify for compensation.

However, records obtained from the district show that the word ‘volunteer’ is often misused by the district. Available documents show that for this failed yearbook over $800 of public money was spent on the effort in meeting and overtime costs.

Records also show that since no yearbook has been produced athat no proceeds have been collected by the district.

As I recall, a few years ago the district suffered some turmoil as an employee was charged with, and later convicted of, embezzlement of district funds.

Can the board please tell me how this case of overt mis-use of district funds is any different than the covert embezzlement perpetrated by the convicted employee?

 

 

 

The Response

Chairman Commissioner Bill Gates said he would have to get back to me on this.

Sure hope this gets more of a response than when I asked Chief Allen Church about the ‘Volunteer’ Honor Guard getting paid thousands of dollars every year in overtime. (Email hem two months ago. Now getting just ignored and abject silence)

 

About Former SKF&R CFO Grant Gaspard

Read about how, “According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Gaspard caused the misuse of more than $775,000 in district money.”  the Grant Gaspard sentencing

By the way, while on the topic of good judgment, who hired the now convicted Grant Gaspard? And now retired with full benefits Patrick Kettenring who was paid full salary and benefits for 22 months to stay at home?


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