A fire department serving the Walkerville area is scheduled to have a mass resignation of its members pending a Saturday meeting where their future budget will be discussed by the three townships who fund their operations. At issue is how the fire department has been accounting for the money and spending more than what they are allotted, an issue which has led to a distrust by township officials of the Walkerville Area Fire Authority's (WAFA) record keeping procedures. As noted yesterday on the nationally distributed Fire Chief magazine:
WALKERVILLE, Mich. — Firefighters are threatening to quit if officials do not approve a department budget.
WOODTV.com reported that Walkerville Area Fire Authority went $75,000 over budget last year. Three surrounding townships will meet Saturday to vote on a new budget.
"It's just been one battle after another," Fire Chief Jerry Frick said.
Town officials said the budget is "out of hand."
"[Chief Frick is] trying to get us to pay the bills, but not telling us where the money is going," treasurer David Krupee said.
Chief Frick said the overdue amount was less than $75,000 and that it was all accounted for, according to the report.
"Then it started in: 'There's corruption.' And rumors just flying all over the place," Chief Frick said.
Crews said they will stop responding if officials do not pass the budget. However, neighboring departments will provide mutual aid if firefighters stage a walkout.
"They don't want to [quit]. These members are here to serve the people," Chief Frick said. "And it just breaks their hearts with all this stuff going on and it's like you're getting stabbed in the back every time you turn around."
For more local background, this recent Oceana County Press article explains more of the issues that have come up since a contentious meeting two months ago related in this February OCP article. This WZZM Article explains even more.
With everything taken into consideration, one has to wonder why there is such a squabble if the records are being kept, they reflect true costs of the authority, the purchases can be squared with the needs of the department, and there is proof (invoices/receipts) of those official purchases.
Typically, firefighters do not make the best accountants, so one has to believe that maybe these three townships are not being given a ledger for the WAFA that is complete and proper. Transparency can avert this showdown, so the question to ask is why doesn't the chief open up the books to all to use as his firewall? Fire Chief Frick has a duty to these township's treasuries containing the taxpayer's money to show where every cent goes.
If that hasn't occurred to a reasonable standard, the orchestrated walkout of Walkerville that may occur Saturday will be little more than a move motivated by extortion rather than any other ideal. If Chief Frick wants more money, he needs to show the public and these townships that he has been a good steward of that money in the past. Failing that, the township trustees would be remiss to the public in throwing more money into the fire that has burned them in the past.
There is NO accountability anymore. This could lead to loss of life. It's sickening' The Chief needs to hand over the books or a warrant needs to be served to get the books and receipts immediately. I smell smoke!
One has to wonder where the money went. If its on the up and up, OK. But if the chief and the boys wanted a new off-road recovery unit or new custom dry suits without it being in the budget then they may just have to do like the rest of us and work within our means and do without.
Meanwhile, for those who cannot believe of a chief mishandling funds, today the former chief of the boys in blue just down the road in Shelby, Robert Wilson, pled guilty to two charges of taking money from the public trough. From the mug shot, he also looks like he may have feasted from another trough too:
SHELBY, Mich. – The former police chief in the village of Shelby has pleaded guilty to two charges Friday involving stealing money from the public trough.
Robert Wilson entered his guilty pleas to embezzlement by an agent and a motor vehicle code fault charge. Wilson was charged in August 2016.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette had alleged that Wilson performed car inspection jobs and did not reporting the fees he collected to the village. An investigation into his activity found that between December 2013 and November 2015, he allegedly performed 699 vehicle inspections on “salvage vehicles” that he never reported.
Wilson was terminated from the police department last summer. He will be sentenced on June 5th.
Wilson is in deep sh=t if he is found guilty. I can understand if he forgot to turn in the money for a few inspections but 699. This may run deeper than not turning in money. It sounds like an organized attempt to falsify records or possibly the laundering of stolen vehicles and title tampering.
On the former Shelby police chief, I find it interesting that there was 699 salvage vehicles inspected in about a 2 year period. Quick figures would be 1 a day, 7 day's a week. I don't really know how many body shops there are in Oceana county but I find these numbers kinda hard to believe. But the chief pleaded guilty so it must be true , right?
Who in the World does Frick work for? He must answer to someone or some board. If I were the King of Walkervile I would demand that Frick prove he needed the money and also prove it was necessary to over spend his budget as he did. If he refused or did not show that he is indeed not trying to pull a fast one then I would throw him into the royal moat and call the royal first responders, if they had not already walked off the job, to pull him out of the mud. This, to me, is a no brainer. Do your job Frick or walkaway from Walkerville.
Willy, after I wrote my posting I was thinking the same thing. It must have been more than the county where he would have some jurisdiction to do inspections. I don't know but I would think just because your a police chief of a small town you could inspect for the whole state, maybe , maybe not. Sounds like some underhanded dealings were going on with multiple people. I had a salvage vehicle inspected once and it was done by a deputy from the county sheriff department. As I had bough and repaired he wreck, I needed to supply to him all the invoices from purchase and parts to repair the said vehicle. Numbers were checked and verified .
UPDATE: The budget was passed by the fire board Saturday, April 22, during a meeting at the Elbridge Township Hall, WAFD Firefighter Leonard Amador said. It took two tries, but the budget passed on the second vote, he said.
Fire Department Administrator Jerry Frick’s pay was slashed from $7,000 annually to $3,000, Amador said. Weekend standby funds also took a large hit from $10,000 to $4,000, he said.
Firefighters threatened to quit, because they had no money remaining in their budget in order to operate. Residents living within the 130-square-mile area that the fire department serves were in jeopardy of losing fire protection.
But right here and now, in the article Fire board fires Frick as controversy flares on the Ocean County Press we learn:
After months of battling over budget issues, the Walkerville Area Joint Fire and Rescue Authority eliminated the administrator position, which was held by long-time Fire Chief Jerry Frick, with a split vote during a meeting Wednesday evening.
“As of tonight September 27, the fire board has just eliminated the position of the fire administrator. So, what does this mean for the department? At this time, Jerry Frick is no longer an employee of the department and (Fire Chief) Greg Frick will not be taking his place. Responsibilities will fall on Allen Purdy, our deputy fire chief,” states the Walkerville Area Fire Rescue’s Facebook page.
Reading the full article and all of the other articles regarding this issue, the Fire Board and other officials have been very tight-lipped about things other than making claims which seem to have been disputed publicly by Frick and his supporters. If the fire board and other local governments involved want to remain mum on the subjects, the public and Frick supporters should pressure them to give some basis as to why they are acting the way they do.
I amend my original analysis and now back the chief, pending some responsible and transparent behavior by officials. Hopefully the fire board can release evidence to back up why they would treat a five decade volunteer chief and his department like this, or reverse their decisions which seem to be more motivated by emotions and egos.
Any of the transactions should be in back and white.Item purchased, money spent. There can't be any other way. Over spending the budget requires to spend the budget first then another $75,000. Unless there was a major loss of a piece of equipment , there's no excuse. The fire department in all cities, counties just like the police have a budget to hold to. It seems that someone spent $75,000. over the allotted moneys. If you have attended any parades like our 4th of july, Pentwaters home coming and even the past Scottville harvest festival you can see the money that is spent on equipment, some needed and some that was someones got have for some unknown reason . Just wasteful spending. It seems all the cities have those what the heck do they need that truck for. Is it ludingtons fire truck with custom flames on it? We taxpayers paid for that ridiculous unneeded expense. I have traveled all over the USA and have never seen another fire truck painted with flames. What a waste of our money.
Great 3-D effect, Willy but I believe that's what they call an 'on-fire truck' rather than a fire truck. If stump is aggrieved because of the painted flames on the main LFD fire engine, he probably should be even more upset with the American flag on the grill of the ladder truck, which cost a bit more from what I recall. I would suggest that with all the money the municipality saves with using part-paid volunteers, these are fairly nominal as long as it's not overplayed. It's a minor cost for morale in comparison to the value you get from the volunteers.
I assuredly agree with a full accounting being in order for the WAFD, but if the various county authorities suggest the chief and others are not keeping a full account, that they supply their own figures in black and white showing the problems, other than saying it is and having WAFD officers claim otherwise. This hasn't been done for the public, so their claims become unsubstantiated and creates the image that not only may the WAFD be unaccountable, but the authorities are also unaccountable for their actions.