Christopher-Kohls Fire Board In Hot Seat

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A group of residents in the Christopher-Kohls Fire District is campaigning to recall the district's three board members.

"The goal is to get as much community input and education as possible," said one of the organizers, Gregory Bounds. He is treasurer of the group and a volunteer emergency medical technician and firefighter with the fire district.

The board members that are the subject of the recall drive are chairman Power Webb, Mikey Marazza and Jerry Fisher.

The reason for the recall, according to organizers, is possible open meeting law violations, meetings conducted without public input, demeaning gestures and condescending attitude to public and departmental personnel.

A number of failures by the board also are included in the petition, including failure to:

  • act aggressively to determine or address extreme risks of life and property facing the district;
  • adequately or equitably represent the taxpayers of the district or to solicit their opinions prior to major decisions;
  • provide the personnel or equipment necessary to adequately protect the fire district or its personnel;
  • properly publish the budget and possible open meeting law violations with regard to the budget;
  • provide job descriptions, roles and responsibilities, by-laws or other documents necessary for good management of the district;
  • prepare long- and short-range plans or set goals for the district;
  • provide adequate funding through taxation or other sources, and
  • provide a safe and secure working environment for district personnel or volunteers.

Additional reasons for the recall include "... lack of knowledge or experience related to public office or the fire service ... lack (of) community awareness and flexibility ... inability or unwillingness to research needs of district or its personnel or provide for those needs."

"Not once has a board member asked the chief (Kent Courtney) what he needs," Bounds said.

At the July 14 meeting of the board, new bylaws were presented and adopted, Bounds said. He said the previous by-laws were adopted in 1991.

He said the board has said it is working on job descriptions now.

Bounds said in another counteract to the request for resignations, the board members have asked for the resignations of two department volunteers who are active with the coalition. Bounds is one of them.

"The point is the department, for so many years, has been run by a board making unilateral decisions without public input and it has not kept up with the progressive needs of the community and department as it has grown and continues to grow," Bounds said.

Webb has been on the fire board for 13 years, according to Bounds, and Marazza has served seven years. Fisher was appointed just this year by the two veterans.

"There are many people with experience and education who could better serve as board members," Bounds said.

He said the problems with the standing board were not discovered until recently.

"The board has sent opposing chiefs down the road," he said, explaining when there was a professional firefighter serving as the chief, and his views differed from the board's, the chief has been either forced to resign or been fired.

"The only way anything gets done is with united voices," Bounds said. Bounds said the district's present fire chief, Kent Courtney, is not involved, but at least two of the board members believe he is behind the recall drive.

"All the boards have done a good job for the fire district. The voters and residents must have felt the same way -- they keep bringing us back," Webb said. "I have enough confidence in our residents and voters. They will keep the board in office."

Marazza said she thinks the district personnel just want a "rubber stamp board." She said she is not going to resign.

Fisher is concerned that a recall is going to cost taxpayers money.

He has also refused to resign and said he has a right to know who his accusers are.

Attempts to contact Courtney for comments on the recall were unsuccessful.

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