These days, it’s so hard to tell whether or not our Board is simply just complacent or if they act recklessly with intention. While the idealist in me wishes fervently to believe that a group of 7 ordinary citizens couldn’t possibly intentionally condone most of what’s been exposed – the realist in me points out that, despite the public documentation, the Trustees have not taken a single verifiable action to correct significant malfeasance at Village Hall. So, my questions are – are our Trustees incompetent due to complacency or is it a willful and intentional act? If it’s intentional, is that on the part of all our trustees, or simply a few?
Every public official ought to realize that when things don’t add up, somebody is going to start digging. They should realize that eventually the truth will come out. This is especially true when a significant portion of employees have been mistreated – it creates a situation in which EVERYONE wants to talk, the only thing that keeps them from doing so is fear. Alas, it seems as if this lesson hasn’t been learned in our Village.
To answer some inquiries I’ve had of late – Yes, I do know more than what I write about. I only write about topics which I have publicly obtained documents for. Yes, if I had information about anything illegal going on in the village that information will be turned over to the property authorities once I can confirm that the tip(s) is(are) authentic. No, I will not reveal the identity of anyone who supplies information, with the caveat being that I hope those that do share will not be upset if their information does not get printed/posted if I’m unable to confirm the information.
Moving on with today’s post. All too often, people in elected positions will say or do whatever they need to in order get re-elected. But what happens when these people overtly lie to the public, and then lie about the lie in order to cover it up? Most of the time, nothing – because it’s hard to get the documentation to prove the lie.
Every public official – especially those in our Village – should realize however that there is a paper trail for everything (or at least an electronic trail – should the papers be shredded in a feeble attempt to hide the evidence) and eventually, the truth will come out. In March of 2014, I submitted a FOIA to the federal government seeking to view the Village’s 2013 SAFER grant application. Although the government often times works at a snail’s pace – it did provide the copy of the application. I find it interesting that an application, with full knowledge, understanding and acceptance of the Village Board – is in DIRECT contradiction to what they have stated publicly. Rather embarrassing I’d say. So, for your viewing pleasure, here it is:‘2014-FEFO-00511 Responsive Documents’.
Let’s look at what this document says. It’s important to note that while it is illegal to LIE on a federal application, it’s not illegal to lie to those who elected them. I believe it’s at least safe to say that those submitting the application did so accurately and truthfully based on information provided by Village Management, so it’s authenticity is not in question here.
A quick discussion on some of the terms – NFPA is a national organization that sets national standards for the fire service. It is not necessary for States or Village to adopt it’s recommendations. Often times Villages adopt only portions of it. However, these are standards that are set based upon scientifically verified evidence based testing, and as such, are often used to not only assess the adequacy of fire departments, but sometimes used against Villages in court cases. Further, what is most important is that the application specifically states that it is the goal of the Village to be in compliance with NFPA standard 1710, which sets the minimum standard for appropriate staffing response to a structure fire. The lesser known fact is that when a local jurisdiction accepts federal funds it often times finds itself married to federal standards.
To reiterate the amount that our Village relies on the NFPA standards in setting goals for the fire department, our primary goal, found in the 2014 budget presentation, states that our Village’s fire department will respond to calls within 4 minutes, at least 90% of the time. (Of course, we hit that about 50% or less of the time right now.) That goal comes direct out of NFPA 1710: 188.8.131.52.1 (for those that want to look it up.)
According to the application:
Both Fire Department management and firefighters union agreed that the Village does not currently, nor has it EVER met the NFPA 1710 requirements, and that the Village board committed to the SAFER grant program. So just to be clear, the Village, in it’s application stated that it didn’t meet and has never met the MINIMUM standards for fire response. Wait a minute, didn’t Director Popp say that the level of protection was appropriate? Just in case anyone has forgotten:
And now we find out that management secretly has agreed that we aren’t adequate and that we need more personnel? Why hasn’t this been publicly stated by Director Popp or Deputy Chief Skillman? Why is our Manager continually issued authority to do as he pleases with no checks and balances? Why would the board commit to this program, to keeping the extra staff beyond the grant period, if THEY didn’t think it was needed?
Let’s keep in mind for a moment what our Mission Statement says. It’s unfortunate that our Trustees feel that the mission statement is enough to placate everyone. The truth is our Village has been actively working against the mission statement since 2010. While several new, high paid positions have been created at Village Hall, the public safety sector has taken a hit to it’s abilities. The only difference is now we have a document produced by the Village that says so.
The added personnel from this grant would give the department a total of 15 firefighting personnel on duty per day (hmm, that number rings a familiar bell – several posts worth AND a 5 minute public comments speech actually. And it says in this application that the board agreed that was the need… amazing how what I say in public is misinformation when secretly they agree with me) I suppose when the Village Board members say in public that the new “staffing model” was not going to diminish the service levels, and that it was proved viable, they didn’t take into account that they were reducing staffing levels at a time when they told the federal government that in fact they believed they needed MORE on-duty personnel… hmm, so which was it, a LIE to the federal government, or to us? To make that clearer – in 2008 when the Village submitted a SAFER grant under Chief Schuldt – 15 daily duty spots were called for then too – so that number has been around for a long time now.
Directly taken from the application: “Our board members see the need we have and are in full support of this grant … and are confident they will be able to retain them after the two years is over.” The grant period is for 2 years. It’s uncanny how our board can’t figure out the finances – to the federal government, they say that they will retain the firefighters from the grant (meaning they have the money for it), while they tell us that they are reducing our public safety because they can’t afford it. Which is it – broke or not broke – who was lied to? Given that they wanted to amend the application when the Village decided it was going to lay off 2 firefighters this year, and given that FEMA told them they would need to submit a full set of financials to prove the hardship, AND given that the village never did so – i’m thinking it was we the Residents who were lied to.
Directly taken: “Like most departments we insist on excellence. As with other departments in our area, we are all relying on each other for mutual aid, and all of us are finding more times than not that we can no longer count on each other for assistance.” Interestingly, in the DAILY HERALD on 12/4/2013 Village Hall officials stated to the reporter that “mutual aid from other towns is robust.” So, which one is it Trustees – is mutual aid robust or can we no longer count on each other – again, did you lie to the federal government, or to us?
So here it is folks, when Manager Rooney, sitting in his high perch on the Board, looks down and calls what I say “Misinformation”:
It has become clear that the person he should be referring to as spouting “intentional misinformation” is himself. But he isn’t the only one. Several of our board members have also expressed the same sentiment, and we know now that they too were lying either to us or to the federal government. That folks, is who we have voted in as our elected officials. I have made a promise to promote honesty and integrity, both for myself and for others around me – and this document is just another in a string of documents that backs that up.
After reading the SAFER grant and what the Village claims it’s needs are, do you still feel as though your elected leaders have told you the truth about the capabilities that our fire department has to respond to your medical, fire or emergency needs? Do you feel as though they have any clue what it is they are talking about? DPS Popp was the Director of Public Safety when this grant was written. So he knew before the above video that the department had a need far greater than he was stating at the board meeting. Was his assessment then a result of lack of fire service experience, or was it coercion from the Manager that has also affected so many other village employees? I wish to leave you with one final video and a question.
Which is scarier to you – that one of our Trustees naively asked the Director of Public Safety for a guarantee that no one would have a structure fire or a heart attack before the fire department could arrive, or the answer that the Director of Public Safety gave?