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In October 2011, a Battalion Chief with the Novato Fire Department filed a $6,000,000 claim against the former Chief, the Deputy Chief and the Novato Fire Protection District (NFPD). In this claim, the officer alleged that hostility directed toward him in the work environment by the chief and deputy chief had escalated to an intolerable level.
The claimant further alleged that he was retaliated against, harassed, threatened with demotion and disciplined with punitive actions by the two commanding officers. The Grand Jury was told by members of the department that the command staff was in a constant state of fear and intimidation. The claim filed by the Battalion Chief against the former Fire Chief and Deputy Chief contained serious allegations about both officers.
The NFPD Board of Directors (BOD): Director Tomas Kaselionis, Director Farhad Mansourian, Director Jim Galli, Director Lj Silverman, and President Brad Beedle voted to settle this claim for $250,000 and the officer resigned from the department. The investigation into this claim cost the NFPD an additional $100,000 in legal fees. On the face of it this might seem to have been a good deal for the NFPD BOD.
By paying out $350,000 they saved $5,650,000.00 over potentially losing the lawsuit. Basically, by paying out hush money to the Battalion Chief they confirmed that they knew and acknowledged that the disturbing charges against the former Fire Chief Marc Revere and Deputy Chief Eric Nickel were true. The question is what additional hostility; harassment, punitive actions and threats were leveled against the claimant in order to force him to accept such a truncated settlement as $250,000 and to crawl back quietly into the woodwork when he was demanding six million?
When BOD member Farhad Mansourian was asked for comment from the press about the serious allegations against these two high-level Novato Fire Department officials, public employees whose supervision, as a member of said NFPD BODs was his responsibility, and whose grossly inflated pay was rubber stamped by himself and the other docile members of that elected body, he refused to answer the question and quickly changed the subject. But special pleading is usually a sign that the books are being cooked.
Both the former Fire Chief and former Deputy Chief who were the subject of the damning law suit received extensive overtime pay, rubber stamped by Mansourian’s BOD, despite the fact that both positions are exempt from the requirement of overtime under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) law, and there is no provision in District Policy, Memorandum of Understanding or other agreements that provide for the issuance of overtime to these officers.
The Chief and Deputy Chief had traditionally received Administrative Time Off (ATO) in lieu of overtime pay and were expected to respond to emergencies and attend night and weekend trainings and workshops as part of their responsibilities. In 2011, the former chief was paid $16,364 in overtime, and the Deputy Chief received $11,7913.
A member of the Board stated that, even though he and the rest of the BOD voted unanimously for the questionable overtime payments and grossly inflated salaries, the BOD yet somehow did not know how much overtime or special pay the former Chief and former Deputy Chief were making. When asked to comment upon the serious charges against the Fire Chief and his Deputy Fire Chief the Director would only state that, "This is the Novato Fire District, which operationally is superior." Mansourian said.
Leaving the press scratching their collective heads trying to figure out how grossly overpaying their fire department officials, fostering a workplace environment that numerous sources reported to the Grand Jury had reduced morale in the Novato fire department to an all-time low during the years the former Chief, the subject of the law suit, had run the department, could be somehow interpreted as “operationally superior”.
The Grand Jury was told by members of the department that the command staff was in a constant state of fear and intimidation. The former Deputy Chief was the highest paid public employee in the County in 2011: $407,661. • The six highest paid firefighters in the County in 2011 were all top officers of the Novato Fire Protection District. Yet Board members still expressed surprise at how much their own top staffers were making when these salaries were published online by The Mercury News, even though they again had unanimously voted in favor of them.
|Posted by Sherlock Pwahrow on January 26, 2017 at 1:50 PM||comments (0)|
Cowardly Novato Grand Jury: Less than grand
Shady goings on at Northern California's dysfunctional Fire Department BODs
In November 2013, the Grand Jury learned that a lawsuit had been filed against the Novato Fire Protection District (NFPD). Like many red-blooded Americans, they immediately seized upon any excuse to get out of jury duty. Simply because the former Fire Chief threatened to sue the NFPD, two members of the board of directors (BOD) and the interim fire chief who replaced him, alleging defamation of character, slander, and negligent misrepresentation.
The Grand Jury proved unwilling to influence the outcome of a lawsuit that never happened between the Novato Fire Chief and the NFPD, so they suspended their own investigation. That is an outrage because the party in question soon settled for a fraction of his demands. For such a weak reason as a lawsuit that never occurred, the jurors threw away the best chance the citizens of Novato will ever have to reclaim their lost tax dollars that they overpaid to their crooked fire chiefs. The former Deputy Chief was the highest paid public employee in the County in 2011: $407,661.
The Novato Grand Jury failed to follow through on their legal obligations to foster justice by bringing to trial those involved in the conspiracy to defraud the taxpayers.
It was the Grand Jury's job to bring to justice the criminals masquerading as honorable Novato Fire Chiefs who conspired with their board of directors to defraud the City of Novato by giving themselves inflated salaries. Ultimately, in the belief that the taxpayers of Marin had a right to more volumes of information that they will never have time to look at, the Grand Jury decided to write a worthless status report --one without teeth of any kind-- that no will read. The Grand Jury report confirms that they phoned in their responsibilities without the slightest concern for justice for their city.
One can understand why of course. The jury is made up of just ordinary citizens trying to get back to their lives and can't be bothered with the disgraceful implications against their local fire officials. Just pass the buck on and turn your backs to the theft of their city's treasure. Just leave the henhouse to the wolves.
Novato Grand Jury Abdicates Responsibility: Kicks Can Of Corruption Down Road
There is no next grand jury. It is always THE Grand Jury in session now or none at all. Because of their alleged fear of interfering with a legal trial, this grand jury once again kicked the can of corruption down the road. To be looked at by some non-existent future grand jury. But what was the grand jury really afraid of, threats to their loved ones, or were they simply paid off with all of the abundant Marin taxpayer dollars that the Novato Fire Protection District loves to lavish on their fire chiefs?
What does corruption look like; the problem is that corruption doesn't usually look like anything out of the norm? It appears to all the world as nothing but business as usual.
What is worse is that even when a classic case like this spews forth, such as the case of the Board of Directors of the Novato Fire Protection District , the jaundiced public turns a blind eye. Too busy it is presumed trying to earn enough to pay for all of the taxes that the NFPD routinely overpays its top fire officials.
The Voice of The Grand Jury: Crying in the Wilderness
Worse still, the Novato Grand Jury concluded that the problems that came to light during their investigation are not unique to the NFPD board by any stretch of the imagination. In a county where there are more than 30 special districts headed by boards of directors, they concluded that, in most cases, there is very little attention paid to board performance by the voters who put them into office. Nor is it any different in Sonoma and Napa County either.
|Posted by Sherlock Pwahrow on January 7, 2017 at 6:05 PM||comments (0)|
It's Good to Be Chief
As a Novato grand jury observed, no one in the community has the time or inclination to follow the goings on of the various myriad local northern California fire departments. That is why and how a vast --dare we use such a loaded word-- conspiracy has blossomed from one to other of the leaderships of those organizations.
The public has become so docile about the fire services that they are willing to swallow whatever crap fire officials hand down. A few well-placed groups live high indeed upon the hog of taxpayer dollars.
The New Aristocracy: Police and Fire Chiefs
This extends to the other public safety services also: Police, Sheriffs, and Highway Patrol. While going through the motions, very admirably in general, yet they become fat on the huge entitlements a grateful public bestows.
Yes the love and admiration of the public for the men and women who man those perilous jobs knows no bounds. But it should learn some and fast. Starting with keeping a weather eye upon their fire chiefs and police chiefs.
Their powerful unions have a large portion, far too large, of the state, county and city treasuries in a perennial headlock, sown up for them in perpetuity. The police and fireman's pensions are so generous that the rank and file, especially the police and fire chiefs, help themselves to the buffet of the taxpayer's larder at will.
Throwing money at vague studies to private organizations that split the profits among those having secretly avowed themselves to "be in" on the orgy of money sucked out of Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco's treasuries.
Al Terrell and His Advisory Committee Should Be Fired and Charged with Embezzlement for Ponderous Bogus Reports
Case in point, Terrell's intentionally longwinded and obfuscating Interim Report for the Fire Services Project. He takes thirty pages of mind numbing double talk about detailed statistics with which he proves absolutely nothing.
That the Board of Supervisors rolls over and habitually grants the unions a blank check for ridiculous overpayments may show that they "are in" as well.
Terrell was brought in from Chicago, a city not unknown for its share of organized crime, to help cement the overshoes for the hardworking taxpayer. He should be fired and replaced with an SRJC college grad for half his salary. An idealistic kid with a stake in the community he or she loves is worth a thousand corrupt Terrells.
Tail Wagging the Dog: Interim Reports Detail Nothing Demand Much
Terrell refuses to be clear in his report and insists on talking in abstract terms such as "buckets." Creative accounting is the name of the game; keep digging that money pit deeper for the taxpayer with useless studies for exorbitant fees to cronies that kickback, sweet deal for everyone, so who's to know?
The current annual total identified for these “buckets” is $7.2 million. Those are some expensive buckets. Terrell must shop at the same market as the Pentagon.
First, $1 million should be set aside annually for incentivizing collaboration as discussed above and to be allocated by the Advisory Council. Payoffs are not a cost effective way to obtain collaboration.
Second, $1 million should be set aside annually for supporting volunteer recruitment and retention efforts countywide. Do you see a pattern beginning to form here?
Finally, the Advisory Committee identified that a baseline analysis called a “Standards of Cover” should be done; this cost was estimated at $150,000, because "this information would be very helpful as the recommendations above are implemented."
As any child today knows, we are living in the information age. Information in vast quantities is free for the taking with a mere Google search. Exemplifying the concept of profligate waste, Terrell demands and gets $150,000 dollars simply because he would find the information "very helpful."
Not nearly as useful as that $150,000 dollars would have been in paying down the city and county's bad fire chief benefit debts. But that is just the tip of the iceberg for Terrell's unaccounted for unwise and unjustified spending.
But no Terrell doesn't really mean what he says when he says "finally" in his report because there's still more demands for money. Then, purchase the services of a grant writer at a cost of $30,000 to pursue a 2016 volunteer recruitment and retention Aid to Firefighters grant opportunity.
You dear taxpayer should be so lucky that every time you need "help" Terrell is there to score you some of that free largess in a rebate. Instead of blowing it on the stupidity of another study that no one reads or wants. One that will find its way into the circular file before any value comes of it.
If Terrell really wants to aid firefighters, why not just give them the $30,000 instead of some writer?
The real details of Terrell's report, which to get to he forces anyone with enough coffee on hand to read through useless history lessons and even more useless statistics. Until if they possess fortitude and a remarkable capacity for calumny, they get to the part in his phony report that purports to specify, with a lot of vague promises, what they won't get.
But also what the high price is of figuring out that the taxpayer will wind up with scant little after Terrell and his Advisory cronies are done with their spending spree. Then, they purchase a set of policies and protocols known as “Lexipol” to make those available to all agencies at a cost of approximately $100,000.
This is to continue the process of standardization of operations that is one important facilitating component for a variety of further collaborations. Which are roundly opposed by the majority of fire departments in question and so will never occur. Another wasted hundred grand. That's how they do things in Chicago.
In the future, the project’s Advisory Committee recommends that the allocations generally follow the guidelines of 50% of the available funds be allocated to the Advisory Council for the first two categories above and 50% be allocated to the third category of buckets (with the understanding that anything needed for the fourth category would be taken proportionately from the first two). Understanding, huh?
Where in this whole scandalous report does it even mention any effort whatsoever to save one penny out of a perennially stressed budget? The project’s Advisory Committee also recommends that the Advisory Council be charged with making further recommendations to the Board in adjusting these allocations between and within the categories as needed based upon available funds.
At the rate that Al Terrell is spending there is little likelihood of available funds remaining. No worries, there's always borrowing. Where is the oversight here, of course the Advisory Council would recommend that themselves be further empowered to line their pockets.
But there's the rub. Terrell and his Advisory committee are never done with their demands for taxpayer funds. The future obviously isn't in plastics, but in looting the taxpayer.
The Advisory Committee did offer an additional allocation recommendation for the current fiscal year in order to assist with the allocation of the current $990,000 set aside from Prop 172 funds. You see dear reader, an allocation for an allocation, where does it end, just ask a resident of the City of Stockton.
Give us millions and millions of dollars and we will tell you later just what we do with it, is a postcard all right?