FACTS are Stubborn Things!
HUGE SHOUT OUT to one of our residents debunking a claim on social media that Trustee's recent newsletter is the first ever - by posting pics he has of newsletters from six different years as far back as 2003! That's not all of the newsletters we have mailed out, but he proves a point.
A key to promoting a rumor is the ability to spin threads of truth, which if twisted enough,
might sway people to an intended conclusion. Sadly, social media makes that easy! Below
are verifiable facts to address spin the campaign has become aware of.
Q: Why does Lafayette Township have a police contract?
A: By 2005, the township’s police department (1 Chief and 3 full-time officers) was costing about twice what the voted levy raised. The General Fund could not afford to keep making up the difference. Voters had rejected six attempts to increase the levy. In 2007, residents voted to approve police service by contract. This issue goes back to voters every five years. Voters supported renewing the contract again in 2012 and 2017. Election results can be verified on the website of the Secretary of State or by visiting the local Board of Elections.
Q: What was the township role in the Nexus Pipeline project?
A: None. Nexus is a federal project. There is no local authority or decision making at the township or even county level. While the leases on hundreds of Medina County properties are private property matters, they are recorded and therefore public records available to be viewed online.
Q: Was it wrong for Trustee Costello to serve the township as a Trustee and Fireman?
A: Absolutely not. That question was thoroughly researched before he took office. An Ohio ethics opinion was taken up by the Ohio Attorney General. In his opinion, OAF 94-013, the Attorney General clearly directs that a Township Trustee MAY serve simultaneously as a Fireman. Trustee Costello served our rescue service for FREE, filling gaps in service and saving taxpayers many thousands of dollars - making Trustee Costello is a tremendous asset beyond his service as a Trustee.
Q: What were the circumstances of the part-time fire chief resigning and the township going back to a full-time fire chief position?
A: The decision was made and fully explained in an open meeting on April 20, 2020. The full text of the 4/20/20 minutes is available and able to be verified on the township website. Following is the relevant excerpt of those minutes -- which also demonstrate the board's commitment to transparency in the public business.
Trustee Bowers stated that it has been the policy of this board to use executive session only when necessary, not just because it is a topic permitted. She noted that while she knows it is a violation of law for members of the board to disclose matters discussed in executive session, she requests permission from the other members of the board to divulge executive session discussion enough that residents can understand the rationale behind the decision to go back to a full-time chief. She explained that she had an interaction with a resident last night and believes it is difficult for a resident to understand without the disclosure of certain executive session information and that residents have a right to understand. She knows residents read the minutes and believes it is important to provide the information so would like to go over it on the record. Trustee Warchola and Trustee Costello agreed. Law Director Thorne noted that at any time if information specifically inappropriate to discuss in public is approached a member of the board should object. Trustee Bowers asked that he also caution her if he felt disclosure where she was headed would compromise the public business. Next, Trustee Bowers stated, even though it is a proper executive session matter, she does not believe there is any public purpose to be served by discussing the transition back to a full-time chief position in executive session and requested the board have that discussion in open public meeting as well. Trustees Costello and Warchola agreed. Trustee Bowers then stated she wanted to review where we are with the fire chief position and a little bit of history quotes summarized as follows: If you follow our minutes, you know for about a year we have had many executive session discussions regarding personnel matters, mostly compensation, hiring, firing & discipline. There have been issues, lots of issues. The old adage you never know how much you need something until it is gone is true. Brad Winter did a good job handling the day to day administration and human resources matters. Trustees are responsible for the operation of the fire and rescue department. We are charged with ensuring the most effective and efficient use of tax dollars to deliver a highest quality service possible within the funding structure available. As I proceed, please keep in mind that the budget to pay fire fighters, EMTs and Paramedics each year is, you heard earlier $340,000 this year and was about the same last year. That is just payroll, what members are paid. For a small department that presents as volunteer, that’s a pretty strong payroll. There is a chain of command for members. They report to officers, then to the chief and the chief to trustees. When members feel that system fails, their recourse is the Trustees. The buck stops here and that has happened. The complaints we have dealt with in executive session range from gender discrimination, lack of leadership, hostile work environment, particularly toward new members, inconsistency in training, scheduling problems and purposely limiting the availability of staff. There has been evidence the complaints are appropriate and we have tried to work with the Chief to investigate these concerns. The concern which probably most compromises the efficiency of the service and the safety of the residents is the staffing issue so I will directly speak to that. For several years, we have worked with department leadership giving them great latitude, particularly in budget, to remedy the need for more staff. Just in about the last two year’s time, twice department leadership has presented restructuring and pay increases as a means to remedy the problem. Trustees agreed. Neither remedy resulted in improvement. For more than a year, Trustees not only encouraged but got to the point that leadership was instructed numerous times this past year to pursue new members for staffing. The officer responsible was specifically, on the record, advised more than once that copies of all applications were to be provided to the trustees, the hiring authority. Every update we requested, we were told there is no interest, pay being the biggest deterrent even though comparative reviews indicate our pay structure is competitive. Several months ago leadership came back with yet another remedy, promote five existing members into more officer positions. That would make nine of about 25 active members, officers. It didn’t make sense that new titles and higher pay would create more time in the day for people not able to put the time in already. And then we learned a Paramedic applied to Lafayette more than six months earlier and her application was ignored. That application was not shared with Trustees. Investigating, we learned there were seven applications just laying. We reached out to them and found, I believe four, had given up, taking jobs elsewhere. So Trustees advertised. We received, responses rather quickly. And they were really good, qualified people. Our pay range was not an issue to any of them. We scheduled interviews, inviting fire and rescue leadership to participate. They did not participate. We chose five as potential hires. We requested fire & rescue leadership conduct follow up interviews. They did. We have hired four new EMTs and Paramedics, I believe three already cross trained as fire fighters. I believe we will be doing that again shortly. I want to review a little history. You know we had a full-time chief for many years. Even Westfield with a much smaller population has a full-time Chief. Between compliance, human resource and liability issues, it’s a big job. In 2008, when our full-time fire Chief, Jim Sheppard, retired, Brad Winter seemed to be the logical choice to assume that roll. He was still working a full-time private industry job so he presented trustees with a different proposal. He proposed the salary and the responsibilities of the Chief’s position be split between Jeff Hall and himself. Trustees agreed. I don’t know of anyone who would disagree that Jeff is one of the best people you could want overseeing operations during a fire. He is an excellent fire fighter. And Brad has excellent administrative skills. They were a good fit together with different strengths. And we owe Brad a lot of thanks too for all of his work on the planning and design of the new safety service building. Even the identity of the building as a safety services building was Brad’s recommendation. On the doorstep of that project Brad was given the opportunity to assume the full-time chief’s position for Seville-Guilford Fire & Rescue. But there is no question that left a void here. And then the complaints started coming slowly at first. Officers and members complained of things not getting done, issues not being addressed, being overwhelmed with extra responsibilities that they either didn’t have time for or felt they weren’t being compensated to do. In the Chief’s defense, this administrative side was not what he bargained for under the former shared responsibilities arrangement in place when he became Chief. That wasn’t what he came on board to do. He has even been up front with us that it isn’t his strong suit, he’s told us, he doesn’t like that part of the job at all. We met with the Chief to try to get him some help. We asked him to summarize routine responsibilities. His only response was “What, besides having a full-time job?” We have tried to discuss with the Chief that there are complaints that he is not able to get things done, particularly from his officers. His response is that he doesn’t believe it. It was also complicated because the construction of the new building was going on during that time and was pretty much a 24/7 job for trustees. But the complaints kept coming. The complaints overall were a variety of issues. For instance, one complaint was from a resident about our paid staff and ambulance being in the Seville station behind closed doors for more than two hours. I know Mike Savetski, I see you sitting back there shaking your head no, but it’s a legitimate complaint, residents have a right to know why their ambulance is sitting in Seville for hours. They have the right to ask that question. And we have a responsibility to ask the Chief for an explanation. You may not like it, I get that. You know, when you get a complaint like gender discrimination, it has to be investigated. And we have to ask the Chief to do that. Coming back to us and just saying it’s BS doesn’t cut it. There needs to be a report, statements, documentation of how the complaint was handled. Jeff has been quite clear, he doesn’t like that part of the job. Understandable, but we have to ask him to do it and do it right. The complaints coming from the officers and members are mostly, at their root, not putting in the time to do the job. We realize that holding down both a full-time and a part-time job is a challenge. So we were a bit surprised to learn that our Chief has been sworn in and staffing with Westfield Fire for a few months and I understand recently also with Seville. That is concerning to officers and members. So several weeks ago, we met with the Chief to discuss going back to a full-time position. We asked if he was interested. He would not say. I believe Trustee Warchola has followed up a couple of times and he has still not been willing to commit. (Trustee Warchola verified that is correct). So, we worked with our legal counsel and the Ohio Fire Marshall’s office to put together minimum standards for applicants and advertised. We want well beyond those minimums, in fact in the paperwork we had there were higher standards but I understand the Fire Marshall’s recommendation was just put minimums work, doesn’t mean that’s what you hire. Trustee Bowers read from a message sent by the Chief to department members on April 17, 2020 as follows: You may have heard rumor that the Board of Trustees have decided to transition from a part time Chief to a full time Chief in the very near future, that is in fact true. I am able to apply, however with a lot of thinking I have decided that I will not apply for this position. I have decided that it is time to focus on myself, my family, and to further my education in the fire and EMS service. Summary of Trustee Bowers quotes continued: The advertising for a Fire Chief is out. We will see what we get. I’ve had several contacts, some surprising ones. Extremely qualified applicants if they actually apply. But to my knowledge, we have not received any applications. And Mike Costello, is not applying. I’ve heard that rumor. Just not true. I don’t think it crossed his mind and it hasn’t ours. I know there is a lot of stuff on social media. I don’t really read it but a lot of it is pushed to me. You know, I see this stuff on social media, but we are being pushed from the other side too. I had a resident suggest we should evaluate the hours of the Chief’s full-time job and public record request the staffing he’s done at Westfield and Seville to see if he has any time left to do the job Lafayette is paying for. Now we aren’t going to go there, but we are getting that too. It’s not just one sided. And for the few people, members of our department, making some comments out there, don’t forget there are other members being quiet and who are looking forward to working in a department that is functioning well, things are getting done and moving forward, providing a service. They deserve support too. With numerous fire and rescue members included in the audience, Ms. Bowers asked if anyone had any questions or comments they would like to make. There were none.