Fullerton about to lose a Fire Engine

The City is in the process of approving a new labor contract with the Fullerton Firefighter’s Association.  Buried deep in the agreement on page 52 is this nugget — the City will be going from six (6) engines to five (5) engines.  We’ve had six fire engines in Fullerton for many, many years.

At no time has the City come forward with any candor to admit to this change, except when I brought it up during the previous City Council meeting.  Even then, none of our council members seem to care very much.

This change may well result in every property owner in the City paying higher property (fire) insurance rates. One of the factors that insurance companies use to determine rates is the Insurance Services Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification (PPC) score calculated for every fire district around the country.

The ISO score takes into consideration many factors, including the strength of the fire department and the City’s water supply.   More specifically, the fire department score includes calculations for the number of engine and truck companies, their locations around the City, and the number of firefighters on duty.  The fire union agreement, set for final approval on Tuesday, reduces the level of staffing by 1 position per rotating shift, which will further reduce our score.

Fullerton scored 76.71 points out of a possible 100 the last time ISO evaluated the City of Fullerton in 2012.  This equates to an ISO PPC “class” of 3 on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being best).

You can read the full report here.  As much as the City wants to rubber stamp the agreement and forget all about it, this is very much a matter of public policy that warrants further discussion.  We will likely pay more for homeowner’s insurance due to the City having one less fire engine in service.

Do we, as a City, want to:

  • Pay more in homeowner’s insurance premiums in return for less fire department staffing and resources?
    -or-
  • Pay more in taxes to maintain the current level of fire department staffing, and, hopefully, preserve lower insurance premiums?
    -or-
  • Pay the same amount in taxes, for the same, or even improved levels of fire department staffing, by forcing the firefighters to contribute more toward their pensions?

This is a choice that needs to be made now before going any further.  I suggest attending Tuesday’s meeting prepared to speak, and/or send your thoughts to [email protected].

Lemmon Head

Wouldn’t it be nice if every City employee consistently set the bar for professionalism?

Michael Lemmon, of the Fullerton Fire Department, thought it was perfectly okay to purchase these inappropriate mugs using taxpayer money on his City-issued VISA card.

A couple months later, Michael Lemmon decided the Fire Department needed more coffee mugs, so he purchased these — again on the taxpayer’s dime:

 

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Pay The Lady: Nepotism At Its Worst

Today’s ethical lapse comes to us courtesy of the Fullerton Fire Department.  See those shirts pictured above?  Fire Captain Brian Seymour ordered nine of them for some kind of “Peer Support”.

Once the use tax is factored in, we paid about $40 per shirt.

Check out the reconciliation report.  One can clearly see the purchaser was Brian Seymour.

Below, we see the invoice from the vendor, Linksoul, where the salesperson was Mary Seymour.  Wait a minute, that must be a coincidence.  No City employee would be foolish enough to use taxpayer money to purchase unnecessary clothing from a relative’s clothing business, right?

 

Mary Seymour is the Fire Captain’s wife.  Linksoul is a clothing company started by her brother.  A couple minutes with Google was enough to locate this article from Carlsbad Magazine with a quote about nepotism that couldn’t be more ironic under the circumstances.

Hinman, W. (2014, March & April). The Man Makes The Clothes. Carlsbad Magazine, 38-43.

So while the City of Fullerton prepares to be crushed under the weight of CalPERS pension obligations, we have people like Brian Seymour not just wasting our money — he’s sending cash to his wife’s family business.

Brian Seymour made $294,761 last year in pay and benefits.  Why didn’t he pay for these shirts with his own money?

Did anyone make him reimburse the City?   Whose idea were these shirts, anyway?  Perhaps most important is why didn’t it occur to Brian Seymour that sending money to the family business was improper, and likely a violation of City policy and/or State Law?

Thanks to a certain FFD employee for bringing this to our attention.  You know who you are.

Bad Neighbor!

Would you give neighbors access to your bank account?

No? That would probably come as a shock to some at City Hall where (at least) three City of Brea employees have been issued VISA procurement cards belonging to the City of Fullerton.

Fullerton and Brea have a shared Fire Department command staff.  The Fire Chief, Deputy Chiefs, Division Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs, and an EMS manager perform services for both cities, even though they remain employees of the City where they came from.  Those from Brea have been given the Fullerton VISA cards.  Now, I can hear some people uttering phrases like “so what,” and “who cares,” and “what’s the problem?”  I can help you with that.

Fullerton Fire Station 3 on Acacia Ave was the recipient of five La-Z-Boy recliners, on the City VISA card.  The purchaser?  Chris Guerrero, a Brea employee.  The supervisor approving the purchase?  Kathy Schaefer, another Brea employee.  And where did the money come from?  Fullerton.

The receipt raises another question because Engine 3, based at this fire station, only has a crew of three.  So why purchase five recliners?

I’d bet money the extra recliners are for the CARE Ambulance employees based at Station 3.  Nothing in the housing agreement between the City and CARE Ambulance talks about furnishings, so the recliners appear to be a gift.

A gift from Brea employees using Fullerton’s money.

JPA Business Plan: Prey on sick and dying people

Just watch the video.

“The ambulances will have to wait their turn.”   Did you catch that last part?

Just the opposite will happen if the ambulance component of this JPA proposal goes forward. The ambulances will be going straight for your wallet, and more than ever before.

Yesterday, I talked about the JPA Feasibility Study authored by Citygate Associates LLC that showed little, if any, reason to merge the Fullerton and Brea Fire departments. A separate study on ambulance service was sought from a company named A. P. Triton, LLC.

The ambulance study makes its bias against private ambulance companies known from the very start. They denigrate private companies for making a profit, then propose ways for the JPA to do exactly the same, with rates far beyond what is being charged now.

The consultant spends considerable time salivating over revenue collection potential.

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Blowing up the Fire Department

Casual readers of this blog may want to pay closer attention than usual.

Except this time, it’s the consultants wearing the turnouts.

 

This coming Tuesday, January 24, the Fullerton City Council will entertain a study session to review the merits of folding the Brea and Fullerton Fire Departments into one. If approved, the Fullerton Fire Department, and it’s 108-year history as we know it, would cease to exist.

Thanks to a 3-2 vote (YES: Fitzgerald, Flory, Chaffee. NO: Whitaker, Sebourn) a new government agency was formed with the City of Brea on October 18, 2016. The North Orange County Cities Joint Powers Authority is its name.

A merged Fullerton and Brea Fire Department would no longer be under the direct control of either the Fullerton or Brea City Councils. Instead, it would be governed by this new JPA — whose board members will be unelected. That is a board which is directly accountable to nobody. Two City Council members from each city, appointed by their respective City Councils, will govern the JPA. That’s not a typo — it really is two members from each city — meaning there is no tiebreaker vote.

The study session follows on the heels of a recent JPA Feasibility Study whereby the case to merge fire departments is rather weak.

We already utilize a shared fire command with the City of Brea. Fullerton’s projected costs under that existing arrangement are shown below, in blue. Fullerton’s projected costs under the JPA are shown in yellow.

The consultant, Citygate Associates LLC, says not to worry about the $300-400K annual cost increases under a JPA as those are within “model variance”.  (Note:  The above figures are in thousands)

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Fortunately, An Adult in the Room

This is a story about selfishness, small-time greed and entitlement.

No, it’s not about my 3-year old nephew.

It’s about members of the Fullerton Fire Department and their Chief, Wolfgang “Wolf” Knabe and the culture of permissiveness overseen by our former City Manager Joe “Fast and Loose” Felz.

Back in September a couple of off-duty fire department employees managed to get themselves lost in Yosemite by foolishly trying to take a shortcut across some sort of moving water. The hue and cry went out – all the way to Fullerton. So members of the FFD drove City vehicles up north to show solidarity with their lost comrades who were discovered a day or two later.

What happened next may or may not surprise you depending on your familiarity with the sense of entitlement held by Fullerton’s “public safety” employees.

Chief Knabe, who makes well over $200,000 a year and is Fullerton’s highest paid employee, attempted to stick the taxpayers of Fullerton with the cost of gas, steak dinners and hotel accommodations for this purely elective field trip.

Here are the relevant documents.

Firefighters Javier Avelar, sixth from left, and Dave Brown, seventh from left, seen here joined on Sept. 13 by colleagues who trekked to Yosemite to help find them after they were reported missing by family.

 

Hero presser: Fullerton/Brea Fire Departments fire chief Wolfgang Kanabe explains during a press conference in Fullerton on Wednesday, how two Fullerton firefighters went missing in Yosemite during a six-day backpacking trip. They were supposed to return on Sunday. Searchers found them Tuesday. September 14, 2016. (Photo by Ken Steinhardt, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Knabe tried to justify the whole episode as some sort of job-related effort and a PR triumph for himself and his department, but fortunately our Finance Department Director, Julia James, was having none of it, and quite appropriately deemed such a reimbursement as a gift of public funds.

In the end Wolfie had to use a “donation” account (which is still public money), and which begs the question of whether or not donors are giving money to the department to pay for steak dinners for our Heroes.

F.F.D. Doesn’t Want Your Finger on the Pulse

Or Perhaps They’re Just Missing the Point of PulsePoint

Allow me to introduce you to PulsePoint.

When life is on the line every second matters. PulsePoint is designed to allow people with C.P.R. training to respond to emergencies. It’s brilliant.

According to their own website:

Through the use of modern, location-aware mobile devices PulsePoint is building applications that work with local public safety agencies to improve communications with citizens and empower them to help reduce the millions of annual deaths from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Know C.P.R.? Check a box and it’ll show you calls needing C.P.R. and notify you if you’re near.

Got it? The entire point is to allow people to respond to medical emergencies in a timely manner. The App is literally about saving lives. And I mean literally in the actual sense here.

Why am I writing this?

Because here’s a screenshot of Fullerton Fire Department activity from tonight:

And here’s a screenshot from the Orange County Fire Authority:

Did you catch what’s missing from the F.F.D. data?

Medical Calls. Literally the whole point of the App.

We share data with an App designed to help with medical calls and yet we, as a city, omit medical calls.

This is bureaucratic bureaucracy at it’s best. We’ll participate so long as we don’t have to actually, you know, participate. It’s not like this is about trying to save lives or anything.