Several people have chosen to post questions online at the end of some stories and letters to the editor regarding the Idylwild Fire Department and former Chief Norm Walker’s departure.
Rather than respond directly online, I choose to respond here, so that all Town Crier’s readers can benefit from the questions. Of course this column will be posted and the “anonymous” family can still read it online.
• Posted Jan. 18, 6:07 p.m.: “So, $65 hr x 30 hrs = $1,950.00 per week x 52 weeks = $101,400.00 dollars. WOW! This “interim chief” that IFPD hired is making more than Chief Walker who I suspect averaged 50+ hours per week and earned $92k (give or take) per year.”
Response: On an hourly basis, Sherman is probably making more than Walker did. But Walker received an effective $7,000 raise last year, when the commission agreed to pay his full CALPERS retirement.
In the contract, which he signed in August 2010, IFPD was paying two percent of his share of retirement.
Besides salary and retirement benefits, Chief Walker also earned vacation and sick leave; perhaps other benefits, such as health insurance, which Sherman doesn’t.
Walker’s departure was not intended to produce a budget savings and therefore balance the books.
• Posted Jan. 18, 6:17 p.m.: “The truth of Crest Forest Fire Department is not ‘just the opposite’. JP needs to do a bit more digging. … They are about to be taken over by CAL FIRE or San Bernardino County.
Response: It’s not the Idyllwild Town Crier’s responsibility to cover the Crest Forest Fire Department (CFFD). According to articles in the Mountain News, the CFFD board will ask their community to vote for a paramedic tax as part of the solution to their financial problems. If the community rejects the tax increase, later this spring the board will consider proposals from both CAL FIRE and San Bernardino County Fire.
See the following stories:
“Fire union urges county takeover,” March 17, 2011
“Fire board searches for answers,” Nov. 17, 2011; and
“Paramedic tax question closer,” Jan. 19, 2012.
The Mountain News can be found at http://www.mountain-news.com/. There are more stories about CFFD and Sherman, I encourage you to search and read.
• Posted Jan. 26, 6 p.m.: “So, the Brown Act which is California’s Open government legislation LIMITS board responses to the public? Sounds like the Brown Act is an oxymoron that protects government from being completely transparent. A lot of good it does the public to have legislation meant to be open that is actually limited. Thanks for the insight.
Response: The Brown Act is intended to let citizens know what actions their legislators, e.g., county supervisors, special districts, and more, are considering. That’s why taking an action which is not on the agenda is illegal. Someone who may want to speak to that subject wouldn’t know to attend the meeting.
Section 54954.3 specifically provides for citizens to have the right to address the commission. However, section 54954.2 limits the commission’s action or discussion to any item not on the posted agenda.
This is the language in 54954.2 (2) “Members of a legislative body or its staff may briefly respond to statements made or questions posed by persons exercising their public testimony rights under Section 54954.3. In addition, on their own initiative or in response to questions posed by the public, a member of a legislative body or its staff may ask a question for clarification, make a brief announcement, or make a brief report on his or her own activities. Furthermore, a member of a legislative body, or the body itself, subject to rules or procedures of the legislative body, may provide a reference to staff or other resources for factual information, request staff to report back to the body at a subsequent meeting concerning any matter, or take action to direct staff to place a matter of business on a future agenda.”
No matter how worthwhile the questions may be, someone else might want to hear the answers, too.
One solution is to ask the commission to put the subject on a future agenda. Then everyone who is interested can decide to attend or to skip the meeting.
The law’s intent is to be fair to all, not just the active citizens.