Editor’s note: The Nov. 12 Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission was the last regular meeting for Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly, who chose not to seek re-election. His term ends noon Friday, Dec. 6. At the meeting, he offered some advice, based on his experience since being elected in 2009. The following is a summary of his comments.
A dozen pieces of advice for the new board members:
1. Don’t ask why we spend over $100,000 a year on overtime.
2. Don’t ask to review the report on training and certificates.
3. Don’t ask for information from the chief in a public meeting; you will be encouraged by board members to ask in private meetings with the chief.
4. Don’t expect to set policy specific to our alpine forest community; Beverly Hills is whose policies we copy.
5. Don’t ask to set policy on operations; “that’s operations” is the phrase used at IFPD to justify setting policy without board approval or review.
6. Don’t ask to actually spend less than we take in; ask for tax increases without improved service or responsibility.
7. Don’t ask anyone to be accountable; it will be considered creating a hostile environment.
8. Don’t read the Fire Protection Act of 1987; it describes the board’s powers and duties. It is only for elected officials who consider themselves capable of directing the chief and IFPD.
9. Don’t expect to be included when district counsel is called.
10. Don’t inform the public or criticize IFPD policy, procedures and practices publicly, as provided for in the U.S. Constitution and Fire Protection Act of 1987, without expecting threats. Expect to give the public only the sanitized minimum required (apparently available in the private meetings).
11. [Town Crier chose not to reprint this as it named specific employees.]
12. Finally, whatever you do, don’t be a critical thinker.
13. Don’t research the answers provided by district counsel, the auditors or staff. For example, when counsel says Government Code 3202 allows employees to attend political meetings on duty in uniform, don’t actually read it; you will find it mentions nothing at all on the subject.
When the staff says there are mandated requirements but can’t provide evidence other than “the guy at the seminar said so,” forget about it.
Good luck and don’t write down your goals because with enough private lessons you will be shown how wrong those goals are. After all, you are just an uninformed American citizen and have no right to direct the government.
You have sworn an oath and been empowered by law. You are democracy. But unless you ask the hard questions, set and enforce consequences, you are just a rubber stamp.
GC 3202. This chapter applies to all officers and employees of a state or local agency.
(a) “Local agency” means a county, city, city and county, political subdivision, district other than a school district, or municipal corporation. Officers and employees of a given local agency include officers and employees of any other local agency whose principal duties consist of providing services to the given local agency.
(b) “State agency” means every state office, department, division, bureau, board, commission, superior court, court of appeal, the Supreme Court, the California State University, the University of California, and the Legislature.