In September, a Riverside County grand jury notified the Idyllwild Fire Protection District and its Finance Committee that it found the IFPD responses to the June grand jury report were “not in compliance” with the penal code section specifying how to respond to grand jury findings and recommendations.
The jury’s Sept. 23 follow-up letter asked IFPD to submit a response in accordance with the code and by Oct. 9.
At its Oct. 7 special meeting, the commission approved a response asking the grand jury to specify, “… what concerns it has with the response so that the district might better address those specific concerns.”
“Our responses were 17 pages; I felt we covered everything in code,” Commission President Jerry Buchanan told his colleagues. “We’re asking for more explanation.”
In preparing the responses, Buchanan and Fire Chief Reitz stressed they had worked closely with the district’s legal counsel.
“The letter didn’t say they didn’t like our response but we weren’t in compliance,” Reitz emphasized.
In August, IFPD sent the grand jury two letters in response to the June report. A 13-page response was from the commission and a four-page letter the commission and Finance Committee jointly signed was in response to the questions regarding compliance with the Brown Act for a March meeting with Riverside County Fire Department.
Penal Code section 933.05 states that for each finding the responding agency must indicate whether it agrees or disagrees wholly or partially with the finding.
If there is disagreement, the agency must identify which portion of the finding and explain its reasons.
For each recommendation, the responding agency must report whether it is implementing the action, will in the future, will not implement it or will further analyze it. For the actions taken regarding the recommendation, the response must provide a summary of those actions or an explanation why more analysis is needed or that the recommendation has been rejected.
For example, in response to the recommendation that the fire chief obtain his paramedic certification and show proof he is in compliance with his employment contract, the commission’s response stated, “The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted.”
Then, they explained that the fire chief is in compliance with his Employment Agreement. Also, the commission states that it is the district’s Board of Commissioners, and not the grand jury, that supervises the fire chief and establishes the criteria under which the fire chief is employed.
Neither agency pointed out that IFPD’s job description states the position’s responsibilities and qualifications, and that this was the basis for recruiting a new fire chief. One of the minimum qualifications was possessing an emergency medical technician certification or higher within six months of employment. However, Buchanan has stated that the board waived this requirement for Reitz.