Unique in Absurdity
EVERY REGION HAS ITS OWN CLOWN CORPS. In the greater St. Louis area it’s the Monarch Fire Protection District Board in St. Louis County, Missouri.
This erratic governing board has been in conflict with itself and the firefighters’ union Local for six or more years now to the point where the FFs have had to sue the board several times for remedial action. The settlements in 2009 alone amounted to a half-million dollars.
Monarch F.P.D. photo
Monarch came to our attention first in February 2011 (HERE) when one of the board members, treasurer Kim Evans wrote to the Governor of Missouri requesting an audit of the Board’s books and activities. She was promptly accused by the board chairman of using the audit as a political ploy to defeat his upcoming re-election.
Later that same year, in November they made news again when the board fired four of their chief officers for “creating an atmosphere where discrimination was tolerated,” an event that had occurred five years previously when four female FFs sued the board for sexual harassment. (Firegeezer HERE.)
Three weeks after that, one of the fired members, a battalion chief who had 41 years on the job, stepped out into his back yard and committed suicide. (HERE.) This led to a stormy meeting of the board where a large number of citizens stormed the meeting room accusing the board of being culpable in the man’s death.
The antics of the board continued just the same. In March of this year, following a 3-year legal battle, the board rehired one of the discharged chiefs and brought him back in as the Assistant Chief. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported:
Spiegel and two other officials sued the district, claiming they were fired without just cause and because they had clashed with the firefighters union. Spiegel was fired when he refused to resign and were told they were being fired “due to the appellate opinion,” according to the suit, referring to an appellate court opinion that upheld an award in a discrimination suit filed by female firefighters.
Later in March a Letter-to-the-Editor in the same newspaper read:
On March 13, Chesterfield citizens learned that the Monarch District exceeded its 2013 budget by $725,000, including legal fees of about $230,000 paid to two attorneys who contributed cash to the election campaigns of Monarch Board President Robin Harris and Board Secretary Jane Cunningham.
This situation sounds like financial favoritism when the board should be conducting business with fiscal integrity to better serve Monarch taxpayers. This type of financial favoritism is one reason why the Monarch District is woefully over budget.
The Board’s grip with social media is just as fragile. The union Local publishes a Twitter account – @MonarchOutreach – and uses it as a means to communicate with the citizens. The Board is all atwitter itself over the account and is accusing the Local of (we’re not making this up, folks) “identity theft.”
But all that stuff is small potatoes compared with the Board’s latest scheme, purchasing bullet-proof vests to protect themselves from the firefighters.
The members of Monarch Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors have bought used bulletproof vests from police to help protect themselves during meetings, firefighters said.
“We’d heard rumors about it, and it’s been the big running joke around here that they’re going to do it, because it’s sounded absolutely ridiculous,” Capt. Chris Gelven, a shop steward for the firefighter’s union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, said Tuesday night. “But apparently it’s actually happening.”
The district’s board members will not wear the vests, however — the vests will line a half-wall that sits in front of the desk they use at board meetings, Gelven said. The vests are supposed to be installed by the end of the week, Gelven said.
Gelven hasn’t heard of any threats against the board members, or Chief Tom Vineyard or Assistant Chief Cary Spiegel, who sit behind the desk at meetings. Board members are President Robin Harris, secretary Jane Cunningham, and treasurer Steve Swyers. Two or three off-duty police officers usually attend the district’s meetings to provide protection, Gelven said.
Cunningham, reached Tuesday night, said she could not speak about any security plans and blasted Gelven for doing so. “Anything we have to do to keep our employees or officers safe is obviously private information, and for him to leak any kind of information like that only jeopardizes his safety and those of his colleagues,” she said.
* * * * * * *