Month: February 2016

FASNY Economic Study Showing the Economic Value of Volunteer Firefighters is Worth Reading

The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) last week released what it calls the “first comprehensive economic study in more than a decade outlining the fiscal impact of volunteer fire service on NYS Taxpayers.” The study found, quite predictably, that New York’s nearly 100,000 volunteer firefighters save taxpayers more than $3 billion each year.  It concluded that if the fire departments which these volunteers staff switched to all-paid fire service, an additional 30,822 firefighters would need to be hired, more than 1,300 fire stations would have to be built new or reconstructed, there would be one-time...

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Weymouth Firefighter’s Facebook Post Lands Him In Hot Water

Another fire department which could have used a social media policy! The Weymouth, Massachusetts Fire Department is composed of 92 paid members, operating 3 engine and 1 ladder company. According to its website, the department responds to 7000 calls a year, with over two third of those calls EMS-related. Even a presumably well-trained Department can suffer from lapse of good judgment of its members. Firefighters, as government employees, have diminished First Amendment rights compared to private sector employees. According to FireFighterNation, Weymouth firefighter Mark Carron was suspended for a Facebook post criticizing the use of Narcan on addicts. He is alleged to have posted that “Narcan is the worst drug ever created, let the shit bags die … I for one get no extra money for it.” Weymouth Fire Chief Keith Stark said that Carron is sorry for his post, “and understands the ramifications of his actions.” However it is resolved, this episode provides another example of the need for an effective social media policy, and social media and sensitivity training, for all members of a fire department. Every department should create guidelines for how personnel post information online, not just confidential information but also sensitive information, and not just in the official capacities but even in their individual, non-professional capacities. Social media policies are not difficult to find – I have some forms which can be shared, but...

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Should You Update Your Audit And Oversight Protocols?

In late September 2015 the long-tenured Treasurer of local fire department resigned shortly after a local newspaper reported about a combined investigation by the State Police and the county DA into the loss of up to $5 million of fire department funds.  The department’s Board of Fire Commissioners made a public statement when the story came out, that “this past Summer the Board of Fire Commissioners … noted serious discrepancies in financial reporting.  The discrepancies noted were between the Treasurer’s monthly financial reports and the annual audit of department finances.”  [Note: it really isn’t necessary to bring further publicity by naming the department]. Without pre-judging – though it may be safe to say that the fire department might not have had adequate internal controls over its finances – it is appropriate to make some observations on financial accountability of volunteer fire and EMS departments which operate under the New York Not-Profit Corporation Law. The New York State Attorney General’s Office has given guidance to not-for-profits, including volunteer fire departments (Internal Controls and Financial Accountability for Not-for-Profit Boards, www.oag.state.ny.us/charities/charities.html).  The AG notes that “whatever their mission or size, all organizations should have policies and procedures established so that (1) boards and officers understand their fiduciary responsibilities, (2) assets are managed properly and (3) the charitable purposes of the organization are carried out.  A failure to meet these obligations is a...

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