Author: David Menken

How To Be An Easy Target for a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

In 2015 a volunteer ambulance corps held a party where a crude gingerbread house was exhibited. A member complained, her supervisor assisted, and the supervisor was fired. Both have filed a sexual harassment claim in Federal Court. Obviously, if there was a policy, it was not followed.

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Two Percent Money – Lawful and For a Good Cause

There has been a lot of publicity lately about the money flowing into volunteer fire departments and benevolent associations from the foreign fire insurance tax, known as “Two Percent Money.” The Journal News, for example, published a “tax watch” article (10/8/2017, page 1), which focused on the enormous sums coming in, and the sometimes extravagant parties funded by those revenues. It is true that some departments have used the Two Percent Money in ways which are of questionable value to the community they protect. However, the majority of departments which receive the money, and the vast majority of expenses which are paid for by Two Percent Money, are lawful, ethical and appropriate for operation of a volunteer fire department, including retention of members. Where the money comes from: the New York State Insurance Law imposes a 2% tax on all non-New York fire insurance companies which insure real property in New York. The tax is paid to the State and distributed annually to fire departments or, if they have them, to their benevolent associations (this article focuses only on fire departments; the rules for benevolents is different). A small portion of the money is diverted to fund the Fireman’s Home on Hudson. On what can you use your Two Percent Money? For a fire department, on pretty much anything which the members determine to be for the use and...

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Who Is Liable for Maintaining The Town’s Dry Hydrants?

I met our Town Supervisor at a fire department pancake breakfast last weekend, and he asked me a question I had not previously considered: who is liable for maintaining dry hydrants on our Town roads?* I know what happens in practice: the Town will install a dry hydrant on a right of way (a dry hydrant on private property is a wholly different thing and not considered here), perhaps above a pond, the fire department will routinely test the hydrant, and if it’s clogged the Chief will inform the Town highway department which will clear the clog. But what...

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Can a Department Sponsor a Raffle for another Charitable Organization that Can’t?

I was recently asked if a fire/EMS department (to preserve anonymity, it could be either, and it doesn’t matter which) could raise money for a tax exempt charity which is not in the fire/EMS service. The vehicle for raising the money was to be a raffle. For some reason I am not aware of the charity could not raise the money itself, so in good faith it asked the fire/EMS department if it would sponsor the raffle and forward the proceeds on to the charity. In that case, and I think in most if not all other cases, the...

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Epilogue – Wiscasset FF’s Can Wash Their Own Cars at the Fire House

Someone asked me what was the result of the Town of Wiscasset, Maine referendum on permitting members of the Wiscasset Fire Department to continue to wash their own cars. I had written in a November 4, 2016 post, “The question on the ballot: shall the town continue to allow the members of the Wiscasset Fire Department the use of the Wiscasset Fire Station to clean their personal vehicles?  The practice of firefighters washing their own cars violates a town policy regarding the personal use of town equipment.”  But I hadn’t followed up. What happened? Common sense prevails.  According to...

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