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Flagler Beach Fire Department Embroiled in Controversy Over Unauthorized Trips

| July 2, 2012

The Flagler Beach Fire Department reached a little higher than it was supposed to. (© FlaglerLive)

Twice last month, Flagler Beach Fire Department personnel acting as representatives of the city took unauthorized trips to two manufacturers of fire trucks–one in South Dakota, one in Wisconsin–to shop for a replacement fire engine.

Bruce Campbell, the city manager, knew nothing about it–an affront to his authority, particularly given the way he found out about it.

“I was made aware of it by a private citizen that this all took place,” Campbell said, “and unbeknownst to me, when I asked the question, I found out that it had taken place. I fully expected when I asked the question that this was all a bad rumor.”

Flagler Beach Fire Chief Martin Roberts
(© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach martin Roberts and two other members of the fire department traveled in early June to Rosenbauer America‘s South Dakota plant in Lyons. They did not spend city money. Nor did they do it on city time. They took vacation for the three-day trip. But Rosenbauer picked up the cost of the entire trip, including air fares, hotel and meals. The company has a program that underwrites prospective buyers’ trips. Still, ethical issues are in play when a company wines and dines public employees, especially when there is either a probability or an expectation of a transaction.

A second trip took place last week, to Wisconsin–to Pierce Manufacturing’s Appleton plant. Fewer details are available about that trip, which may have involved only one member of the department.

Campbell is investigating the matter.

The controversy has been making the rounds of every rumor mill in town and leading to speculations about the fire chief’s fate, including his firing. “That hasn’t been determined yet,” Campbell said when asked about the chief’s job. The city manager hires and fires the fire chief, but the commission may, under the city’s code of ordinances, investigate potentially unacceptable conduct by city employees.


At Commissioner Steve Settle’s request, the commission had scheduled a special meeting for this afternoon to discuss the matter under that section of its code. The wording of the ordinance underscores the severity of the issue: “The Commission may, on its own initiative, seek information and gather facts for the purpose of investigating any circumstance or situation of which the Commission may become aware that appears to violate or may potentially violate an acceptable standard of conduct for city officers. If, as a result of such investigation, the Commission determines the need for remedial or preventative legislation, the commission may make such changes to its ordinances as it deems appropriate.”

The meeting was cancelled earlier today, and rescheduled to July 10 at 5:30 p.m. The reason for the cancellation, according to the deputy city clerk, was that Friday’s notice of the meeting had not been sufficient. The notice went out electronically from the city’s office through an email blast. But according to city code, “The agenda for such meeting will be posted on the bulletin board next to the front door of city hall no less than seventy-two (72) hours prior to the time the meeting is scheduled to convene.” That posting did not occur Friday, Jane Mealy, chairman of the commission said.

The cancellation led to further speculation about the controversy, especially as Campbell had been asked not to take any action until the commission’s review was done. “I was in the process of doing an investigation about it,” Campbell said without going into details. Nor would Roberts. “Right now I’m not at liberty to say anything until the meeting but that’s where it stands,” Roberts said. “Nothing was done illegal or improper.”

A Rosenbauer pumper truck.

Mealy does not see a controversy. The city commission, she said, had granted Roberts permission to travel to New York State to take a look at a truck several weeks ago. “By rthe time he got around to going, the truck was sold,” mealy said. Roberts then heard about the truck in South Dakota and about another one in Wisconsin, and took vacation time to investigate.

“I know that when this truck comes before the commission we’ll have questions about why is this one better than the old truck,” Mealy said. “By his going and looking at it he’ll be able to answer us, so I actually have no problem with it.”

Flagler County has attempted several times to absorb Flagler Beach’s fire department but faced intense resistance every time. This issue may revive the push for consolidation, especially as it centers on a pumper truck that, while needing between $25,000 and $30,000 in repairs, has only 48,000 miles on it. County trucks have twice as many miles and still run.

The pumper truck is a spare that the fire department wants to replace. Mealy said that the truck is itself worth just $25,000. She doesn;t dispute that the repairs are doable. But even if the repairs were conducted for that same cost, it would still be a $25,000 truck in the end, she said.

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37 Responses for “Flagler Beach Fire Department Embroiled in Controversy Over Unauthorized Trips”

  1. Ron Vath says:

    Our City Charter says:
    To the Commissioners: Beyond asking questions about an employee’s job activities, “ Thou shall not interfere in the City Manager’s authority over staff” No orders, no input, no nuttin.

    To All employees: “Thou shall not accept gratuities of any kind.”

    I don’t believe our fire department is, as one previous City manager opined, “ a snake pit” I do, however, believe from my previous experience, that there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. Please allow the City Manager to handle it as he sees fit.

       13 likes

    • John Smith says:

      Yes Ron you did your best to get rid of the Fire Chief but Bernie Murphy told you The Chief was doing his job and he would NOT fire him. So now you have another chance. YOU were wrong then and your all are wrong now. The only drama at the fire dept is what you all make it to be.

         5 likes

  2. gatorfan1 says:

    everything to do with flagler beach politics is shady and a clusterf—.

       4 likes

    • Magnolia says:

      gator, that is what happens when you stop following the rules and allow the ethical lines to blur. The worst part is that not nearly enough in Flagler are paying attention or care. As long as that is the case, we all suffer with sub standard government.

         1 likes

  3. DP says:

    First and for most I’d like to have somebody explain where they are coming up with double taxation. As once again I have looked over my tax bill from last year and all I see is general funds for the city of Flagler Beach and County. Which basically go’s to pay for everything from the custodian, to the mangers in both jurisdictions. Nowhere is it broken down to each and every line item. So I wish people would stop miss using double taxation as a scare tactic or further justification for consolidation. On the subject of consolidation would it make sense? Save money? I say yes. But only if the all the municipalities would cut the budgeted amount from there general funds which we all know would never happen.
    Now the real purpose of this comment, I really think its small town politics and a witch hunt, something that continues to go on in the small community of Flagler Beach every day since I have lived in this county and city. We have other bigger issues to address, other than petty he said she said approvals.
    “Happy Birthday America”

       0 likes

  4. Ron Vath says:

    As I have opined in a previous statement, please allow our City manager to unravel the current issue without the needless spin going forward. All the facts are documented in the Commission meeting minutes and on tape. For those of you that still believe I am biased against the F.D., remember, over the years,
    -I was a firefighter (in N.J. ) for 25 years
    -I introduced the resolution to offer pension benefits to volunteers
    -I introduced the resolution to purchase a new brush truck
    - I introduced the motion to purchase new turn out gear for those that were worn out and in tatters.
    -I introduced the resolution to install a mechanically assisted ladder lift for safety purposes.
    - I served as the City Commission safety contact to the F.D. during the 10 years of my service.
    So, don’t believe the spin that I am anti Firefighter.
    I will reiterate, I implore the Commissioners to allow the City manager to unravel this issue. Do not take sides, do not support either argument. Let the record speak for itself in the context of the City Charter.

    John Smith, push me and I will release a documented fact, one at a time, about the operation of the F.D. that will reinforce why I lost confidence in its management. Then, let the people decide. So, whoever you are, you certainly would not be opposed to that,right ?

       10 likes

  5. FB Insider says:

    Ron, your a bully and everyone knows it. We’re all glad your gone. Enjoy retirement, nobody cares what you have to say because your just like Art and Settle . . . part of the “South End Clan” . . .

       9 likes

  6. John Smith says:

    Ron, You don’t intimidate me at all. And yes when you were on the commission and you all took care of that problem at the time of it. The Fire Dept has changed for the better since then so don’t threaten me either I also have my info on your Fire service. Thank You.

       10 likes

  7. Ron Vath says:

    FB insider, bully, sure you can think of something more vitriolic than that. Come on-you guys are slipping.
    Now onto some good stuff. First a sentence or two regarding background.
    Back in 1999, I was hired by Flagler Beach as a Safety Professional to, among other things, clear up their Worker’s Compensation Program and install a DRUGFREE WORKPLACE PROGRAM. As written the Drugfree workplace program, as is traditionally stated: “After any type of workplace accident, regardless of fault, the principals will immediately consent to a drug test.” That was in the days when the Fire Departments budget was $90,000, ( now about $500,000) and folks were naturally interested in purging drug induced employees. For many years, my information indicated the program was followed.
    Then in 2010, I was informed, by a reliable source, that the Fire Department was not reporting workplace accidents. At the next safety meeting at the fire department, with two other top level administrators present, I questioned the chief about the accidents. One accident completely tore the bumper off a city vehicle and the other tore the door off the newly purchased Parade Ladder truck. A makeshift bumper was assembled by the Department in one case and in the other the cost of the door repair was buried in the budget.
    The answer from the chief was, “Those accidents happened two weeks ago, so it’s too late to report them”. (I’m not making this up, it’s in the record.) Well, as any high school freshman knows, common drugs persist in one’s system for 4 to 5 weeks. I’m not saying drugs were involved. But would one think management was doing its job by bypassing the Drugfree Workplace Program? You be the judge. A very serious management breech.
    I subsequently reported this to the City manager at the time and still no action was taken.
    Again, I know there as some good folks in the F.D., but there are some issues that need to be addressed. This is only one example.

       4 likes

    • Captain Steve Wood says:

      Ok Citizens of Flagler Beach, in the middle of Ron Vaths statement he starts with he was informed from a reliable source. Well his reliable source was one of four members of the dept that left the dept because they did get there way with the Chief and the Firefighters and the changes for the GOOD at the the fire station at the end of 09. I personally know the one who went to RON with his intent to discredit the Fire Station and all its members to get even and not only was there a visit to Ron Vath but a scathing letter to the commission of which Bernie Murphy and Libby looked into and was found to be unfounded.
      OMG yes the BUMPER was damaged on the attack truck and one replaced it at NO COST to the city and there was NO secret conspiracy to keep it from the city it just got backed into something and the Chief made a change that NO vehicle is to be BACKED up with out someone out of the truck to watch it.
      The DOOR of which you speak was scratched on the edge and unless you were shown where it was you would never KNOW so a drop of touch up paint took care of that at NO COST to the city and again the Chief made his order a do it or lose it meaning your job for NOT FOLLOWING HIS ORDERS.
      These Two incidents were reported to Ron Vath as serious damaging and to city property OMG. They were NOT and yes they were kept from Chief at the time being since he was out of town at both times. When he returned after being gone he was told of the problems and took his action with NO CONSPIRACY to hide the incidents as this person would like to of had Ron believe.
      Is what you are saying Ron is that if something is damaged in any Dept that is in the city whether it is a lawn mower from hitting a rock or a weed eater from breaking a string or damage to the backhoe from hitting a something or scratches to signs from falling over that the city should spend the money for drug testing that is ridiculous when drug testing is $145 a test come on, there is a time for testing then there is not, is it only the Fire Dept that has to live up to that.
      Its funny how this individual used everyone and did things himself with equipment of the city oh he must have forgot that but I have not or maybe that was his conspiracy that could have at the time and that is BEFORE Chief Roberts and the other Chiefs before him to get him removed or even jailed by the city. I know of his journey through time with the FD equipment so His credibility is ZERO with me and I am sorry that he used you also Ron he lied to you there was NO CONSPIRACY.
      Bernie Murphy and Libby both investigated this individuals claims against the Fire Dept and they were found to be unfounded by the 4 individuals that left with BAD feelings for the Dept and still do as of today and want the CHIEF FIRED thinking they will be welcomed back don’t think so.
      As for Chief Roberts he has done his job as being the Chief and handling the problems at the Station which is what he was hired to do and not having to be watched over his shoulders by the city manager or anyone else he is doing his job with respect for the city.
      Last Night at first Friday and individual approached Chief Roberts twice and disrespected him in front of the Public and his own men and women he represents. He got the first comment in but I’ll be damned if he was going to get to Chief again for the second one so I stopped him and I will not put up with any kind of disrespect to that position in public that was uncalled for and mean as this whole thing is way out of control for what it is about.
      The only thing serious about this problem is to the few that want the chief gone. We need our support to come to the meeting Tues at 5:30 to show our support to the chief with respect .
      Why is it that no one comes to the Fire Dept to do any investigating on there own they just believe what they hear. I mean NO ONE comes down there and does no asking of questions to find out the truth about anything or is it they just believe what ever they hear. We have our problems just like any other Dept. in this city and that does include city hall. If you hear anything questionable come and ask, what does it hurt its your station we have NOTHING to hide.
      You talked about a $90,000 budget in 1999 well its 2012 and $500,000 now sounds like the sign of the times don’t you think. 13 years of price increases on equipment.
      Thank You

         4 likes

  8. FB Insider says:

    Ron,

    If this was such a big deal to you as a COMMISSIONER, why are we just now hearing about it? Furthermore, who is to say the city manager wasn’t told about it and failed to act? Now your just pulling out things irrelevant to the article to attempt to tarnish the fire department for the sake of your South End Clan. Let me guess, Mr. Woosely is pulling your puppet strings just like Campbell and Settles?

       6 likes

    • Evelyn Palmeri says:

      FBI

      Go to city docs and look at the agenda package for the special meeting on Tues. The city mgr was not told about the trip.

      Ron

      A day late and dollar short to talk about what went on when you were a commissioner. You had many long years to do the right thing. Too bad you didn’t do it.

      This discussion is way off target. It’s not about the fire dept or the city mgr, it’s about the arrogance of some commissioiners who believe they can ignore the city charter and do an end run around procedures.

         1 likes

  9. FB Insider says:

    Let me also clarify something else that Ron said. The truck that allegedly had a door “torn off” IS NOT a “Parade Ladder truck”. It is a truck the city commission approved to purchase at a great price that has proven itself several times since it’s purchase. FEMA doesn’t have anywhere further away for you to work?

       7 likes

  10. Ron Vath says:

    Mrs. Palmeri,,I went as far as I could without micromanaging or abrogating the authority of the City Manager but thanks for your sincere input.. Glad you are keeping current with this issue.

    Let’s talk about the parade ladder truck. Sold to the Commission as a great deal a 20 year old piece of equipment for say $80,000. Couldn’t get it home without replacing dryrotted tires at a cost of $5000 . To outfit it cost another $20,000. All this upgrade and maintenance money never disclosed to the Commission, and extracted from the F.D. budget even though it was never budgeted. Only reflects how much “extra” has always been written into that budget. Keep in mind that surrounding communities have up to date equipment much better suited to fight our typical fire and they are all pledged to supply “mutual aid” in any situation.
    This truck with it’s accompanying ladder requires annual maintenance costs entirely inappropriate to a small city of 4500 population. Next, well be getting a request for a new ” parade truck ” at a cost upwards of $750,000.

       4 likes

  11. Captain Steve Wood says:

    One last comment on this it is as they say where the cards may fall. Ron your informants failed to inform you that the Volunteer Association also picked up part of the tab on getting this truck ready for service it was not all on the city taxpayers thats what we do. This tower trucks service will probably out live you and me Ron so you did do a good thing.
    You talk about the county and Palm Coast having the same equipment to do the same job well that is a yes, now lets just suppose we have a fire and lets just say they are busy with there double equipment now the city is able to take care of itself and NOT depend on anyone for any kind of apparatus the people of Flagler Beach are taken care of by there own trucks and personel that they own with there own name on the side of them to be proud of. We do have a Mutual Aid Agreement with everyone so help is coming which will be appreciated but we will be there first with what ever is needed. and yes it looks good in a parade also.
    Other than the state inspection that is required by the state of Florida which is paid for by the city the Flagler Beach Volunteer Association has been picking up any other maintenance cost and not the city.Plus the truck is routinely maintained in house by our own personel.
    Again I would like to say if any resident out there wants to know anything about any trucks come and see for yourselves.

       5 likes

  12. curious says:

    As the stomach turns,,,,,, Here we go again. This man has brought humiliation to the City and the Woosley followers keep pulling the strings. Karney and Settle need to get a life and their facts straight. Campbell is a puppet that has no clue how to manage a City. Get him out of there!!!!! Get a professional manager to do the job right. How come we have him at the helm when he is so dirty? Wake up!!!!!!!!!

       0 likes

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