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Here’s The Scoop …. Need To Know ?….

September 17, 2009 by Barbara

QUESTION  #5  REPORT DEPARTMENTAL AND STAFF ACTIVITIES TO THE COMMISSION IN AN APPROPRIATE AND TIMELY MANNER?

page 1 – 2009 LBTS Town Manager Performance Review …

Dear Readers …give this one a big fat 1 on the evaluation scale (1 = does not meet expectations) … in the latest “need to know” management style of Town Manager Esther Colon!.. On August 28, 2009 the new LBTS Fire Marshal Alex Stevenson was terminated. In a formal letter it stated the reason was a significant decrease in plan and document reviews, and in permitting and redevelopment in the Town. The same reason as presented at the September 14, 2009 budget hearing, by Ms. Colon. The Fire Marshal’s last day was to be on September 14, 2009. The letter from the Town Manager also said “As an AT WILL employee, your appointment can be terminated by unilateral action. This letter constitutes that action.” “Please return your office keys and any other property, including but not limited to manuals in your possession on or prior to your last date of employment.” signed by the Town Manager….

Let me backtrack a little on the Town Fire Marshal…I was told from many sources within the VFD and the Town that the Town “waited” for Mr. Stevenson after he was hired for the $100,000 LBTS Fire Marshal position….In the interim the VFD Fire Inspector Steve Paine was the Town Fire Marshal….When Mr Stevenson began, I recall seeing him at a Town Commission meeting and thought it was odd he was never formally introduced to the Town…I have only met him once, and doubt most residents would have known him if they ran into him as we hear he was given no uniform, car or badge to wear. What I have heard about Mr. Stevenson from residents and businesses that dealt with him in his short stint here,  was highly complimentary. They were sorry to learn he was let go.

In the letter of termination the Manager offered Mr. Stevenson the on-call position, but we hear that there was also discussion of the position going to the County ( BSO to come back ? ) or to have the VFD Fire Inspector assume the role, as he did in the interim last year…..When this writer learned of the dismissal I sent in an Public Record Request to confirm the termination and to see who would be the new Fire Marshal (e-mails below)…The first was on  9/2/09 …I also found after hearing of the termination that the Manager had reduced the salary of the Fire Marshal in the budget…although at prior meetings for budget/fire it was never brought up ( $100,00 to $83,895 and the position was changed from 1 full-time employee to .75 employee)…The budget has been out since July…The response back on Sept. 4th was “NO” the Fire Inspector and the Fire Marshal positions being combined and as for the Fire Marshal being replaced and why…”NOT APPLICABLE”!…None of my other questions were answered…So even though a letter of termination was given on Aug. 28th, I was received a response “NOT APPLICABLE”….WOW!… I sent in another Public Records request and an addition to the second one (which I was informed would not be allowed…it had to be a “new” PRR per Town Clerk White”) knowing full well that the Fire Marshal had been terminated…as of today  no response has been received (in what is beyond a “reasonable amount of time for a PRR, especially one that is timely)….

I decided on my own to see what was required for the Town as a result of this Town Manager “unilateral”action and contacted some professional people who pointed me in the right direction…the Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals…who would need notification of any changes in the Town and would need to provide the proper certification to the new Fire Marshal in order for the Town to be covered…I was told to contact Brian Parks…I sent Mr. Parks an email…(see below).. to see if they received notification and also to find out if LBTS would have a Fire Marshal after Sept. 14th…… Mr Parks responded (see below)…included were the following ….

“This office on September 10, 2009 received a letter from Chief Perkins (see attached) indicating that he was making a change related to the Fire Code Official / Fire Marshal for Lauderdale by the Sea.

On September 10, 2009 this office also received an upgrade form from the city indicating that Fire Plans Examiner, Steve Pain would be upgraded to Fire Code Official / Fire Marshal for the city.”

The attached letter (Sept. 10, 2009) from Chief Perkins included in an attachment said the following …

“Dear Mr. Parks, As of 4:30 today, Alex Stevenson will no longer be the Fire Code Official for the town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. Fire Inspector Steve Paine, will be assuming all responsibilities of the Code Officers position for the Town of LBTS and he can be contacted at the fire department office (954) 772-8978 or (954) 261- 1064 24 hours a day. Sincerely, Robert Perkins Fire Chief”

Many questions arise to the answers received from Mr. Parks response…To start with why did the Town respond “not applicable” when it was indeed “applicable?…Why has the Manager again not informed the whole Commission (and Town) of a change in the Town for a major position either when she terminated Mr Stevenson or when she decided with the VFD Chief  (and Dep Chief?) to have the VFD Fire Inspector become the Fire Marshall as well? She sent out no memo to that effect and did not include the change in either her Town Manager report on Sept. 9, 2009 . …knowing the decision had been made and the letters were to go out to Broward County the next day…or at the Sept. 14, 2009 Budget meeting when discussing the change in the position!… It means that 2 of the Commissioners who wear “2-Hats” were privy to a major change while the other sitting officials were kept in the dark!…Hmmm….

More questions arise from this change in the structure of combining the positions…How will Fire Marshall Paine be paid?…Will he be paid as Fire Inspector Paine per the the VFD a contracted vendor ( the VFD income/expense reports show his salary from the $844,022.00)…and also as Fire Marshal Paine from the budgeted Fire Marshal funds included in the fire assessment?…If not does that mean extra funds either in the VFD or for the Town …unencumbered?…If he is no longer the Fire Inspector it means the LBTS VFD Inc-Town of LBTS 2008 contract is breached for the contract required in Article 3 3.2 “The VFD shall have at minimum one (1) Fire Chief, one (1) Deputy Fire Chief, One (1) Battalion Chief, one (1) Fire Administrator, one (1) Safety Officer, one (1) FIRE INSPECTOR, and one (1) Training Officer.”…..

What recourse will a resident or business have if they have a dispute with the Fire Inspector…they cannot go to the Fire Marshal…it will be the same person!.. Let me add I have also heard good reports back about Fire Inspector/Marshal Steve Paine and the question is to no way imply anything other than it could severely limit a property owners right to refute him on a local level. A situation that is sure to happen at some point in time….

Once again the lines are blurred between the contracted LBTS-VFD  Inc. and the Town of LBTS …And again it was all done on a “need to know” basis implemented by the Town Manager who hires “at will” employees in order to “unilaterally” terminate them …(a big 180 from her own lifetime contract) and to keep certain Commissioners (the non-2-Hats Commissioners ) in the dark!….

This writer (blogger) thought you the readers, NEEDED TO KNOW!….

THE E-MAILS…..

From: Barbara Cole [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wed 9/2/2009 7:53 AM
To: Steve D’Olivera
Subject: Fw: Public Records Request

— On Wed, 9/2/09, Barbara Cole wrote:

From: Barbara Cole
Subject: Public Records Request
To: [email protected]
Date: Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 7:51 AM
Steve, I would like to know if the Town has decided to combine the Town Fire Marshall and VFD Fire Inspector position.
If not would like to know if the Fire Marshall is to be replaced? If so, why?
I took a look at the 2009-10 budget and noticed the Fire Marshall salary and position had been cut down.
The salary from $100,000 to $83,895/ position from 1 employee to .75
I notice in the VFD Budget from the Chief (Justification sheet) it says 1 Fire Marshall and the VFD is to have in its employ only the Fire Inspector..
I await a response of receipt of this request and the answers.
Thank you, Barbara Cole

From:
“Steve D’Olivera”
To:
“Barbara Cole”
Barbara:

Here are the answers to your two questions:

Steve, I would like to know if the Town has decided to combine the Town Fire Marshall and VFD Fire Inspector position. NO.

If not would like to know if the Fire Marshall is to be replaced? If so, why? NOT APPLICABLE.
Steve

Friday, September 4, 2009 10:45 AM
From:
“Steve D’Olivera”

From: Barbara Cole [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Fri 9/4/2009 9:44 AM
To: Steve D’Olivera
Subject: Public Records Request

Steve, I am requesting the following Public Records Request…
All communications via email/ memos /letters /logged calls from Town including staff and the Town Manager to/from Broward County Board of appeals/ The LBTS-VFD including Chief Perkins directly/Deputy Chief McIntee/Fire Inspector Steve Paine/ BSO Fire Marshall concerning the Fire Marshall services in LBTS for the last 3 months to present.
I am also requesting the resume. file, reprimands, and any evaluations/performance reviews of Alex Stevenson, the outgoing Fire Marshall.
Please acknowledge receipt of this request.
Let me know of any costs s above $20 and a time frame.
Barbara Cole

To:
“Barbara Cole”
Hi:

Got your request. I forwarded it to the Town Clerk.

Steve

From: Barbara Cole [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Fri 9/4/2009 11:07 AM
To: Steve D’Olivera
Subject: addition to PPR

Steve, 2 more items to add to the previous PPR on the Fire Marshall, Alex Stevenson
1. his appointment letter
2. his termination letter
thank you, Barbara Cole
Please acknowledge receipt.
From:
“Steve D’Olivera”
To:
“Barbara Cole”

Hi:

Got it. Forwarded it to the Town Clerk.

steve

…………………………………………………

[email protected]
From: Barbara Cole [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 4:34 PM
To: Parks, Bryan
Subject: Public Request

Mr. Parks:
I am a resident in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea and I am requesting some information. Our Town Fire Marshal Alex Stevenson was terminated from his position. His last day was 9/14/09.
I think I am correct that a request was to be sent in to your board about the termination. We were told at a Town budget meeting that the position was to now be an on-call position. I have been told the options the Manager was looking at were to use the County or our VFD Fire Inspector Steve Paine who was the interim Fire Marshal for a few months and was approved by your board. I would like to know if you received the notice of the termination and who is currently our Town Fire Marshal?
I am requesting a copy of the letter if possible.
Would you also let me know if it is allowed for the VFD Fire Inspector to be the Fire Marshal as well and be paid on an on call basis.
Thank you, Barbara Cole
phone # 954-

From:
“Parks, Bryan”
To:
“‘Barbara Cole'”
Cc:
“Dipietro, James”
Message contains attachments
1 File (114KB)
• B.C. Parks ltr 091009.docx
Ms. Cole

This office on September 10, 2009 received a letter from Chief Perkins (see attached) indicating that he was making a change related to the Fire Code Official / Fire Marshal for Lauderdale by the Sea.

On September 10, 2009 this office also received an upgrade form from the city indicating that Fire Plans Examiner, Steve Pain would be upgraded to Fire Code Official / Fire Marshal for the city.

FPE Paine is qualified to be certified as the FCO/FM and has been upgrade per the Chiefs request. He was approved by this office on September 11, 2009.

With respect to your last question the Broward Amendments to the Florida Fire Prevention Code do not address pay (Volunteer vs. Paid Inspectors, Fire Plans Examiners or Fire Code Officials / Fire Marshals) and is not part of the codes we enforce in this office.

Hope this information helps.

C. Bryan Parks
Chief Fire Code Compliance Officer
Broward County Board of Rules and Appeals
1 N. University Drive
3500 “B”
Plantation, Florida 33324
(954) 765-4500
(954) 765-4504 Fax

more to come….

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