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home : opinion : columns April 30, 2016

12/29/2013 6:00:00 AM
Guest Column: GV fire district critic is long on passion, short on facts
Steven Robinson
Golden Valley Fire Board

I admire Jack Hommel's passion about the Golden Valley Fire Board, and I understand his defense of his friend and neighbor, Rhonda Brooks, with whom he served on the So-Hi Water Board (Dec. 22 Miner). I show such passion when I address issues that concern the public. Like me, the rhetoric from them is sometimes inflammatory. However, their grasp of the facts is lacking. As Ronald Reagan said, "It isn't so much that (they) are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so."

First, I agree the recall effort against Golden Valley Fire District board members isn't focused entirely on Chief O'Donohue. Rather it was partly in response to the petition filed against Director Brooks only two weeks earlier. Why partly? That's the rest of the story.

Jack says the recall has nothing "whatsoever to do with the current chief, who is a professional doing a professional's job." He further states Tom "is merely an employee of the board carrying out the instructions of the board." That's true, but begs the question, why does Ms. Brooks refuse to meet with O'Donohue, recent recipient of the Ben Franklin Medal of Valor? How does she help manage the Board's only employee if she refuses to even talk with him? What employer in his/her right mind would refuse to speak to their employee?

This isn't a recent occurrence. Rhonda has refused any meeting (except for a terse nine-minute encounter) since her election. What is her agenda?

Next, Jack claims the District wasted "a quarter-million dollars of taxpayers' money" in the application for ambulance service, the Certificate of Necessity (CON). How, you ask? Our attorney asked for a stay of the administrative hearing process, but Jack claims the district has to start over with our CON application. Not true! The application wasn't "dismissed" but put on hold. Simply put, it's a time-out. The stay was granted so that the district can pursue legal action in superior court, with a goal of having the court mandate that Department of Health Services issue a ruling on our application.

The Board began pursuing the CON three years ago for one reason: provide better, faster transport service for our community. One prerequisite from DHS is that the service be "self-sustaining" because our taxpayers should not subsidize the service. After intensive legal research, an independent cost analysis and a comprehensive survey of our citizens, the Board voted in November 2012 to submit the most complete application ever received by DHS.

Ironically, that occurred before the current Board took office. The process is proceeding as planned, despite Jack's claims to the contrary.

Then Jack repeated an old, discredited claim about $300K in cost overruns at the new Station 11. Brooks and Hommel ignore the total project costs in making that claim.

First they ignored the following pre-construction costs: land purchase, permitting, utilities and site preparation. Second, the original bid didn't include minor change orders or the sales/use tax. Finally, the Board approved subsequent contracts for the outside concrete driveways and parking, and landscaping. Yes, the total construction cost was $830K, but not due to any cost overruns.

By contrast, Chief O'Donohue saved the district thousands, acting as the general on the project, which Jack ignores. He also ignores the $200,000-$500,000 value of labor from the district's contract with the prison which provides skilled labor in exchange for fire and emergency medical service.

In the final analysis, Chief O'Donohue built Station 11 for almost $700,000 below estimated value. So the claims of cost overruns and "improprieties in the bid process" are not only outrageously false, they border on libelous.

Next Mr. Hommel mentions "numerous" Open Meeting Law complaints. True enough, a former Board member and district employee has filed non-stop complaints against the District since resigning January 2010, after 13 months on the board. She and Director Brooks have relentlessly filed these complaints against the district. However, the Attorney General's office hasn't validated one complaint. Certainly there have been technical glitches that required "ratification" of Board actions, e.g. having the wrong day of the week on one agenda. But God help us if we use the wrong font, or don't cross a T!

Regarding the Board meetings, I might just like Chairman Vanik "giving" me control of the meetings! But it's simply not true. Mark maintains solid control of the meetings as chair, regardless of Jack's limited (three meetings) exposure.

Also, it's silly to claim town halls held at district facilities were "Board meetings." They were independent of the district and were for the community's benefit. Supervisor Joy Brotherton and Legislators Kelli Ward and Sonny Borrelli appeared at these events, meeting the citizens and answering questions. They were not Board meetings.

Finally, Jack's claim that we are hostile to Ms. Brooks defies logic. As stated before, Rhonda refuses to speak with the chief, she no longer communicates with the Board, other than by regular mail, and ignores all emails. She misstates the facts and is openly hostile to everyone else. I asked her after December's meeting that we find some consensus and work together for the good of the citizens, she completely dismissed the offer. When asked to help review potential salary discrepancies with Chief O'Donohue and the newest Board member, she flatly refused. Why won't she work together as part of the team?

While I respect Mr. Hommel's passion, I wish he'd get his "facts" straight. He'd have greater credibility with the public and the Board. As it is, he knows so many things that just aren't so.

Jack quotes former Chair Marc Frederick about the "need for someone to give a different opinion," and I agree. But he ignored Marc's other statement about a "good old boys" network that exists. I've heard some resent that the Board hired a chief from outside the district - maybe that motivates the voluminous complaints and misstatements. Maybe that's the rest of the "unspoken" story. It's time for everyone to put the past behind and focus on solving problems today.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Article comment by: Maggie May

Director Robinson, like I said in a previous post, I am unable to drive. I have major health issues. I live alone and therefor I do not want my last name all over the internet, this is for safety reasons. I am sorry you can not understand that reason. Why do feel the need to look people up to see if they are real or not? I think you should not attack the person, but stay on the issues. Why does this bother you so much? On your comment about the minutes, maybe the board should have better minutes for those of us that can not attend the meetings or the audio posted online. Are the minutes withholding information that the taxpayers need to be aware of?

I don't think we are talking about the same closed group on Facebook as I am the admin. of the closed group that took the survey.

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Article comment by: Steven Robinson

I'd also like to reply to two other "anonymous" persons, with "cute" names:

@"Box of Rocks" (Director Brooks?): The Board has been informed of the AFDA conference in 10 days. I plan to attend, as do others.

@"Try Again": IF you were at the September 2012 meeting, you would have heard about the four bids as the Chief described them in his report. There wasn't just one.

Also, the language in the minutes just before the dollar amount of the bid is as follows, "He also noted that we are still awaiting bids for the concrete and connections work, as well as final pricing for permitting and other miscellaneous items some of which were not included in the fire station bid. Once received, he will provide a total cost projection to the Board."

Also, there were very specific discussion in the July 2012 meeting about a Construction Manager being hired to manage the construction of the Building itself. You make false claims about what was said and then condemn the Board based on your false claims. So let me "respectfully" say to you: "READ THE WORDS AND TELL THE TRUTH!"

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Article comment by: Steven Robinson

Well it appears that people like Maggie May are simply to "fearful" to come out in the light of day and express their views honestly.

Maggie you talk about a "closed group" on Facebook" having a survey, well since that group is controlled by the disgruntled 8th place finisher in the GOP Primary for Supervisor and he has blocked me, preventing me from seeing it.

So I took a survey of all the convicted criminals in Mohave County jail. Guess What? They overwhelmingly want Sheriff Sheahan FIRED and all of the prisoners immediately paroled!! LOL

To some other points you've made:
1. Voter registration and land ownership are a matter of public records so that's where I look to see if there's someone who is a real person or a fictitious name.

2, You said, "I don't read much on the minutes about what is going on with the CON." I suggest you go back and read the Sept 2012 minutes and see what they say about the CON. Remember, this was first brought up in October 2010. The Minutes of meetings NEVER completely tell the whole story.

3. My family has lived (& died) here for nearly three decades. They first bought land in 1979, and though I'm relatively new, I was elected by a solid majority of the voters and so I definitely work for them! And I won't hide behind a FAKE NAME!!

Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Article comment by: John Whitherspoon

By Maggie May's own admission, she is afraid to use her real name. What's she afraid of, that a Board member will insult or embarrass her?

She says she has no complaints against the Chief. and that the product of the Chief is thru the board, instead of the board taking responsible, they let the Chief handle what the board should be doing.

This is what should and does happen: The Board votes upon the budget, the equipment and real estate purchases and sales, and other actions & policies of the District. The Chief carries out the day to day operations based on the Board's decisions.

But here's my question to you: If you only read the minutes how could you possibly know what's going on in all the discussions?

Frankly I see you as just another cowardly complainer who has it in for the Chief for whatever reason and instead of being honest and in the open, your like a termites chewing through the wood not giving a damn about the destruction you do just as long as you bring down the building.

If you were a decent person you'd show up Wednesday and speak in public. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted: Monday, January 6, 2014
Article comment by: Box of Rocks

Keeping the board away from training can only benefit one person. It's much harder to b.s. an informed board of directors. Pay to train them.

Posted: Sunday, January 5, 2014
Article comment by: Try Again

There were no competing bids on the new fire station 11 for bid date September 4, 2012.It was never advertised after the board turned down both bids in July, 2012. There was only one bid. Just above the signatures on that solitary bid it says "Total Contract: $526,000.00". DO THE MATH.

Posted: Sunday, January 5, 2014
Article comment by: Maggie May

@ Kathleen Magill, I don't consider myself a complainer. These are issues that need to be addressed. This our tax monies and I believe that the board works for us. I have no complaints against the Chief. The product of the Chief is thru the board, instead of the board taking responsible, they let the Chief handle what the board should be doing. The taxpayers did not vote for the Chief. There is a closed group on Facebook that took a survey on members of this board. The worst member..well I will not say, but I am sure he knows who he is.

Posted: Saturday, January 4, 2014
Article comment by: Kathleen Magill

To all you complainers if you had actually read what Director Robinson wrote you would see that he answered your questions. The reason that the Chief still has a job is because he's good at what he does and he doesn't need you people to continue to harass him.

Posted: Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Article comment by: Maggie May

Director Robinson I was thinking about your comment "No "Kessler" registered in Golden Valley". Maybe he is like you . You are not a landowner here in this fire district, but you get to voice your opinions.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Article comment by: Maggie May

Director Robinson is there a place to register in Golden Valley? I am a register voter and a land owner , but I don't know where or why I should register in Golden Valley. I do not use my last name on these comments for safety reasons. Sorry you don't like that when a person does this.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013
Article comment by: Alternate Universe

Robinson, how does a good audit miss an entire payroll being underpaid for years on end?How much money is really in the bank after those employees are finally paid.Explain that at the town hall.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Robinson

To "Walter Kessler" (??) I found interesting information regarding a "forensic audit" on another letter to the editor from a CPA that didn't address Golden Valley FD, rather Kingman. Donald Lynch's information however applies to your request as it was to Dean Wolslagel's.

Mr. Lynch's statement regarding forensic audits and challenges your whole claim that it is necessary. "There is no such thing as a forensic audit. Forensic accounting, forensic reporting and forensic analysis are done in order to prepare reports suitable for use in court for criminal prosecutions, civil suits, bankruptcy and other proceedings. On the other hand, an audit in accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, GAAS, is very thorough and includes a complete review of internal controls and compliance with laws, regulations and agreements."

IF Mr. Kessler you have evidence of any improprieties or illegalities then you have a duty as a citizen to bring them forward. However, If you were file complaint you'd have to give your real name and the evidence. I strongly suspect you can't you have no evidence, just whispered accusations under the cloak of anonymity. (No "Kessler" registered in Golden Valley)

You can express your concerns January 8th at the Town Hall. See you there!

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Maggie May

Director Robinson, I would love to attend the meetings, but I unable to drive, so I read what I can online. Thanks for being so thoughtful. I don't read much on the minutes about what is going on with the CON. I finally found the public records online through DHS Portal. You didn't answer about the cost. Maybe Director Brooks does not have anything to say to the Chief. I did read in the minutes that over 700 thousand when through the contractor's books. The pre construction cost would go through the fire district books. I thought the district had a bookkeeper, sorry I didn't know that the fire chief does the books. Maybe the fire chief could just take his figures to the entire board to check his work. Thanks for answering some of my questions. Bless you.

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Exact Amount Please

The exact amount of back pay was not reported to the public, nor the board, in the minutes of the Dec.19,2013 meeting. What is the EXACT amount of back wages this district owes it's employees? Does the union agree with this? Somebody please demand a forensic audit.

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Robinson

I see the first three (at least two of them) aren't using real names. But that's what most expect from the accusers who vehemently oppose the Board & Chief. But I'm happy to answer! First on the questions from Maggie May (whoever she is!) related to the column.

1. The Attorney was authorized to pursue the course of action initially approved by the Board November 2012. That approval gives the Attorney Steadman to pursue the CON. No need to approve each step of the process.
2. Ms. Brooks talks to the other Board members, not the Chief. If you attend the Board meetings you'd know that.
3. Apparently neither Mr. Hommel nor Dir. Brooks know about the pre-construction costs OR the approved bids after approval of the Building contract (which she voted for!), NOR do the other complainers TOTAL project costs.
4. The Chief OFFERED to involve the Board in the process and to check over his work. You can't complain about O'Donohue "being secretive" and about his offer. Are you really defending her refusal?

Back due pay will be small, maybe 1K to 50K. It won't impact our budget in the least. Why the whining about it being brought into the open? I have to ask is this JUST another excuse to complain?

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Consolato

You have no credibility Steve Robinson so why should I believe any of your rhetoric. Hommel's letter was excellent and before all is said and done the truth in these issues will come to the public.

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Take a Clue

You have used every possible method to drive away Director Brooks. Now you complain that she doesn't want to communicate with you and your fellow Christians?Maybe it has something to do with the horse you rode in on.

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Walter Kessler

@ Director Robinson and the other Fire Board members.

Just do a "forensic audit" and be done with the bickering back and forth you all love to do. What are you Director Robinson affraid of? Perhaps it is how much the taxpayers have spent on the Golden Valley Fire Department and its constant overspending by the Chief, you and the other Board members. How about it man up and do the forensic audit once and for all - if not resign and save the tax payers a lot of money for a change.

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Maggie May

Director Robinson,
1. I can't find the minutes where the board voted and approved the CON Stay? How much is it costing the taxpayers to take DHS to the Superior Court?
2. I believe Director Brooks talks to the Chief at the board meetings. There is no need to meet in private, behind closed doors.
3. Everyone knows that the building bids did not include pre construction cost.
4. I see no reason to meet about the back wages for the fire personnel, just pay them what the District owes them. How hard it that for the bookkeeper to do? Why do you feel that a committee, study group or whatever you want to call it, just pay them.

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: Just Pay Us

They don't need to form a committee to figure out how they are going to pay the employees what they are owed. If they have money coming, pay them already like you should have been doing all along.

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2013
Article comment by: How Much?

How much is it going to cost the district to pay back wages to possibly every employee of the GVFD?Why does the chief even still have a job?

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