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Sun, Sept. 15

HVFD Board responds to continued allegations

Over the past few months, the Hualapai Valley Fire Department has been repeatedly attacked, specifically Chief Wayne Eder. The Board of Directors of the HVFD and Chief Eder have endeavored to take the "high road" regarding these false allegations and stay focused on the objective ... the safety of our citizens and taxpayers.

Regardless of our previously published response to allegations (Kingman Daily Miner, Sunday, Feb. 3), everything we do, or have done, has been distorted from the actual truth, and since this brought no hard response from us, has now deteriorated into outright lies.

It has become increasingly clear that taking the "high road" has not resulted in an end to this "war" that has been declared on us, primarily and blatantly by the Kingman Professional Firefighter's Association. Beginning today, we are doing a couple of things that should relieve the minds of any HVFD taxpayers who may be concerned with these fraudulent allegations, or anybody else that cares to examine the facts.

Beginning with this article, we will periodically be addressing these allegations, both in print and on our Web site.

Most HVFD documents, with rare exceptions such as individual personnel records, are considered public records; therefore, without your having to ask, we are going to post those records specific to the allegations lodged against us - a sort of "we report, you decide" scenario. Though personnel records are private records and not subject to public scrutiny, statistical analysis of them are not private, so we will be publishing statistics relating to personnel allegations where we are able to do so.

Today, we begin with the two allegations which were leveled against us in the June 3 Kingman Daily Miner by Edward Eads and Robert Borker.

First, we will give you a summary of the truth of their allegations in the newspaper. Then, we will refer you to our Web site, www.hualapaivalleyfire.com, where you may click on Fire District Issues then on the issue you wish to learn more about. Under each issue, you will find two links: Allegations and Truth. Under the Allegations link, you will find the articles from the newspapers and other accusatory documents. Under the Truth link, you will see first-hand the letter, report, board minutes, incident report, photographs or whatever documentation substantiates the TRUTH. We have highlighted the applicable portion of each document, but of course you are free to read the entire document if you like.

Mr. Eads is currently an employee of HVFD and a member of the KPFFA. He addresses himself in the article mentioned above as "Hualapai Valley Chapter, vice president." Vice president of what? There is not and has never been a "Hualapai Valley Chapter" of any firefighter's union. We must therefore assume he is vice president of the KPFFA Local 4191. Mr. Borker is currently an employee of the Kingman Fire Department and president of KPFFA Local 4191.

Allegation No. 1

Hiring of Chief Wayne Eder: The board appointed a committee of two, Rob McEuen and Edward Schrum, to develop job requirements for the position using resources from the Arizona Fire District Association. Qualifications for the applicants were:

1. Must currently be a professional firefighter;

2. Must have been an executive officer in a fire department for at least five years;

3. Must be at a minimum EMT rated;

4. Must have at least an associate's degree in fire-related studies;

5. Must be willing to come in person to HVFD for interview; and

6. Must provide five professional references.

Ads were placed in several different fire service publications including Firehouse Magazine and on the AFDA Web site. A hiring committee of four members was appointed to review the applications and make recommendations to the board of directors for two to three qualified final applicants. The committee consisted of four members: Edward Schrum, board member; Chuck Osterman, fire chief, city of Kingman; Larry Adams, Wild Land Fire (BLM); and Gary Croft, State Fire Marshall's Office.

There were seven candidates chosen for consideration from the applicant pool. The committee picked three top candidates and an alternate from their respective resumes, and they were presented to the board of directors of HVFD.

The board of directors requested that Mr. Schrum call the four candidates and schedule appointments for an interview. "As part of our background investigation, I had completed verifying references for all candidates from their respective lists and gave comments to the chairman, Bill Redman, for review," Mr. Schrum said.

"With regard to then-candidate Eder, I checked six references. I received no negative reviews of any kind, and some gave very impressive reviews, for example, the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Northrop-Grumman fire chief, and Pepperdine University director of public safety.

"A week before the interviews began, we received telephone calls from two of the candidates stating that they could not appear for various reasons related to their current employment, leaving us with two viable candidates. The afternoon of the scheduled interviews, one candidate called to say his grandfather was about to pass away, and he could not appear and asked to be withdrawn."

On Feb. 5, 2003, a special board meeting was held for the express purpose of interviewing the candidates. The board discussed that there would be only one candidate to appear and that if the board was not happy with that candidate (Eder), it would re-advertise. Prior to this meeting, the board had requested that Chief Osterman join them, as they valued his opinion as a professional fire chief, to interview Wayne Eder, the lone candidate.

Eder was asked if he wanted a private or public interview. He replied that he would prefer to have it open to the public. A list of 16 prepared questions was asked by four board members, four questions each. Afterward, Osterman asked seven questions. The board also asked, if he were hired, what plans did he have for the department in the future.

The board then moved into executive session for discussion on Eder's hiring. Upon returning to public session, Mr. Schrum made a motion to hire Eder, which was seconded by Mr. McEuen and carried unanimously in favor of Eder as the new fire chief.

Allegation No. 2

Dispatch: Prior to 1998, HVFD had contracted with the city of Kingman for dispatch services for a fee of $62,889 annually. In 2003, Kingman raised the annual fee to $86,233. That dispatch method required the following to occur: All 911 calls first went to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, where they were transferred to Kingman Police Department dispatch, who then called HVFD and River Medical as required.

This dispatch service was plagued with problems, such as: In the middle of dispatch, HVFD was often put on hold, waiting for fire location, while they dispatched the KPD on other calls, leading to decreased response times, creating a public safety issue. HVFD was the only other fire department being dispatched by the city.

On March 25, 2004, we were notified in writing that the KPD was going to increase our rates to $97,584 per year, ($8,132 per month) effective at the end of the contract, which at that time was approximately 60 days away. The letter also acknowledged there had been problems with dispatch and requested a meeting to discuss them.

The board requested that Eder look into alternate means of dispatch. After the chief's review, he said he felt the best choice for providing dispatch services for the department was River Medical located in Lake Havasu City. River Medical was and is providing dispatch services to Golden Valley and Desert Hills, and they were also dispatching ambulances to 75 percent of HVFD calls at that time.

The board agreed, based on the following facts:

1. The majority of HVFD calls are medical in nature. 911 calls from the Sheriff's Office would go directly to River Medical, who would dispatch HVFD engines and River Medical ambulances simultaneously, resulting in an improved response time;

2. The annual cost of this service would be $45,000 ($3,750 per month), saving our taxpayers $52,582 per year.

Therefore, a business decision was made by the board, based on sound financial sense and better response time for our taxpayers, not from any animosity toward the city of Kingman, its police or fire department.

Visit www.hualapaivalleyfire.com to view original board meeting minutes and other related documents.

****

Jimmie Bodenhamer is HVFD Board of Directors chairman;

Ed Schrum is Board clerk

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