Western Cass fires personnel

By Lucas Lord

The Western Cass Fire Protection District has no firefighters or EMS personnel.

The board made that happen by firing the district’s last remaining personnel after the employees refused to sign the board’s revised privacy policy.

According to board president John Webb, he met with personnel several times throughout March, but they ultimately refused to sign, leading to their termination.

“In the month of March, the previous board appointed me privacy officer. They tasked me with securing the understanding, compliance and signatures of Western Cass Fire Protection District personnel on the posted new policies on privacy, code of conduct and security,” Webb said.

“With all this information, access to personal information had been denied to members who had refused to sign privacy policies, temporarily suspending their ability to respond to calls where they would be exposed to personal information. By April 13, well over a month after passing, posting, making public and requesting compliance to the board policies, the board agreed to terminate personnel that refused to sign and comply with board policies.”

According to Webb, he attempted to talk with them on four different occasions, but they remained hostile to him and board secretary Chris Johnson.

The volunteers cited concerns over the board’s access to a variety of operational information.

None of the terminated personnel responded to requests for comment.

“There are a ton of things that maybe the fire chief should have input into and stuff like that, but the board has to have control over bills and how things are done. That’s our job,” Webb said. “We have the liability, more so than the chief does.”

Board Treasurer Kerri VanMeveren echoed Webb’s sentiments.

“We can’t fix a decade worth of mismanagement in two days or two weeks, but rest assured we are working fast and you will see positive things very, very soon,” VanMeveren said. “All I ask everybody is don’t get your news off of social media. We have our website now and all of us on the board are happy to share our contacts and talk with you. We want to answer any
questions that we can and we want you guys to help be part of that solution. When we recruit people, we need your support in that.

“We don’t want new people intimidated and harassed because of old grudges. So, we need to support that. If you guys really want that fire service then we need to support this.”

Board Vice President Marty Hardman said she thinks the board’s request was a reasonable one.

“During the last meeting we had, the first meeting where I was sworn in, there were a lot of questions about the standards, procedures and policy that we put in place, that they were illegal and no other fire district had them,” Hardman said. “So, I called around to a few fire districts out of this area, not in Cass County, to see what they use when they onboard employees. It’s pretty standard that all employees follow these standard operating procedures, the code of conduct and they are asked to sign the agreement. That’s standard. So, I don’t think the agreement we asked employees to sign was out of the ordinary.”

Webb assured the crowd the new fire board has already made progress toward rebuilding the district’s coverage

“We’ve already hired a new medical director so when we get EMTs we will be able to get them sworn in so they can do what they haven’t been able to for the past 12 years,” he said. “We are gaining ground and getting to the bottom of the refund that we are going to give to the citizens of Western Cass Fire Protection District. Previous boards overtaxed and continued to over-
tax you even when they had the money to pay the entire thing off. We are going to get that straightened out and will give refunds in tax when that is done.”

VanMeveren explained she is working with advisor Monte Olsen to determine how much over taxation occurred.

“There was a lot of information lost when the previous board allowed it to do so,” she said. “Many documents were stored on
(former board member) Bill Franse’s hard drive and we lost access.

“There are no bank statements or anything. The bank only keeps statements online for a certain amount of time. Between Citizens Bank and Community Bank of Raymore we are looking at $500 getting all those bank statements. The board’s previous reports to the Cass County Treasurer were inaccurate and that is what caused the over taxation.

“We are looking at over 200 statements at this point. It’s just been a huge amount of work.”

According to VanMeveren, the board’s CPA should have their 2020 audit done by mid-May, after which they will immediately
begin work on the 2021 audit. The results of both audits will be posted on the district’s website and at the Cass County Treasurer’s office.

Until new personnel can he hired and trained, the district will continue to rely on mutual aid agreements, primarily with Dolan -West Dolan and Belton.

It has been noted in the past the quickest response for either EMS or fire service was more than eight minutes.