By Lucas Lord
After being fired from the Western Cass Fire Protection District, three former employees were trespassed from the fire district’s property by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office after a town hall meeting concluded Friday night.
While talking with his former colleagues in the parking lot of the station, Kevin Collins said board member Darvin Schildknecht told him to leave and after he refused to do so, Schildknecht called the sheriff’s office.
“They don’t want us down there, so we don’t get any information to know the truth of what’s going on,” Collins said. “The (deputy) showed up after the town hall, lights flashing and sirens blaring, to confront the three of us standing in the parking lot, mind you, which is public property. We were just talking to some citizens when Darvin said, ‘the three of you need to leave the property, but the two citizens can stay.’ Right there, that’s discrimination, because they don’t want their former employees around even though we were outside. So, he called the sheriff and said we broke into the building two weeks ago and this and that.”
Collins, along with Aaron Hagan and Tim Fletcher, were informed by a deputy that if they set foot on the property again, they would be arrested for trespassing.
“I don’t think any of us committed a crime. We did nothing wrong,” Collins said. “We were on public property which was not owned by the board, it’s owned by the citizens. (The deputy) told us we were trespassing from the property and if we came back, we’d be arrested, but I never signed anything.”
According to Collins, the board didn’t like that he was letting citizens observe training nights and talking with them in the station.
“We come Thursday nights to do training and that time we had a handful of citizens show up,” he said. “One guy took his kid around the station and we showed her the fire truck, gave her a plastic fire helmet to wear, paper and a color book. You know, that’s what we are there for. People deserve to know what’s going on.”
Since all the fire board meetings take place at the station, Collins was told he would no longer be allowed to attend meetings in person.
“I guess from now on I’ll try to watch it through the computer screen, but that’s only if they let me on,” he said.
Board President John Webb was informed by Schildknecht after the confrontation about the decision to trespass the three former volunteers.
“I had heard that something happened and they called the sheriff’s department. I had heard that Kevin wouldn’t leave, that’s what the problem was,” Webb said. I don’t know a lot about it, but I think the sheriff had to escort them away. The meeting itself went really well. I’m really excited about our fire chief applicant, John Johnson from the Kansas City Fire Department.”
While Collins said he believes the board did this deliberately to keep him from attending, Webb said that wasn’t the case.
“That isn’t what happened. We tried to get him and his associates to sign the policies regarding privacy of citizens,” Webb said.
“I gave them a month before they said they wouldn’t sign, so we eliminated them. If you aren’t going to sign, I took that pretty much as they were resigning anyway, we can’t have people who won’t sign the policy working with your private information.”
Despite not being there during the police confrontation, Webb stood behind the decision and reiterated the three employees would remain barred from attending meetings in person.
“I think (they) are going to have to watch it online from now on,” he said. “They aren’t supposed to be on the property under any circumstances is what I’ve heard. What I’m telling you is third hand or something, but that’s the sum of what I know about their interaction. I don’t know what transpired between them, my only assumption is that he (Collins) was as disagreeable with them as he was with us.
“He seems to have a problem with authority. I think he told me that he was in charge and that if we needed to know something he would let us know we needed to know it and I thought that was at least interesting because that’s not
how it works.”
Despite the drama, Webb said he remains optimistic about the future as more potential applicants show interest in volunteering.