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Recall effort targets entire Golden Valley fire board
10/21/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
GOLDEN VALLEY - Citing concerns including overspending, internal sabotage and an unwillingness to communicate, two groups of Golden Valley residents have filed paperwork to recall all four members of the Golden Valley Fire District Board.
The first recall petition was filed by Golden Valley residents Bill McCarter and Jeri Feneis against board member Rhonda Brooks on Oct. 4, according to the Mohave County Elections Office.
The two residents accuse Brooks of attempting to sabotage district operations, attacking staff with anonymous complaint letters and refusing to communicate with other board members.
Golden Valley resident Sharon Borden filed petitions against the three other board members - Steven Robinson, Curt Hardy and Mark Vanik - last week.
Borden claims in her petition paperwork that those board members have failed to keep the public informed, that the new station overran its budget by $300,000, that spending at the department is "out of control," board budget meetings are closed to the public, open meeting laws are "continually being broken," letters to the board are not read into the record at meetings and emails to the board receive no response.
"The board isn't concerned with what the public has to say, nor public opinion," Borden wrote in her paperwork. "Board members have their own agenda. They have failed to manage taxpayer monies in an ethical manner."
The groups have 120 days to collect and submit 483 valid signatures to hold a recall election.
The calls for a recall election are linked to a special July fire board meeting at which the fire board censured Brooks and called for her resignation after two employees of the district lodged complaints against her for allegedly intimidating office staff, accusing staff of modifying the board's meeting minutes and accusing the board of holding secret meetings.
Brooks voted against the censure, refused to resign and refused to discuss the allegations.
She has not returned calls from the Miner.
Two residents spoke in support of her at Wednesday's board meeting.
Golden Valley resident Jim Consolato read a list of nine concerns he had about the district during the call to the public.
The list included allegations of abuse of authority by Chief Tom O'Donohue and the fire district board, a hostile workplace, Open Meeting Law violations, unnecessary spending, budget overruns on the construction of the new fire station, the unnecessary cost of a recall election to replace Brooks, gender discrimination by the fire board, unequal treatment of Brooks by the board and unwanted politics being injected into the district's operations.
Consolato did not elaborate on what issues were causing his concerns.
"All of these issues create grave concern, as they apply to the stability and transparency of the G.V. Fire District and the people it serves," Consolato said.
He also called for an audit of district's books, management and board, and a recall of all of the current fire board members.
Another resident said he had some of the same concerns as Consolato. If nothing was wrong, he asked, then why are these rumors flying around of wrongdoing by the board?
Golden Valley resident Heather Sutherland had a different opinion.
"I think it's a shame that [Consolato's] allowed to say such things when he has no foundation for them," she said.
Sutherland said she has attended numerous fire board meetings and this was the first time she had ever seen Consolato at one of the meetings. She suggested that he start attending the meetings more regularly before throwing out accusations.
Phillip Robinson agreed with Sutherland.
"I've been a resident of Golden Valley since 1995. The fire district was in sad shape then," Robinson said. "Since the chief has taken over, I've seen a hell of an improvement.
"Get to know people before you start making accusations. You don't even have a clue of what it was like before."
The fire district has a history of political infighting and mismanagement. O'Donohue was hired as the department's fire chief in 2010.
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