Truckee Fire moves forward with grand jury recommendations | SierraSun.com

Truckee Fire moves forward with grand jury recommendations

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Truckee Fire Protection District directors have already implemented many recommendations listed in a Nevada County Grand Jury report that described the 2010 board as ill-educated and accused the former fire chief of engaging in contractual violations and financial misconduct.

According to a draft letter in response to the juryand#8217;s findings, board members have spent the past few weeks educating themselves on board duties, improving communication with staff and improving the districtand#8217;s image with the public.

Furthermore, board members are making it clear that despite district unrest in 2010, the publicand#8217;s safety was never in danger.

and#8220;The (Truckee Fire Protection) District wishes to acknowledge and thank the grand jury for the time and effort devoted to this investigation and also note that during the time period discussed, although morale at the district had eroded, the performance of its staff, due to their professionalism and commitment to serving the public, remained at the highest level and at no time was the safety and well-being of the public ever compromised,and#8221; directors said in a joint statement within the letter drafted by legal counsel Brent Collinson.

The letter is anticipated to be finalized and signed by Collinson, Interim Fire Chief Bob Bena and Board President Ron Perea sometime in the next two weeks.

It marks one of the final chapters in the controversy that erupted last summer over an ambulance operating contract at Squaw Valley and the actions of the 2010 Truckee Fire board and former Chief Bryce Keller, who is now retired.

According to Truckee Fire, the grand juryand#8217;s recommendation to fix gaps within the districtand#8217;s financial policies will occur by Oct. 31, after an outside auditor gives the board guidance in September.

Below is a summary of the remedies, according to the draft letter.

Recommendation 1: All board members should actively seek and attend training regarding the roles and responsibilities of board members in special districts.

Response: The recommendation has been implemented. In addition to the required ethics training provided by Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission, the board took additional training provided by the town of Truckee legal counsel; the board met with Pam Hobday, of PK Hurt and Associates, for training on district relations and dynamics, carrying out effective board meetings and being effective board members; and has obtained additional training from district legal counsel regarding carrying out effective meetings and on the Brown Act.

Recommendation 2: The board should improve its finance policy to require both the thorough review of checks to be signed and the detailed supporting documentation for all district expenditures.

Truckee Fire Response: The recommendation has not yet been implemented. It is expected the revised policy will be adopted and implemented by the end of October. Pending such formal adoption, the districtand#8217;s finance committee has a heightened level of review of supporting documentation for each proposed expenditure.

Recommendation 3: The board should improve existing policy to facilitate open and ongoing communication with TFPD personnel.

Truckee Fire Response: The recommendation has been implemented. Board members now speak individually with district personnel without the employeeand#8217;s supervisor being present. Additionally, an officer of the Employees Association is reviewing and revising district policy to ensure employees have an appropriate avenue to express concerns.

Recommendation 4: The board, management and staff should forge an active partnership in the rebuilding of the districtand#8217;s public image and should actively communicate with their constituents to restore and maintain the publicand#8217;s trust.

Truckee Fire Response: The recommendation has been implemented. Board members actively discuss the district with their constituents and host various open houses or other gatherings so the board and staff can meet with members of the public. Board members actively encourage public input and comment on any and all discussion topics and strive for transparency in all of their proceedings. Staff has also diligently worked to successfully mend relationships with outside agencies.