East Clinton Fire District election heats up

Mystery Budget

Fire District elections have seldom been so exciting.  The Town of Clinton is divided into two fire districts.  The East Clinton Fire District is run by an elected board of five fire commissioners. Their principle job is to approve a budget that funds the fire company the cost of which is paid for by the district’s property owners.  There are two vacancies resulting from resignations that will be filled by an election on December 8. The chairman’s position is also up for election, and the incumbent, Steve Forschler, is expected to be re-elected as he is popular amongst most of the factions.

The district, via its attorney and the secretary-treasurer, both of whom want to keep their jobs, created a nominating petition so detailed and confusing it seems like a litigator’s delight.  The petitioner needs 25 signatures from eligible ECFD voters whose signatures must be witnessed.  There is a blank for a notary.  It is not clear whose signature must be attested by the notary; presumably that of the witness, but can a witness be a candidate?

The district’s law firm bills in the neighborhood of $100,000; the ECFD secretary-treasurer is paid over $50,000 plus benefits for her part-time job.

The district’s budget is $524,963.  It lacks detail.  $55,000 is labeled “transfer to other funds.”  An item reads: “Total personal services - $63,000.”  

The district approved a pension scheme by a vote of 27 in an election minimally advertised to the 1,300 voters in the fire district. That pension scheme costs taxpayers $132,000 annually. Of the 50 participants, fewer than two dozen are active members of the fire company. Precise numbers are not known because the commissioners have not made public the pension plan’s 2014 annual report.

A prior ECFD board chairman was indicted for the theft of more than $100,000 in ECFD funds while two of the present commissioners were in office. The stolen money was never recovered. The ECFD failed to pursue the claim against the surety until this year when it was turned over to the attorney.  Progress reports have been scanty.

Arthur Weiland has been attending meetings, has voiced questions, but was not appointed by the present four commissioners to fill the vacancy.  He is running.  He has a website, https://awecfdnotes.wordpress.com/.  Other candidates may also be running, but are not known as of this writing.

There is also a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/We-Care-About-the-East-Clinton-Fire-Dept-566266533524564/timeline/.