Director Emil Rossi was absent again at last week’s CSD meeting, but his presence was felt nevertheless.
The recently formed group Friends of Anderson Valley Emergency Services (FAVES) formally announced their intent to begin the formal recall process of Director Rossi. The bluntly worded “Notice of Intent to Circulate Recall Petition” (see Legal Notices) was read by fire department stalwart Colin Wilson of Yorkville. Wilson said the group was reluctant to have to do it and that he was sorry for all the apparent damage done to the Trubia family. Wilson said, “I take no pleasure in this.” Then he exhaled a very loud sigh and read the Notice. The group plans to continue a letter-writing campaign to the AVA as the recall effort proceeds. Wilson said Rossi has a right to hold any view he likes, but not to hold public office, adding that fair and reasonable debate about politics is fine, but not a campaign to destroy the fire department. In essence, the group is convinced that Rossi’s disruptive presence and leadership of an anti-fire department campaign will make it difficult if not impossible to operate a functioning and widespread fire department in the Valley. Eugenia Herr added that FAVES would reimburse the District for the cost of the recall election, should they reach that point. Wilson said that approximately 400 signatures would be needed to put the recall to a ballot, probably around January of 1997, not the November general election, because of specific timed steps that must be taken.
Volunteer firefighter Ibby Acosta of Yorkville read a petition signed by over 210 people thanking the Chief for all he’s done as Fire Chief and calling for him to change his mind and stay on as Chief. When she finished the entire crowd of about 60 stood and gave Trubia a loud standing ovation. Everyone but noted CSD opponent Janese June, that is. Trubia sat quietly during the extended ovation, and said nothing. But it was obvious he appreciated it.
Board Chair Ruben Thomasson formally introduced retired judge and Valley resident Sherman Juster to the room. Juster has volunteered to provide legal opinions to the Board at no cost. Juster repeated several times that he is pro-Chief and pro-Assessment and that he wanted everyone “to know where he’s coming from,” adding that as a Ambulance volunteer, he had worked with the Chief first-hand and hoped he would stay on as chief. He said he didn’t favor boycotts or recalls, adding that “This Board has the power to deal with this.” Juster felt that money shouldn’t be wasted on recalls, or on overturning the Assessment which could be better spent directly on the Fire Department.
Thomasson told the Board that retired Caltrans man Wes Smoot had agreed to serve on the Personnel Committee, drawing quizzical looks from the rest of the Board who hadn’t been consulted about Thomasson’s rather transparent attempt to stack the controversial Committee with another Thomassonite. After some discussion, the rest of the Board voted to decline Mr. Smoot’s availability on the grounds that private matters are discussed in the Committee. The Personnel Committee remains as is.
Lynn Roman announced that FAVES had collected money and was offering a $850 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist responsible for the recent rash of wildland fires.
When the Board was discussing how many meetings Director Rossi could miss, Fifth District Supervisor Charles Peterson stepped forward to tell the Board he was “Fifth District Supervisor Charles Peterson.” He told the Board that the only people who can remove an elected official are “himself, the courts or the voters.” After further discussion Peterson strode to the front of the room again. Peterson’s repeat attempt to insert himself into the discussion apparently irked Ms. Herr just a little too much: “You don’t have the floor, Charles. Now sit down!” Peterson offered a last bit of handwringing about how bad Rossi’s performance has been and how it’s too bad that it’s so hard to remove him. Then he said, “I’m sorry. I have to leave.” The man sitting next to me commented to Peterson on his way out, “Thank you counselor.”
Herr went on to speak of “malfeasance and misfeasance,” but not attending meetings apparently doesn’t fall into these categories. “Maybe it’s unfeasance, or nonfeasance, or disfeasance, or illfeasance,” she joked. (I believe “illfeasance” is failure to provide a note from you mommy explaining your absence due to apparent sickness.)
Trubia and some others discussed arrangements to transport the two “new” 1977/79 Forest Service fire engines from the San Diego area up to the Valley, adding that he would be removing some unrepairable units from service and juggling engines around upon their arrival. The Board voted 4-0 to pay for two one-way plane tickets for a couple of volunteers to fly down and drive the engines back. Local trucker John Newstead estimated it will take about 12 hours to drive them up here.
Five people have applied for the part-time General Manager position, apparently most of them are local people. The Board will hold interviews with them in the next week or two.
There was another discussion of LAFCO (the Local Agency Formation Commission, or something). Apparently they’re making threatening noises about unilateral action of some kind which might force the District to do something. There was muddled talk of “representation.” Larry Maillard had the solution. “Let’s put Emil Rossi in charge of that. He HATES government. He’d be perfect.”
There was another round of handwringing about how insulting and burdensome it was for the State to require fingerprinting of local people “known in the community” working with juveniles as part of the Recreation Committee. Lorcan Boudan asked, “I assume they’re worried about child molesters?” Director Dave Gowan admitted, “We had Jim Jones as a teacher once. Maybe we should be worried.” Finally, Giovanna Chacon summed up, “It’s incredibly naive to assume you know people well. Everyone knows that most crimes, including molestations, are committed by people that you know. We just have to bite the bullet and do this. It’s the law. Why waste time? They are our kids!” Chacon drew a loud round of applause.
FAVES representative Nancy Maillard announced that Ambulance volunteer Sarah Farber of Yorkville was this month’s recipient of the Volunteer of the Month award and a free dinner at Lauren’s and a bottle of wine. Farber noted that the Ambulance Service was short on volunteers and said, “Without us, an ambulance would have to come from Ukiah or Fort Bragg. I’ve heard people say, ‘Somebody else ought to do it.’ Well I think YOU ought to do it. We need more volunteers. Karen DiFalco will be giving another EMT class soon and we need you to offer to help!” The room applauded Farber for her volunteer work and her sentiments.
After a brief glance down the list of payment warrants, the Board voted to pay them all, “except for the Zotter Bill,” noted motioner Dave Gowan.
The District has been postponing payment of the County Counsel’s bill for months since Zotter’s work was never requested or authorized by the full Board.
Director Hall asked if Thomasson had spoken to Zotter about the bill. “I didn’t get very far,” replied Thomasson.
Director Gowan then ran down the bill’s details. Attendance at meetings, preparation of “opinions,” etc. “Drive time to meeting is listed as ‘No charge,’ noted Gowan sarcastically, since some negative people think Zotter’s “legal work” and his drive time are of approximately the same value. The bill totals 12.5 hours at $85/hour, or $1,062.50. Directors Gowan and Johnson thought some of the “work” was helpful to them, even though they didn’t ask for it. Johnson also thought that Supervisor Peterson had a hand in inviting Zotter to the Valley and that part wouldn’t be the CSD’s responsibility. Hall didn’t like any of it. “It was requested without asking me,” said Hall, addressing Chair Thomasson. “You were asking about the legal viability of a partisan position, undoing the Benefit Assessment and firing the Chief. Frankly, I didn’t learn anything new from anything Zotter did.” There was a long discussion about which hours agreed to by which directors. Johnson gave a penetrating analysis of the options: “We can pay, not pay, or pay a portion.” Hall repeated, “This all had to do with Emil Rossi wanting to get advice on how to get rid of the chief. It was a partisan proposal.” At this point about a dozen hands shot up out of the audience. Johnson said, “Just a minute. Let us finish discussing this... I thought it was good to have an attorney here when we were discussing closed session. Without him we would have been railroaded out the door. That was the temper of the crowd.”
More hands shot up! But none were recognized. Johnson’s assessment of the crowd on the night of the “closed session in the men’s room” is wildly exaggerated. It was clear that Zotter himself, by trying to give some credence to the “closed session” attempt to fire Trubia, after Trubia had demanded open session, was a prime contribute to “temper of the crowd.”
Nancy Maillard reminded Thomasson that he had once volunteered to pay the Zotter bill, admittedly before it reached $1062.50. “I remember that because you wanted to not pay the District’s $800 insurance bill, but you were considering paying Mr. Zotter with money we didn’t have!”
Dave Burgess tried to offer a compromise: “One board member acted without board authority. I suggest that Ruben pay $120 and maybe the volunteer’s association...”
“NO! NO!” came the shouts from the audience. The volunteers don’t want to pay Zotter’s bill. Burgess regrouped, “OK. Well something like that...” Then upon further reflection, “If this board pays it would be misappropriation of funds. Someone should go to jail. But if this is not solved, we can’t go forward as a fire department. But the Board cannot pay that bill!”
Thomasson volunteered to talk to Zotter again, and that was the end of that discussion.
The Board discussed who should be part of the interviewing committee for a new fire chief. Trubia thought he should be on it, but Leo Howard disagreed, “Leave the chief out of it,” said Howard, “he’s biased.”
Trubia acted shocked: “He’s my best pawn! How can he say that?”
Doug Elliot reminded the Board that they didn’t have much time to get their input on the individual property owner’s assessments to the County left. GM Jan Wasson-Smith said she knew about the deadline and didn’t think there would be a problem meeting the August 10th deadline.
Trubia gave a routine and abbreviated Chief’s report, saying that he and CDF were “pulling out all the stops” to catch the arsonist(s). Then he submitted his “conditional resignation” “conditioned” on when he finds a new job out of the Valley. When pressed about when he would give final notice and how much time he’d give Trubia replied, “I don’t know. It’s conditional. It could be 60 days, 90 days, 120 days...” “But will it be less than 60 days?” asked Eugenia Herr. ... No response, no follow up.
Volunteer Firefighters Association Treasurer Richard Bristow announced that the Volunteers had received almost $13,000 so far in response to the Spring Appeal. There was another round of applause. The $13,000 includes a recent generous $1,000 donation from Mr. Lindsay Jones of Boonville in appreciation for the response to a fire on his property. (see Letters). This was the same fire response complained about by a “name withheld” a couple weeks ago. AVVFFA VP John Pinoli announced that they would be giving more of the money to prep the “new” trucks Trubia has arranged for.
GM Wasson-Smith announced that the District’s safe deposit box key. She added that the Lion’s Club will be holding a Triple-Tip BBQ fundraiser for the Fire Department, details to come.
In Airport news, the Airport committee reported that it paid $22.50 for a hay sale ad in the New York based Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The Airport Committee chose not to waste $5 on a hay sale ad in the locally-based Anderson Valley Advertiser. For some reason, I seem to have lost my notes concerning rest of the Airport Committee’s report.