Outrage When Attempts to Reform Blue Hills Fire Commission Stifled - NBC Connecticut

Outrage When Attempts to Reform Blue Hills Fire Commission Stifled

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Some attending a fire commission meeting were angry after two commissioners decided to dissolve a citizen board that was supposed to make by-laws to apply to the commission.

    (Published Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017)

    Tempers flared at the monthly Blue Hills Fire District meeting in Bloomfield.

    NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have broken numerous stories about perks and benefits the three members of the fire commission receive.

    In the case of the Blue Hills Fire District, taxpayers were trying to establish bylaws to get controls on how commissioners spend their money. But at the latest fire commission meeting, two of the three commissioners stripped that right away. 

    There are more than 50 fire districts like this in the state, that set and collect their own taxes and do not answer to anyone, even a town or city council.

    Many have watched the prior reports about thousands in stipends and bonuses, 20 gallons of free gas per week and cellphones commissioners receive to oversee a fire department serving half a town of roughly 20,000 and they want accountability.

    Commissioners have said in the past these precedents were set many years ago and have been followed by each administration. T

    "You get a stipend of $5,000 you get cellphones you get gas, you get a credit card, that's b------t and that needs to stop," one taxpayer Mark Manson told the board. 

    That’s a big reason taxpayers want to put in a set of bylaws, which currently don’t exist. A citizen committee had begun meeting to establish them, but then at their latest meeting, two of the three commissioners that would have to abide by these bylaws decided to dissolve the bylaw committee.

    The commission chair said it was set up with just a signup sheet and the commission’s attorney advised that was improper.

    "I make a motion that the commissioners do the rules, the bylaws," Commissioner Jacqueline Massey-Greene said. 

    Ariel Marzouca-Jaunai, the chair of the commission, said the public will be advised of when commissioners meet to discuss the bylaws.

    "You can come in and make your statements. We're not going to be hiding anything," Marzouca-Jaunai said. "But the commissioner will have the final approval of the rules and procedures."

    Commissioner Tanya Farmer voted against the idea of dissolving the citizen-led bylaws committee, saying she could not support this move because it presents a conflict of interest.

    "It's not proper for us to make rules for ourselves. So that's the reason I wanted the commission to appoint the people that are already on the committee and let them continue their work," Farmer told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.

    The two commissioners who voted to approve the bylaws themselves refused to explain why they took making the bylaws out of the hands of the taxpayers.

    In terms of the real reason why the bylaws committee was dissolved, several members told us privately it is because there may be a move to re-establish the performance and Christmas bonuses for commissioners, which have not been paid out since the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first story on the fire district aired last fall.


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