Harold Ream, Pettis County Fire Protection District President, released the following statement Wednesday regarding the Tuesday evening walk-out of most of the Pettis County firefighters:

“For more than forty years, volunteers have served the residents of Pettis County Fire Protection District. Their dedication and service embodies public service at its best. They are the heart of the district and deserve the admiration and appreciation of all residents.

I am appalled at the statements in the news article that portray me as unconcerned about fire fighter safety. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is unfortunate that board conflict has created a crisis in the District. There are proper procedures to follow without endangering the public. I would like to encourage the firefighters to return to their duties while we seek a resolution to this crisis.

There have been issues raised in the news media that are perhaps the result of a misconception of how the board reaches decisions. The District’s board of directors is made up of three members. As with all organizations governed by elected bodies, decisions are made by a vote of the majority of the board. In our case, this is two members.

As stated in the news media, I typically refrain from voting on issues before the board unless there is a tie. In recent history, I’ve only asked for a recorded “no” vote one time. That was when a proposal was presented to lease-purchase approximately $1.3 million of fire apparatus without advertising for bids. The majority of the board (two members) voted for the issue, and the District purchased the equipment without advertising in a local newspaper for bids.

Most people who read the news are familiar with the term “filibuster.” Let me assure you, there is no such rule for fire district boards. Each board member has an opportunity to ask questions and express opinions about the issue before a vote is taken.

As a board member, secondary to the safety of our firefighters and the residents of our District, we have a fiduciary obligation to the taxpayers of the District. We recently hired a local CPA firm to conduct an audit of the District for 2016-2017. Our auditors also examined certain transactions that occurred in early 2018. The audit revealed some disturbing results, and no action has been taken to correct the issues found in the audit.

At this time, I am reluctant to resign because I am not comfortable that the board will implement and enforce the recommendations of our auditors, or adopt policies to prevent the occurrence of similar or more serious situations in the future.

In an effort to resolve this crisis and protect the lives and property of the taxpayers of the District, I am willing to resign my position when the Circuit Court of Pettis County agrees to appoint a qualified replacement. Without some independent oversight of the board, their fiduciary obligations may be relegated to a position of little importance. I strongly recommend that a representative of the news media attend future board meetings to ensure that proper procedures are followed, such as compliance with open meeting laws and advertising for purchases as provided by the District’s bylaws and/or state statues.”

The Sedalia Fire Department has said it will cover fires and wrecks in the county in the meantime.

A meeting is scheduled tonight at 7 p.m. at the PCFPD headquarters, 16th and Thompson.

Randy Kirby