MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT ADOPTS 'FIT-FOR-DUTY' POLICY
April 4, 2016 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
The Monarch Fire Protection District has adopted a "fit-for-duty" policy requiring that virtually all uniformed personnel be able to complete a number of job-specific physical tests.
With the Monarch board approving the policy on a 3-0 vote, the district joins a number of other area fire protection districts that also require personnel to perform certain physical tasks similar to those done on the job.
However, not all Monarch personnel are happy with the new policy, saying it takes a narrow view of what is a much larger overall issue.
"We think the intentions are good but it seems likely the policy will result in conflicts that really shouldn't happen," said Brent Coleman, a Monarch shop steward for local 2665 of the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri.
"We aren't opposed to there being certain physical requirements, because being able to meet the demands of the job definitely is in the best interest of the taxpayers we serve as well as firefighters themselves from a safety and long-term health standpoint," Coleman said. "But the consequences for failure to pass the tests are rather muddy and uncertain and that causes some anxieties among our members."
Robin Harris, Monarch's board president, and Coleman agree that making sure firefighters are able to meet the physical demands of the job is in everyone's best interest. However, Harris added that firefighters' desire to merge a wellness program and physical performance standards together made the resulting document "unwieldy."
Except for fire prevention bureau personnel, who are specifically exempted from the policy's provisions, all uniformed personnel, including officers, are required to take an annual "essential function exam." Anyone unable to perform all the tasks set forth in the policy will be tested again in six months after participating in a physical fitness prescription administered by a peer evaluator.
Two consecutive failures or three failures in a five-year period "may be cause for disciplinary action in accordance with the disciplinary procedures" of the district, the policy says. "Individuals who refuse to participate and/or who fail to cooperate fully shall be disciplined following the departmental disciplinary procedures," the document adds.
Anyone whose medical condition at the time of the exam makes them unable to take the assessment is required to present a physician's statement at least 10 days in advance. An exemption is considered a failure of the exam.
Among the tasks in the exam are:
- Lifting a 95-pound object from the floor, taking a side step and placing the object on a surface 21 inches from the floor. The procedure must be done twice and is designed to simulate picking up half the weight of a stretcher with a patient on it and placing it on a gurney. A separate but similar test calls for two repetitions of lifting the object and going up and down an eight-inch step.
- Dragging a 100-pound load 100 feet while wearing all protective gear, including a mask and breathing from an air tank.
- Dragging a hose attached to a 60-pound sled 50 feet while walking and another 50 feet while crawling or maintaining a low-to-the-ground position. The drag must be done while wearing all protective gear, including a mask and breathing from an air tank.After completing the last two tasks described above and two others in the exam, the person being tested must be able to answer questions posed by the examiner to demonstrate an ability to communicate while under stress.
The tasks to be performed apply equally to men and women.
Monarch's policy also offers a 1.5 percent of base pay stipend for those certified by the American Council on Exercise as a peer fitness trainer on each of its crews, and will pay for that certification and recertification.
A spot check of other area fire protection districts showed that all those contacted require their personnel to complete similar tasks to demonstrate their fitness for duty.
The Mehlville Fire Protection District lists ten tasks that must be performed and requires that all be done in seven minutes and 39 seconds or less. Asked what happens if someone fails to pass the exam, Chief Brian Hendricks said the person can be removed from active duty until completing the tasks successfully. But that has never happened, he added.
"Our fitness tests are part of a wellness program and we've had very good buy-in on that," Hendricks said.
According to John Bradley, assistant chief of fire and emergency medical services at Metro West Fire Protection District, the labor contract with firefighters/paramedics calls for an hour of physical fitness work during every on-duty day.
Anyone unable to pass the annual fitness tasks receives remedial training and repeats the exam in 30 days. As with Mehlville, Metro West has had no instances of personnel unable to perform the tests.
"There could be situations when a medical condition such as heart disease or a severe case of diabetes causes someone to resign. But we believe in working with our people, especially during the recovery period after an injury to prevent a re-injury from occurring," Bradley said.
Chief Ernie Rhodes of the West County Fire Protection District said his department doesn't have a specific policy, but does conduct an annual fitness exam program.
"Anyone who can't do what's required is evaluated medically to see what needs to be done to correct the problem," he noted.
March 8, 2016 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
The Monarch Fire Protection District has renewed its membership in the Missouri Association of Fire Protection Districts but will consider alternatives to ensure its voice is heard on key issues in the state capital.
The vote on membership renewal was unanimous but it came only after directors discussed concerns about not always receiving adequate information on pending legislation and other issues and the possible need to join with other local fire districts and hire a lobbyist.
MAFPD is a statewide organization whose goal is to serve as a centralized source of information, training, education and leadership for fire district directors and personnel.
Robin Harris, board president, said he believes recent changes at the state organization will address Monarch's concerns about not getting adequate and timely information on various issues, including legislation in the Missouri General Assembly. Director Jane Cunningham noted that she has been receiving MAFPD emails recently but that their frequent use of acronyms and technical jargon made them difficult to understand.
One bill cited during the discussion was HB 2410, which would require all fire protection districts and municipal fire departments in St. Louis County to consolidate into one fire district if voters approved that step. Harris said if HB 2410 was approved, Monarch residents likely would face sizable property tax increases to help pay for fire and emergency service upgrades in areas where those capabilities now are lacking.
Another measure, HB 1751, includes a number of public safety provisions, including the right for two or more fire protection jurisdictions to create a regional fire protection service authority, subject to voter approval.
Director Rick Gans said he believes fire district consolidation has merit but agreed with Harris in predicting the likelihood of higher tax bills for Monarch residents if that were to happen.Gans recalled that Monarch had joined with other West County districts in the past in hiring a lobbyist to represent them on legislative matters. Such a move now could address both the need for better communications and having input on issues pending in Jefferson City, he noted.Harris asked Gans to investigate the lobbyist idea and report to the board at a later meeting.
MONARCH, EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION DIFFER ON RADIO NEEDS
March 7, 2016 - West Newsmagazine
The fact that St. Louis County's emergency communication system is up and running doesn't mean everyone is completely happy. A case in point is the Monarch Fire Protection District's request to have some radios programmed so they can be tied into the system. However, the Emergency Communications Commission, which oversees the wireless network, so far has refused to do so.
Both sides put forth compelling arguments supporting their respective positions.
Monarch points out that it has given some of its radios, which were officially approved and provided by the ECC, to the Boles Fire Protection District,located just across the St. Louis County line in Franklin County. The reasoning is that both districts help each other under a mutual aid agreement. Other adjoining districts in St. Louis County have similar pacts with Boles. However, Boles isn't in St. Louis County and its regular radios aren't tied into the countywide network that serves Monarch and the other county operations
Monarch replaced the ECC-provided units given to Boles with a smaller, less costly model paid for from Monarch's own funds. Monarch still has a number of other ECC-approved radios for its own operations and the replacements have gone to command staff members so they can remain in touch while off duty or away from Monarch facilities.
Monarch also has volunteered to pay the ECC for having the additional radios programmed. But ECC argues that the replacement radios don't meet the standards set for fire service use and that Monarch approved the same agreement that all other districts and departments signed, agreeing to abide by those standards.
Monarch cites safety concerns for its and Boles' personnel as a key reason for giving some of its ECC-supplied radios to the Franklin County district. The ECC also cites safety issues in arguing for consistency in the radios used in what can be life-and-death situations.
Monarch leaders point out that from a practical standpoint, the replacement radios it has purchased are much smaller and serve as a more convenient portable unit. The same manufacturer, Motorola, makes both the ECC-approved model and the type Monarch has bought on its own.
"In getting the new network in operation, it's important to maintain consistency and not have everyone going off in different directions," observed Greg Brown, an ECC board member and chief of the Eureka Fire Protection District. "The new system can do amazing things, but we need to have everyone on the same page in the same playbook.
"We still have a lot of things on our plate right now and we're trying to work through them," Brown added. "We are trying to find some common ground on this particular issue and I'm confident we can."
The Missouri Ethics Commission has fined the Monarch firefighters union and two of its leaders for violating a state law requiring that printed election materials include the identity of who paid for them.
Signing a joint stipulation of facts in the case and agreeing to a related consent order were an attorney for the Professional Firefighters of West St. Louis County, and Chris Gelven and Craig Charleville, identified as members of the union's executive committee. Each were fined $100 for the violation.
At issue was a flyer the union printed and distributed in the Monarch Fire Protection District before the April 2015 election in which Kelley Miller, a candidate the firefighters supported, challenged incumbent Robin Harris in a race for a six-year term on the Monarch board.According to the joint stipulation, the flyer did not contain the words "paid for by" along with a "clear and conspicuous identification" of the union as the organization sponsoring it, as required by law.
Harris won the election and has continued in his position as board president.
Rick Barry, a St. Louis attorney who represents the union, described the omission of the required verbiage as a "technical violation" and "a minor thing." He added that the firefighters cooperated fully with the commission's investigation.
Monarch Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette with the district's newest pumper-rescue truck. (Jim Erickson/West Newsmagazine photo)
February 21, 2016 - West Newsmagazine
A new pumper-rescue truck was recently delivered by the Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. of Snyder, Nebraska, to the Monarch Fire Protection District.
The diesel-powered truck soon will be equipped with tools used for freeing victims from vehicles involved in traffic accidents, from cave-in sites and other similar situations. Communications gear also will be installed before the truck goes into service.
The truck has a 1,000-gallon water tank that provides quick fire-fighting capability, especially on highways or other areas without a readily available water supply. Ordered last year, the vehicle has a $460,592 price tag. Equipment to be installed will add to the total cost.
TRAGEDY AVERTED WHEN LOCAL MAN IS RESCUED FROM SWOLLEN CREEK
Monarch Firefighter/Paramedic Rob Short [left] and Capt. Tom Beauchamp stand near a tree - in the background between Short and Beauchamp - that was grasped by the driver of a vehicle swept by floodwaters from Wild Horse Creek Road until the Monarch first responders could rescue him.(West Newsmagazine/Jim Erickson photo)
January 11, 2016 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
The wisdom of the saying "Turn around, don't drown" was almost proven tragically in West County in the aftermath of heavy holiday week rains that lifted many rivers above flood stage and turned meandering creeks into raging torrents.
The culprit in this instance was Wild Horse Creek, which most of the time is scarcely visible even when its twists and turns bring it close to the road that bears the same name. That was not the case, though, on the Saturday night after Christmas.
Swollen by the day's steady downpour, the creek rose rapidly and had covered Wild Horse Creek Road in the area east of Puellman Road when the westbound car of a high school student became disabled as the driver attempted to make it through the water. Darkness and the curving road no doubt contributed to the problem.
The driver used his cellphone to call his father for help. Hurrying to his son's aid on the same road but from the opposite direction, the father encountered even deeper water at the other end of the flooded area and his much larger vehicle was swept off the road.
Although the father didn't know it, his son had managed to get out of his car and make his way to a nearby residence. Water, however, had succeeded in pushing the son's car off the road and dumping it among trees on a steep incline.
Meanwhile, the father found himself inside his own vehicle as it was carried along the pitch dark creek channel, ramming into trees and tree stumps and taking on water in the process.The father decided his best option was to get out of his car. As he did so, he fortunately was able to grab and climb into a tree as his car floated past. He then used his cellphone to call for help.Because the mishap occurred near the dividing line between the Monarch and Metro West fire protection districts, both responded to different 911 calls, only to find they were dealing with the same incident from opposite sides of the flooded area.
When it was determined that access to the victim likely was better from the east side, Monarch crews implemented swift-water rescue procedures.
Nearby residents familiar with the lay of the land, the normal creek channel and possible access points assisted the first responders in efforts to find a place where a rescue boat could be launched.
In a later interview, Monarch Capt. Tom Beauchamp said that at one location where he and two other members of his crew tried to launch their inflatable boat, the current coming at them was so swift the craft's 25-horsepower motor was unable to make any headway.
The victim also helped first responders by periodically turning on the light of his cellphone to give rescuers a bearing in the darkness.
Spurred on by concerns that the trapped man could suffer from extreme hypothermia and fatigue after clinging to the tree for an extended period in the steady rain and falling temperatures, rescuers finally reached the victim and secured him with a rope and flotation device before getting him into the boat and back to solid ground. Checked by ambulance crews, he was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation and was later released. His car was found about a quarter-mile farther downstream.
"This definitely was one of the most difficult rescues I've seen in a long time," said Monarch Deputy Chief Les Crews.
Praising all those involved in the effort, Monarch Board President Robin Harris, at the fire district's first meeting of the new year, said it was the kind of incident that easily could have resulted in lost lives - both the victim as well as those attempting to rescue him.Crews from the Boles, West County and St. Charles City fire protection districts also responded and assisted at the scene.
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS & PARAMEDICS GRANTED MOTION OF SUMMARY JUDGEMENT IN LEGAL ACTION BY FIRE DISTRICT BOARD
The District Must Honor Terms of Existing Collective Bargaining Agreement as New Contract Negotiations Continue with Firefighters
December 3, 2015 - Call News By JMAYNE (Star Patcher)
ST. LOUIS, MO. - Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics, who are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665 serving St. Louis County, have been granted a Motion of Summary Judgement in a legal action initiated by the Monarch Fire Protection District board of directors against Local 2665.
St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Joseph L. Walsh granted the Motion of Summary Judgement requiring the fire protection district to honor terms of its existing collective bargaining agreement with Local 2665 as negotiations continue with the firefighters/paramedics to establish acceptable terms of a new agreement.
In late 2013, the district initiated action against Local 2665 in an effort to modify terms of the collective bargaining agreement that was due to expire on December 31, 2013, and negotiations for a new agreement would begin, but the agreement's "evergreen' clause" - Section 5.02 -- prevented the district from modifying any terms. The district wanted to modify aspects of the agreement concerning firefighter/paramedic work hours, paid vacations, sick leave and related matters.
So-called "evergreen clauses" in collective bargaining agreements ensure that the current agreement will remain in full force and effect during negotiations for a new agreement.
IAFF Local 2665 filed a request with the St. Louis Circuit Court for Motion of Summary Judgement in the matter in August 2015.
In his order granting the motion, Judge Walsh wrote that Section 5.02 of the bargaining agreement constitutes a provision in Missouri law that is sanctioned by the Missouri Constitution and the Missouri Supreme Court, and that Section 5.02 of the existing collective bargaining agreement between the district and Local 2665 "is not void as against public policy..."
Brent Coleman, Captain at the Monarch Fire Protection District and Local 2665 Shop Steward, said, "Monarch firefighters and paramedics hope the court's order granting Motion of Summary Judgement resolved this issue. We hope it ends the Monarch Fire Protection District's expenditures of time and taxpayers' money in this matter so that we can negotiate terms of a new agreement in a timely matter."
"But, apparently, that won't be the case," Coleman said. On November 24, the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors filed to appeal Judge Walsh's decision before the Missouri Court of Appeals.
"The district's move to appeal the Motion of Summary Judgement with the Missouri Court of Appeals will result in more expenditure of time and taxpayers' money in this matter, and may potentially complicate and delay negotiations of the new collective bargaining agreement," Coleman said.
"Monarch firefighters and paramedics who are members of IAFF Local 2665 want to assure all citizens and businesses in our district that we will continue to respond to all emergency calls we receive for first response and fire suppression services without any delays or disruption of service," Coleman said.
MONARCH TO OFFER VITAL INFORMATION PROGRAM, EMERGENCY ALERTS APP
September 15, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
MEHLVILLE, MO. - The Monarch Fire Protection District soon will make available a device designed to provide vital medical information to first responders in times of crisis. Also available is a smart phone application that will send an alert to the fire district in any emergency situation.
The information device and phone app work independently, but can easily be used in tandem, explained Monarch's Deputy Chief Nick Harper, who reviewed the concepts at the district's Sept. 9 Board of Directors meeting.
Known as a Vital Board, the medical information device is equipped with magnets and resembles what some people put on refrigerators for posting reminders, grocery lists and other short messages. The Monarch logo appears on the board's front side. On its back will be spaces where users can enter medications they take and where they are located within the home. Users also can list emergency contacts and other information important to first responders, especially if the person involved in the emergency is unable to communicate.
Vital Boards cost about $2, Harper said, but Monarch plans to make them available at no cost to district residents who request them. He said the boards will be available soon, perhaps as early as the end of the month, and that more public announcements on how to get one will be made then.
The smart phone app, known as Vital ICE (in case of emergency), can be downloaded on smart phones from a number of online sources. Harper described it as "very robust" in terms of the tasks it performs. Among other things, when activated it will send a pre-written text message to one or more recipients advising that the user is in some kind of distress and asking that 911 be called.
Accompanying that text are map coordinates (longitude and latitude) indicating where the message originated. Such information enables today's computer-aided dispatching systems to pinpoint the caller's street address, highway location or off-road site.
The app is free but those downloading it are asked to make a $3 donation, Harper said. He added that a number of other area fire protection districts also anticipate making the Vital Board available, as well as information about the phone app.
Noting the systems' compatibility, Harper said that the Vital Board also contains a space for a four-digit code that will activate the phone app.
Lifesavers: Robin Harris, president of the Monarch Fire Protection District board, presents awards to (from left) Kaleigh Kelso, Victoria Helfert, Hannah Johnson and Jennifer Barake.
September 2, 2015 - West Newsmagazine
The Monarch Fire Protection District has recognized three lifeguards and a nurse who came to the aid of a toddler at the Chesterfield Family Aquatic Center.
During an emotional ceremony which Monarch Board Chairman Robin Harris admitted made him "choke up," lifeguards Hannah Johnson and Kaleigh Kelso, of Chesterfield, and Victoria Helfert, of Ballwin, along with nurse Jennifer Barake, of Chesterfield, received "Tip of the Helmet" awards for their actions in pulling a 3-year-old boy from the pool and administering CPR until Monarch paramedics arrived.
The youngster was spotted in obvious distress while playing in the pool during the late afternoon of July 14.
According to Nick Harper, Monarch deputy chief, the boy's condition improved rapidly, thanks to the quick help he received from the lifeguards and nurse. During the subsequent ambulance trip to the hospital, Harper added, the youngster let everyone in the vehicle know he didn't like it when paramedics administered an IV.
"And you know," Harper said with a smile, "that's what we love to hear."
At the hospital, the boy was sitting up and watching cartoons, Harper noted.
Monarch also recognized Crissy Withrow from Midwest Pool Management, the firm that manages the pool operation.
August 17, 2015 - West News Magazine By: Jim Erickson
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - Scarcely a day goes by without a news media story about unmanned aerial vehicles - UAVs or drones as they commonly are identified.
While most of the news coverage deals with military applications or with drones being in places where they don't belong - such as near airports - the Monarch Fire Protection District is among a number of area fire departments considering them as a possible tool to aid in firefighting efforts.The issue was aired at the Aug. 12 meeting of the Monarch Board of Directors when the district's command officers reviewed aspects of an Aug. 5 fire at a condominium complex on Bantry Lane in Chesterfield.
Plumbing work being done in the 37-unit building is believed to have caused the blaze, which led to major fire, smoke and water damage. Fortunately, almost all the residents of the complex who were home at the time were able to evacuate safely and with no injuries. One woman physically unable to escape was rescued by a West County EMS and Fire Protection District crew member and taken to a hospital where she was treated for smoke inhalation.
Much of the damage came from a secondary blaze apparently caused by fire making its way through wall and floor openings and ultimately erupting some distance away from the initial flames.
According to Monarch Chief Chuck Marsonette, a drone equipped with forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensors likely would have spotted the secondary fire developing so that firefighters could have attacked it before the flames broke through the structure.
Marsonette said drones equipped with the sensors can spot and relay to personnel on the ground a visual image showing differences in temperature. Unseen flames in a building would emit a heat signature much different from surrounding areas where there was no fire burning.Marsonette said he planned to attend an upcoming demonstration showing the various capabilities a drone has and would evaluate the possibility of aquiring a UAV.
In addition to its use in firefighting, a drone also could be used to help someone in danger of drowning, Marsonette noted, by carrying and dropping a flotation device to the person more quickly than a rescue boat could arrive.
The Bantry Lane fire was Monarch's biggest in recent memory in terms of manpower and equipment. Some 100 firefighters and 35 fire and rescue trucks from West and North County departments responded to the four-alarm blaze.
TWO INJURED IN FIRE AT CHESTERFIELD APARTMENT COMPLEX
(Photo: Casey Nolen)
August 5, 2015 - KSDK By Sam Clancy, KSDK
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - Two people are being checked out for injuries after an apartment fire Wednesday afternoon.
According to a spokesperson for the Monarch Fire Department, the fire broke out just before 4:30 at the Manors of Village Green apartment complex at the 14400 block of Bantry Lane in Chesterfield, Mo.
According to a fire department official, an elderly woman with mobility issues was trapped in her second-floor apartment when the fire broke out, but firefighters were able to get her out, and to a hospital. She suffered minor injuries due to smoke inhalation.
At around 6 p.m., the spokesperson with Monarch said the two-alarm fire had been controlled. Later in the day, the fire was updated to a four-alarm fire. They said they believe the fire may have started when a plumber was doing some routine maintenance that went wrong, but they are still investigating.
All the people, and five animals, have been evacuated from the 35-unit complex. It is unclear how long they will be displaced or the extent of the damage to other units. The Metro West, Valley Park, Creve Coeur and Cottleville Fire Departments assisted in controlling the fire, and West County EMS assisted those suffering injuries.
This story will be updated when more information becomes available.
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - Monarch Fire Protection District firefighters and the Metro West Fire Protection District Dive Team were called to assist Chesterfield Police with a vehicle recovery at Chesterfield Lakes Subdivision on Thursday, June 25, 2015.
After the vehicle went into the water the previous evening, the driver escaped before his SUV drifted out approximately 250 feet from shore and sank in about 30 feet of water. The dive team found the search challenging due to murky water and only an approximate location given.
Once located, Monarch firefighters used their Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) to deliver a tow cable from a heavy wrecker to the dive team. Their first attempt by paddling proved unsuccessful due to the weight of the cable and a head wind, so the motor was attached to the IRB and the cable was delivered. After the dive team secured the cable to the vehicle, they and the IRB crew cleared the water and the tow truck pulled the vehicle from the water.
Chief Marsonette stated, "This mission was accomplished successfully by great teamwork, solid training, and topnotch equipment."
FIREFIGHTERS EXTINGUISH GARAGE FIRE IN WEST COUNTY
Photo by Monarch Fire Protection District
June 24, 2015 - Monarch Fire Protection District
CHESTERFIELD - Monarch Firefighters, with assistance from Metro West, responded to a call for a vehicle fire in a garage Wednesday, June 24.
Upon arrival the engine compartment was fully involved, with fire impinging on the garage separation wall and extending up to the garage ceiling. Crews quickly knocked the fire down and checked the residence for extension, of which there was none.
Several factors brought this to a successful conclusion:
1) the occupants became aware of the problem at its beginning, promptly called 911, evacuated and conducted an accountability check;
2) the built-in garage separation assemblies did their job containing the fire to the garage until fire crews arrived; and
3) the fire crews utilized their diligent training and first-class equipment to stop the fire where it was upon their arrival. This is a great example of how it's supposed to work!
MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT IS READY FOR POSSIBLE FLOODING
Photo by Monarch Fire Protection District
June 17, 2015 - Monarch Fire Protection Distict
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - Monarch is preparing for potential flooding by participating in a regional planning event due to the recent extreme rainfall in our area. Newly returned Deputy Chief Les Crews is proving invaluable to the District and the region as he is a key participant in the preparations for the possible flooding issues.
Monarch's new boat system, with a larger, more powerful, metal rescue boat coupled with a smaller, inflatable powered craft are designed for just such situations as this. Many Monarch personnel have been trained in swift water rescue as part of Monarch's efforts to provide the highest levels of service. In fact, Chief Crews is one of the primary Swift Water Rescue instructors for this part of the state.
The Command Staff is ready to deploy needed assets in support of regional rescue efforts having contingency plans in place. While the Board always hopes there is no need for rescue efforts as it means people are in harm's way, the men and women of Monarch stand ready to respond with the right assets at the right time to protect our resident's and visitors.
MONARCH FPD BOOSTS NON-RESIDENT EMERGENCY MEDICAL CHARGES
May 3, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - The Monarch Fire Protection District Board has raised the cost of emergency medical service calls charged to non-residents of the district.
On a unanimous 3-0 vote, the board increased the district's rates 15 percent at its May 27 meeting after hearing a presentation from the company it uses to bill and collect for emergency medical services.
Tammy Campbell, senior vice president with Mediclaims, Inc., of Tonkawa, Oklahoma, said Monarch's EMS billing rates are well below both the state average and those charged in the St. Louis area, and much less than what Medicare and Medicaid allow for such services.The district's three-tier billing system is based on the level of service provided. Effective June 1, rates increased from the former charge of $650 to $750 for basic life support calls. New costs for advanced life support and more advanced life support calls (ALS 2) will be $975 and $1,150, respectively, compared with rates of $850 and $1,000 under the old billing schedule.Charges for transportation to hospital emergency care facilities also will increase from $10 per mile to $12.
Monarch will continue its long-held practice of not charging district residents for EMS calls. Based on a projected collection rate of 85 percent, Campbell said the new charges will mean a $41,000 revenue increase for the district during the remainder of the year.
Most of the 911 calls to which Monarch and other fire protection districts respond are for medical emergencies, including motor vehicle injuries.
The board deferred action on rate increases for medical responses requiring little or no care and which often are the result of 911 calls made by persons witnessing an incident and concluding an emergency exists. Collection rates on these so-called "treat and release" cases are low for a number of reasons, Campbell said, including the tendency to put off paying medical bills because doing so doesn't adversely affect a person's credit rating and people's unwillingness to pay for services they didn't request.
Monarch directors will consider the issue later after more data on such incidents is gathered.
May 28, 2015 - KMOX Brian Kelly @brpkelly Michael Calhoun @michaelcalhoun
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - The newest member of the Monarch Fire Protection District board is calling for a truce with the firefighters' union.
Rick Gans was sworn in Wednesday night, replacing Steve Swyers, who resigned on April 20 accusing the other two board members, Robin Harris and Jane Cunningham, of spreading falsehoods, half-truths and misinformation and, he believes, misusing public funds.
The firefighters union has been making similar accusations against Harris and Cunningham. Gans, a fellow fiscal conservative, says it's time for that to stop, "We're doing the work that the voters have unanimously elected us to do, and if it rubs the union the wrong way, it's unfortunate."
Firefighters have accused board members of trying to bust their union, and of spending irresponsibly on attorneys fees. Gans places the blame for much of that spending on the union, "I ask the union to recognize the fact it was up to the union to make an effort to work with the board to stop the fighting, the lawsuits, the grievances."
Gans had previously served on the board, most recently in 2011.
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - The Monarch Fire Protection District board of directors has made some changes in the wake of the appointment of a new director to the three-member body.
In a realignment of officers, Rick Gans was named treasurer and Jane Cunningham will retain the position of secretary. Cunningham had temporarily held both the treasurer and secretary posts after Steve Swyers submitted his resignation last month.
At a meeting early this month, Cunningham and Robin Harris, the board's chairman, appointed Gans to complete the remainder of Swyers' term, which ends in 2017. Gans earlier served a number of years on the board.
The three-member board also agreed to appoint Gans as Monarch's representative on the Central County Emergency 911 board, a position he also held during his earlier Monarch board tenure. Cunningham, who had been serving on the CCE board, now will be the alternate.
ST. CLAIR FIRE CHIEF RESIGNS TO BECOME CHIEF OF OPERATIONS AT MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT
April 15, 2015 - e.missourian.com By Keith E. Domke St. Clair Missourian Editor
ST. CLAIR FIRE DISTRICT NEEDS CHIEF - Les Crews, who had been on the job only since January 2014, resigned effective Friday. He is returning to one of his old stomping grounds at the Monarch Fire Department in Chesterfield.
"The offer was the right thing for me to do at this point," Crews told The Missourian. "It also was the right thing for my family."
At Monarch, Crews will be the deputy chief of operations. He previously worked there from 1979-2011. He began his duties here on Jan. 6, 2014.
"It's been a very rewarding experience here," the 57-year-old Crews said. "I've gotten to work with a lot of great people in St. Clair. It's tough to walk away."
MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT APPOINTS NEW DIRECTOR TO BOARD
May 5, 2015 -
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - The Monarch Fire Protection District has announced in a press release that they have filled the vacant position on the Board of Directors, created by the resignation of Mr. Steven Swyers.
The following is the press release issued on May 1, 2015 by the Fire District:
Chesterfield, MO. - The Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors voted to appoint Mr. Rick Gans to fill the vacancy created on April 20 when Steven Swyers resigned from the Board. The unanimous vote to bring Mr. Gans back to serve on the Board was held at an Open Meeting this morning.
Board President Robin Harris, who served with Mr. Gans for two years, from 2009 to 2011 said, "We are fortunate to be able to appoint a man who contributed so much to the District and its residents during his more than 13 years of service. His expertise in virtually all areas of the District's operations will be a great benefit to Director Cunningham and to me. We look forward to working together as we continue to move the District forward."
Rick Gans first served on the Monarch Board in early 1998 when it was still the Chesterfield Fire Protection District. He was elected to two subsequent terms in 1999 and 2005, serving as Treasurer, Secretary and, for his final four years, as Board President. Mr. Gans served as the Monarch representative to the Central County Emergency 911 Dispatch Board and was instrumental in relocating that agency to the modern, present-day facility that now serves as the dispatch agency for virtually all of St. Louis County fire and EMS services. He was involved in future planning at Monarch that saw the reconfiguration of station locations creating the current emergency response times that are among the fastest in the St. Louis area.
Mr. Gans has lived in the Monarch Fire Protection District for about 30 years and his business has been located there for nearly 15 of those years. Mr. Gans holds the distinction of being the longest serving Director in the history of the District and his leadership style has earned him the respect of Directors and Chiefs from across the St. Louis area. Gans said, "I am humbled to be asked to return to an elected position that meant so much to me for many years and I pledge to work harder than ever to improve the District's public image and its relationship with our residents and business owners. I also look forward to re-establishing the important past relationships I had with the firefighters and paramedics of Monarch."
Mr. Rick Gans will join the Board effective immediately.
KELLEY MILLER SEEKS APPOINTMENT TO VACANT SEAT ON MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS
April 28, 2015 - Chesterfield Patch By JMAYNE
CHESTERFIELD, MO. Miller notifies Board President Robin Harris, Secretary Jane Cunningham and Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette after resignation of Steve Swyers -
Kelley Miller, a human resources professional who campaigned for a position on the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors in the April 7 election, wants to fill the seat left vacant by former Board Member Steve Swyers, who resigned abruptly from the board when Robin Harris was re-elected.
In certified letters mailed on April 27 to Harris, Board Secretary Jane Cunningham and Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette, Miller said, "As a constituent in the Monarch Fire Protection District, I am writing to request appointment to the vacant board seat. I am certain that my knowledge, skills, and experience combined with my strong interest in serving the district make me a top candidate for appointment."
Miller is a human resources professional with Missouri Baptist Medical Center and a single mother whose campaign literature says she is "a concerned citizen who got involved in the Monarch Fire District after seeing the fiscal mess Harris created during his tenure."
Before joining Missouri Baptist, Miller was Director of Human Resources at St. Louis Arc, a non-profit United Way agency that provides support and services to more than 3,000 adults and children with intellectual developmental disabilities throughout metro St. Louis. Miller has more than ten years of management experience dealing with non-profit boards of directors.
"Having recently participated in the election for the Monarch board, I have personally met with many residents and business owners in the district and have first-hand knowledge of the issues that are on their minds," Miller said.
"Professionally, I have the experience and skills to provide board expertise in hiring; strategic planning; policy development; and oversight. These are key contributions that I can offer; skills and experience I am confident will help make the board stronger," she said.
Board Member Steve Swyers resigned on April 20 after Harris was re-elected to another six-year term on the three-member Monarch board when Harris won a majority vote over Miller in her first-ever campaign for public office.
In his letter of resignation, Swyers said, "My decision to resign today is rooted in the falsehoods, half truths, misinformation, creation of an unhealthy work environment, and what I believe to be misuse of public funds by Monarch Board President Robin Harris and Board Secretary Jane Cunningham."
Of Harris and Cunningham, Swyers said, "I no longer wish to be associated with their business style and their political rhetoric, as it has only created an environment of distrust and negativity."
CHANGES IN MONARCH FPD LEAVE DISTRICT WITH VACANCY
April 22, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
CHESTERFIELD, MO. - In an almost festive atmosphere, the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors met to swear in its recently re-elected board president, reorganize and accept without comment the resignation of one of its members.
The small board room to capacity on April 21, with most of those people clearly in support of Robin Harris (photo left), the board's president who on April 7 was re-elected for a six-year term after receiving almost 63 percent of the vote.
Rick Gans, a friend of Harris and a former Monarch director and board president, conducted the swearing in, after which there was a recess while audience members and the board ate cake and visited in the administration building vestibule.
When the meeting resumed, Harris was re-elected president and Cunningham was named to fill the positions of both secretary and treasurer in light of Monarch director and treasurer Steve Swyers' resignation the preceding day.
Swyers' resignation was dispensed with quickly before the swearing in. Harris noted simply the resignation had been received and, without comment, both he and director Jane Cunningham voted to accept it.
In the resignation letter sent to news media, Swyers was critical of a number of actions by Harris and Cunningham, accusing them of "false claims, misinformation, misuse of public funds and negativity" that were "counter-productive" for the district.
Cunningham earlier denied the allegations and defended statements and actions she and Harris had made. While Harris didn't respond to Swyers' criticisms at the April 21 meeting, he read a prepared statement noting: "The voters expressed their trust in me and their approval of my actions of the past six years."
The board president also repeated a view expressed during a board meeting immediately after the election when he called for everyone at Monarch to work together for the benefit of district residents.
Harris also challenged all Monarch employees to fulfill the oath they took when they joined the district and to do their best to return "a fair day of work for a fair wage. If you want something else, the change needed to move Monarch forward will not be made," he asserted.
Harris later said he and Cunningham would discuss how to deal with the vacant board position during a closed session. The board can appoint someone to fill Swyers' unexpired term, which ends in 2017, or can operate with just two directors until the next election.
April 21, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Steve Swyers, as of April 20, has announced that he is resigning his position of director on the Monarch Fire Protection District board of directors.
In an email, Swyers said his decision to step down "is rooted in the falsehoods, half truths, misinformation, creation of an unhealthy work environment, and what I believe to be the misuse of public funds by Monarch Board President Robin Harris and Board Secretary Jane Cunningham."
What Swyers described as "the last straw" was an advertisement, placed by Monarch Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette in West Newsmagazine, that "berated Monarch Firefighters and paramedics."
Over a picture of Marsonette and his signature, the ad claimed "a small number of the members of the union representing the Monarch firefighters and paramedics have been flooding social media outlets with false, misleading and inaccurate information about the Monarch Fire Protection District as part of a campaign to get their candidate of choice elected to the Board of Directors."
The ad went on to say that Monarch has one of the newest fleets of fire trucks in the area, that its ambulances and medical equipment have the latest technology, that training and other gear for firefighter/paramedics "is (sic) "top of the line" and that "Monarch is well prepared to keep us all safe from harm."
Both the ad and a quarterly newsletter that Swyers termed "a campaign promotion for Robin Harris" came out during the week before the April 7 election in which Harris was running for re-election against Kelley Miller. Harris won with some 62 percent of the vote.
Contacted about Swyers' resignation, Cunningham defended the newsletter and ad. The newsletter has been issued on a quarterly basis for some time and the ad was necessary to respond to accusations by the union, she said, adding the legality of running the ad had been checked with the district's legal counsel before it appeared.
Cunningham said comments in ad and newsletter were not directed at firefighter-paramedics but at union leadership.
The content of the newsletter included a lengthy rebuttal of alleged union criticisms, among them the district's financial position and its state of readiness, and another in a series of articles headlined "Promises made, promises kept" detailing steps taken by the board on a number of issues such as workers' compensation claims, having a balanced budget and acquisition of new equipment without having to increase taxes. Tornado preparedness was the subject of another article, and a decision by the Missouri Human Rights Commission rejecting a union complaint against Asst. Chief Cary Spiegel was reviewed briefly.
Swyers said he had no involvement in the newsletter's content and preparation. "I no longer wish to be associated with their (Harris and Cunningham) business style and their political rhetoric as it has only created an environment of district and negativity," Swyers said in his resignation email.
Cunningham noted that recent vehicle acquisitions the district has made have been via lease-purchase arrangements that Swyers recommended as a way to obtain the new equipment without having a tax increase.
Harris was out of town and could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Monarch board is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, but it is unclear whether there will be any follow up on Swyers' resignation. The board has the authority to appoint a replacement who would serve until the next election or it can leave the position vacant until that time.
Swyers was elected to a six-year term on the Monarch board in 2011 and his term expires in 2017. He is the retired managing partner of the local operation of the Pricewaterhouse Coopers accounting firm.
SWYERS RESIGNS FROM MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS
April 20, 2015 - Chesterfield Patch
By Steve Swyers, Chesterfield, Missouri - Effective immediately, I resign as a member of the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors, a position to which I was elected in April 2011.
My decision to resign today is rooted in the falsehoods, half truths, misinformation, creation of an unhealthy work environment, and what I believe to be misuse of public funds by Monarch Board President Robin Harris and Board Secretary Jane Cunningham.
For these reasons, I have considered resigning from the Board for more than a year. Recently, I read the Monarch district newsletter distributed by U.S. mail on April 3, 2015. It was essentially a campaign promotion for Robin Harris, who was running for re-election to the Board in the April 7 election. That same day I read a newspaper advertisement placed by Monarch Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette that berated Monarch firefighters and paramedics. It was the last straw.
I had no hand in preparing these communications as a member of the Board. I heard Robin Harris admit on KMOX Radio that the newsletter cost taxpayers $20,000. Later, I learned that the newspaper advertisement cost nearly $1,900. This is just wrong!
I no longer wish to be associated with their business style and their political rhetoric, as it has only created an environment of distrust and negativity.
For example, in print and website communications paid for with taxpayer dollars, Harris and Cunningham lied to or spoke half truths to Monarch citizens by claiming that Monarch firefighters and paramedics are calling for a $33 million bond issue.
As a member of the Monarch Board since April 2011 until my resignation today, I can assert with assurance that this claim is false. There is no movement for a $33 million bond issue by the firefighters or anybody else at Monarch -- and there never was such a movement in my Board tenure.
Harris also said, "The Monarch budget is balanced, as required by state law. We...are maintaining a 40 percent reserve."
That statement does not represent all the facts. It is correct that budgets must be balanced, but when expenses exceed revenues a budget is balanced by making "budget adjustments," which means borrowing from reserves created by prior generations of taxpayers.
Since 2012 the Monarch Board has tapped reserves by $851,000, causing reserves to decline to their current level of 40 percent. This is not sustainable!
Harris also said that Monarch firefighters and paramedics are:
- "Already among the highest paid in the country"
- "(Filed lawsuits) in an attempt to control the operations" and that "The District has been successful in most cases"
- "Use tactics to frighten people"
Those statements by Mr. Harris are simply not true.
Harris' and Cunningham's falsehoods and constant degradation and ridicule of Monarch firefighters and paramedics are damaging morale. It is impossible to maintain trust in such an environment.
In my opinion, Harris and Cunningham are using Monarch firefighters and paramedics as reasons for all the problems that exist in the Monarch fire protection district. I believe that Harris and Cunningham need only to look in a mirror to see the root cause for many of the existing problems.
The environment of false claims, misinformation, misuse of public funds and negativity perpetuated by Harris and Cunningham throughout the fire department is counter-productive for the Monarch Fire Protection District.
REPORT REVIEWS MONARCH'S PROGRESS ON WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIMS
April 7, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District is headed in the right direction in managing workers' compensation claims and is on track to post another reduction in the insurance premiums it will pay in 2016 for that coverage.
Mike Hennessey from Smith McGehee Insurance Solutions made those conclusions at the Monarch Board of Directors meeting March 26, while presenting a report on the district's actions and its trends in workers' compensation claims. Smith McGehee represents Missouri Employers Mutual, which provides Monarch's workers' compensation insurance. The company has emphasized its commitment to working with Monarch to lower its number of workers' compensation claims, costs and insurance premiums.
Despite Hennessey's prediction that Monarch is heading in the right direction, he also emphasized that future reductions in workers' compensation insurance premiums depend on the district continuing its current positive trends in claim numbers and associated costs.Among those actions Hennessey cited as contributing to the trend were:
- Increased use of occupational medical or urgent care facilities, instead of hospital emergency rooms, to treat on-the-job injuries.
- Assignment of a nurse case manager to direct and manage care of injured employees.
- A requirement to report all claims within 24 hours after an injury occurs.
- An investigation of every injury accident to determine its basic cause.
- Formation of a safety committee to analyze injury accidents, call attention to their causes and determine steps to avoid future incidents.
- Post-accident drug and alcohol testing.
- Continuing an incentive-based safety program launched last fall, along with a workers' compensation safety manual.
Those various steps targeted what Hennessey described as "breakdowns in the process, rather than the process itself" for managing and dealing with workers' compensation claims. The net results of actions taken have included a 30 percent reduction in average claim cost during the period of January 2014 to March 26, 2015, compared with an earlier comparable period, as well as a 50 percent decline in the number of lost-time claims.
Based on current trends, Monarch should see a savings of $200,000-250,000 in its 2016 workers' compensation insurance premium, Hennessey said. The district's 2015 premium is $950,000.
MAN REMOVED FROM SCENE AFTER YELLING AT MO. FIREFIGHTERS
April 2, 2015 - Firehouse Magazine
CHESTERFIELD - A Chesterfield man yelled at firefighters and tried to block the roadway as crews were battling a house fire Tuesday.
Larry Hoffman blocked roadway access and interfered with Monarch Fire Protection firefighters during the Still House Creek Road house fire, Chesterfield Patch reports.
Hoffman, who is a critic of the firefighter's union, blocked the street and then videotaped firefighters as he yelled insults and profanities at the crews, according to a police report that was filed. Police told him to leave the scene and move his vehicle.
"It was totally inappropriate to interfere with emergency services and public safety at the scene of a fire - the firefighters filed a police report for interference immediately," an eyewitness told the website. "Luckily, the firefighters extinguished the fire before Mr. Hoffman caused any further trouble. Thanks to the police order, they could get out of there without further incident or any accident."
The website said he's vocal supporter of Robin Harris, the incumbent Monarch Fire Protection District Board President , who is running for re-election next week.
CHESTERFIELD RESIDENT RECEIVES "TIP OF THE HELMET AWARD" FROM FIRE DISTRICT
Sara Schrefer (left) with Board Chairman Robin Harris. - Photo by Monarch Fire Protection District
March 27, 2015 - Monarch Fire Protection District
CHESTERFIELD - On Tuesday, November 4th, 2014, while at her home in the Chesterfield Village Apartments, Sara Schrefer detected an unusual odor. As time passed the odor failed to dissipate. At that point, she chose to investigate in an attempt to locate a source. Sara discovered the sound of an automobile engine running inside a locked garage. Understanding the potential fire and health hazard, she chose to notify emergency services for assistance.
Upon the arrival of police and fire, Sara directed them to the garage. Fire personnel forced entry where an unoccupied van was found running. The van engine was shut off and all apartments above and adjacent were evacuated. Carbon Monoxide levels were immediately checked in all apartments. Many of the apartments were found to have dangerous levels of Carbon Monoxide. If left unchecked, such levels of Carbon Monoxide would have resulted in unthinkable tragedy. Fire personnel used fans to reduce the Carbon Monoxide to safe levels.
Ms. Schrefer's willingness to get involved and take the appropriate course of action may have saved many lives. The Monarch Fire Protection District is pleased to commend her actions and present her with a "Tip of the Helmet Award".
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District is proud to announce the promotion of Craig Sullivan to the rank of Captain! Captain Sullivan's promotion was made official at the Board meeting on March 12, 2015.
Captain Sullivan was hired by then Chesterfield Fire Protection District on June 1, 1989 as a maintenance worker. Through his dedication and hard work he moved up to Firefighter/Paramedic, and now Captain.
FIRE CHIEF ISSUES PRESS RELEASE REGARDING ACCUSATIONS ABOUT BOY SCOUT EXPLORER PROGRAM
March 11, 2015 - PRESS RELEASE By Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette - Monarch Fire Protection District
CHESTERFIELD - Chief Marsonette has issued the following press release concerning accusations by the employee union that the Fire District's Boy Scouts of America Explorer Program had been discontinued on January 1, 2015:
Dear Taxpayers and Visitors, March 11, 2015
As a past Explorer Post President, and Vice President of the Explorer Presidents association of Missouri in my teens; I can assure you that Post 2202 of the Monarch Fire Protection District, will be maintained and re-invigorated under the current Command Staff as career education for young women and men. The Board of Directors supports my staff and I, in continuing the Explorer program as we have been doing. In fact, Assistant Chief Spiegel has contacted the Boy Scouts of America in recent months, requested; and was granted a variance to continue post operations to reverse lackluster membership under the previous Assistant Chief - John Borgmann.
I have begun an investigation of the recent false press release by the public employee union and here are some of my findings: The Boy Scouts of America have been paid by check number 1107 in the amount of $256.00, for the annual renewal of our Explorer post charter from an invoice received from the Boy Scouts. The check was issued on 3-2-2015. Assistant Chief Spiegel forwarded this information for payment during his effort to revitalize the program. Previous to this, Monarch Fire Assistant Chief Borgmann did not pay the 2014 invoice for the same, nor did he direct that action be taken to address it. My investigation is continuing.
Unfortunately, the Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T) program has also been left unattended while former Chief Vineyard and, now retired, Assistant Chief Borgmann were in charge. Assistant Chief Spiegel is re-initiating the Fire District's involvement in that program as well.
Community service is second only to emergency service delivery for our residents, businesses and visitors. We are rapidly restoring the programs the previous staff left in such a dilapidated state. Fortunately, we have strong support from our Board of Directors and many excellent employees at the Monarch Fire District, and assure you we are extremely well equipped to provide these services.
The many recent inaccurate press releases and social media posts from the public employee union are very unfortunate. The Board of Directors, Administrative Staff, and Employees are poised to serve you in an exemplary fashion for many years to come.
Sincerely, Chuck Marsonette, Fire Chief Monarch Fire Protection District
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS SHAVING THEIR HEADS TO HELP KIDS WITH CANCER
March 3, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
ST. LOUIS, MO. - Need a haircut?
Join Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics on Saturday, March 7 who will shave their heads in exchange for donations to raise money to help cure childhood cancers as part of a program by the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
This public event will be at Helen Fitzgerald's Irish Grill and Pub, 3650 South Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, 63139. Registration starts at 10:00 a.m. Shaving begins at 12:00 noon and continues until there are no more heads to shave.
Monarch Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Underwood said, "Our goal is to raise $6,000 to help kids fighting cancers." For information or to donate, see the website https://www.stbaldricks.org/teams/mypage/97967/2015.
The effort is part of the Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach, a charitable program created by firefighters and paramedics to help people while off duty. Its volunteer activities are inspired by a mission to help local residents and their families who have suffered injury, illness, or disability.
"The work we do off duty is motivated by our commitment to community service, volunteerism and charitable fund-raising," Underwood said.
For information about Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach or to make a charitable donation, contact the Monarch Firefighters & Paramedics at 636.397.1572.
See the website http://www.monarchfirefighters.org/community-outreach/our-mission.
MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT EMPLOYEES REWARDED FOR REACHING SAFETY GOAL
Photo - Monarch Deputy Chief Nick Harper helped chef Todd Corum prepare and serve the meal.
March 2, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
ST. LOUIS - Many firehouses have earned reputations for dishing up good food for firefighters and paramedics, because usually there is someone on-duty who knows his or her way around a kitchen. But the dinner bill of fare served recently at the Monarch Fire Protection District's House 1 on Baxter Road near Clarkston set an especially high standard.
The occasion was the celebration of Monarch's Battalion A achieving the goal of 60 days without a lost-time accident - and, as promised, they were treated to a feast.
Preparing the sumptuous repast for the some three dozen Battalion A members was Todd Corum, executive chef at the St. Louis Zoo, who he oversees the planning and preparation of menu items for the approximately 700 special events held at the Zoo annually. Corum volunteered his expertise at no charge when he learned the Monarch command staff member was looking for someone to plan and prepare the reward meal. Monarch paid for the food.
Beginning about 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22, Battalion A firefighter-paramedics at all five Monarch firehouses ate in shifts so that personnel always were available to respond to any emergency medical and fire calls that sounded. In fact, two such calls - both medical - did come in which meant that for one ambulance crew the food had to be reheated. Given the tastiness of the menu offerings, no one complained.
Battalions B and C and the staff group that works a regular five-day week also have reached the loss-time accident target established last fall, which is part of a safety program aimed at reducing injuries and their accompanying workers' compensation claims and overtime costs.
MONARCH INCREASES USE OF LEASES FOR ACQUIRING EMERGENCY VEHICLES
Photo by Monarch Fire Protection District
February 23, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District will use a lease-purchase arrangement to replace one of its aging vehicles - a financial strategy the district recently employed to secure two new fire trucks.
At its Feb. 17 meeting, the district's Board of Directors reviewed proposals from two companies to provide financing for a new ambulance costing $261,144. Under the lease-purchase plans submitted by Republic First National of Rochester, Indiana, and Leasing 2 of Tampa, Florida, Monarch will own the vehicle after making lease payments for five years.
Republic's bid called for a 2.99-percent interest rate on the lease while Leasing 2's charge would be 2.85 percent. The board took no action pending further negotiations on interest rates but should finalize the transaction soon, although the delivery of the new ambulance is still months away.
The lease-purchase ambulance acquisition will be the second such transaction in recent months. The board earlier approved a similar arrangement for obtaining two fire trucks costing some $1.3 million. Monarch will own the vehicles after 15 years of lease payments with a 3.65-percent interest rate.
Lease-purchase plans enable Monarch to pay for equipment with operating funds instead of dipping into the district's reserve funds or issuing bonds that would require voter approval of a separate tax levy to retire them.
"We don't want to lease everything," noted Steve Swyers, a Monarch director and retired partner in a major St. Louis accounting firm. "But lease-purchase arrangements are a useful alternative to the outright purchase of all major capital items."
Determining whether to lease or purchase outright requires the district to develop a long-term capital plan, Swyers said.
As with vehicles purchased outright, the district is responsible for maintenance costs on leased equipment during the lease period. Similarly, when the lease is up and Monarch receives title, it has the option of keeping each vehicle or selling it to defray the costs of getting a replacement.
When the new leased vehicles arrive and are put in service, the district plans to sell an ambulance and two pumper trucks now on reserve.
Chief Chuck Marsonette said, "All of that income from the sale of those two trucks and one ambulance will defray the cost of the lease."
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAM DONATES $6,500 TO "NO WOMAN LEFT BEHIND"
February 23, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
ST. LOUIS - The Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach Program is pleased to announce that Monarch firefighters and paramedics donated $6,500 to "No Woman Left Behind," a non-profit group that helps uninsured and under-insured women who need mastectomy or prosthetic products.
Monarch Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Underwood said, "We raised the donation by selling our breast cancer awareness T-shirts. We sincerely thank everyone who supported this effort." Ann's Bra Shop in Chesterfield helped coordinate the effort.
The Monarch Firefighters' next fundraising event is Saturday, March 7. A team of Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics will shave their heads in exchange for donations to raise money to help cure childhood cancers as part of a program by the St. Baldrick's Foundation. This event will be at Helen Fitzgerald's Irish Grill and Pub, 3650 South Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, 63139.
Registration starts at 10:00 a.m. Shaving begins at 12:00 noon and continues until there are no more heads to shave.
"Our goal is to raise $6,000 for the kids," Underwood said. For information or to donate, see the website.
The Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach Fund is a charitable service organization created by firefighters and paramedics to help people while off duty. Its volunteer activities are inspired by a mission to help local residents and their families who have suffered injury, illness, or disability.
"Our off duty commitments as Monarch firefighter/paramedics help a variety of charitable enterprises that provide special programs, aid in research and fund activities to help those in need."
"The work we do off duty is motivated by our commitment to community service, volunteerism and charitable fund-raising," Underwood said.
For information about The Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach Fund, or to make a charitable donation, contact the Monarch Firefighters & Paramedics at 636.397.1572.
TWO CANDIDATES VIE FOR CONTROL OF A WEST COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT
January 27, 2015
WEST ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Two residents of the Monarch Fire Protection District have filed as candidates for a six year term, on the three member Board of Directors, in the April 7th election. The winner of that contest may very well determine the future direction of the Fire District. They are Mr. Robin Harris and Ms. Kelley Miller.
ROBIN HARRIS is the incumbent candidate and is currently Chairman of the Fire Board. The Board, in a controversial decision, recently hired Cary Spiegel as Assistant Fire Chief and Chuck Marsonette as Fire Chief to command the District.
KELLEY MILLER who states she is the granddaughter of a firefighter, has filed as a candidate to replace Robin Harris on the Fire Board. Ms. Miller, speaking at a recent Fire Board Meeting, was very critical of the hiring of Cary Spiegel as Assistant Fire Chief and Chuck Marsonette as interim Fire Chief (has since been promoted to fire chief).
January 26, 2015 - Monarch Fire Protection District
The Monarch FPD is currently searching for a Fire Inspector.
Responsibilities Include (but are not limited to):
Under supervision enforces fire and building regulations, ordinances, codes, and applicable laws to ensure compliance and consistency. Plan, review, and inspections of all aspects of commercial construction and occupancies, including but not limited to building construction and renovation, fire protection systems, operations, processes and the storage, handling or use of hazardous materials or devices. Approves occupancy permits and similar licenses. Conducts investigations into causes of fires and fire protection system failures. Performs inspections of existing buildings for fire and life-safety hazards. Responds to complaints by residents, employees of businesses, and other citizens regarding possible hazards and/or violations of district ordinances. Interacts and communicates with design professionals, contractors, business owners, and public officials regarding fire prevention and other district-related issues. Provides fire and life-safety information and assistance to businesses, occupants, contractors, and the general public as necessary.
MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT PURCHASES NEW APPARATUS
Photo by Monarch Fire Protection District
January 21, 2015 - Monarch Fire Protection District
CHESTERFIELD -The Monarch Fire Protection District has issued the following press release announcing the purchase of two new pieces of fire apparatus for the District:
The Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors is pleased to announce the purchase of two state of the art pieces of Fire Apparatus. In the month of December, the Fire District acquired an E-ONE 95 foot aerial platform (pictured above). This well-equipped aerial apparatus is the longest ladder platform the District has ever owned, and will assist in better protection of our upward and outward growth. This aerial will be going into service in late February. The District is very excited to have this equipment for its taxpayers and visitors.
Our Second state of the art apparatus is a Smeal fire engine with additional rescue capabilities. This fire engine is just beginning construction and photos will be released as that process continues!
These two purchases increase the safety of our citizen's and employees with no tax increase!
KMOX radio is reporting that the Monarch Fire Protection District has named Interim Fire Chief Charles 'Chuck' Marsonette as the new Fire Chief of the District.
According to the Fire District web site, Chief Marsonette has a diverse public safety background with 23 years of experience in fire, emergency medical services, and law enforcement. Most recently, he worked with a local healthcare company in reducing employee injuries, worker's compensation, and risk management for the aviation and safety division. In addition, Chief Marsonette has an extensive knowledge of incident command and emergency planning/management. Chief Marsonette remains a law enforcement officer with a local jurisdiction on a part time basis.
Chief Marsonette understands the importance of public safety and has the leadership skills and experience needed to lead in an effective and efficient manner. His focus will be to manage operations to ensure the community continues to receive high quality fire and emergency services.
MONARCH FIRE BATTALION CHIEF FIRED, AND DOESN'T KNOW WHY
December 16, 2014 - KMOX
CHESTERFIELD - A 35-year veteran of the Monarch Fire Protection District has been fired, and he doesn't know why.
Sean Porter rose through the ranks during his career with Monarch - being named Battalion Chief in April of 2012.
But last Friday, according to a news release from the Firefighters Union Local 2665, Porter was called into a closed Monarch board meeting and asked to recount the procedures of the process that led to his promotion.
After the meeting, he was called into Interim Chief's office and asked to resign. When Porter refused to resign, he was fired.
Porter says he was told board members wanted him to resign, but that it had nothing to do with his job performance.
Union vice president and shop steward for Monarch Andy Stecko says the firing is an attempt to destroy the morale of their firefighter and paramedic team.
Porter says he is shocked by the firing, stating he has never been officially reprimanded and has no discipline problems in his personnel file.
Porter says his next move will be guided by legal counsel.
December 12, 2014 - Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach
CHESTERFIELD - Monarch Firefighters report that Sean Porter, a decorated Battalion Chief of the Monarch Fire Protection District has been fired tonight at a meeting of the Monarch Fire Board. No official reason was given.
There has been no official statement from the Monarch Fire Protection District Board on the termination of the Battalion Chief.
FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC WHO SUED OVER SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION PROMOTED TO CAPTAIN
November 13, 2014 -
CHESTERFIELD - Firefighter/Paramedic Dana Buckley was recently promoted to the rank of Captain by the Monarch Fire Protection District, on the recommendations of Assistant Fire Chief Cary Spiegel and Interim Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette. Buckley has been with the Fire District since 2001.
Captain Buckley was one of the four female firefighters who filed suit against their employer, the Monarch Fire Protection District, in 2007 over sexual discrimination. They won in court in 2010 and again on appeal in late 2011. Buckley was awarded $200,000.00 at the jury trial.
November 4, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network By: Dan Fox
The Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors approved a district safety manual at its meeting on Oct. 29, which district officials hope will improve safety for employees and, by proxy, its residents.
The manual covers several different aspects and settings of a firefighter-paramedic's job, and is split into six main sections: fire fighting, emergency medical services, training, special operations, driving and station activities.
"I think it is going to dramatically impact safety," Interim Fire Chief Chuck Marsonette (photo) said. "Now there is a guideline for firefighters to use that will coincide with their common sense. Safety is common sense and training combined. This (the manual) gives an outline of how that common sense decision making should flow."
Monarch Firefighter and official with Local IAFF 2665 Andy Stecko said anything that can make the work environment safer is a positive step forward; however, there are a few conflicts with the manual that may arise in the heat of an emergency.
"At the union, we always endorse the safest practices possible to do our jobs," Stecko said. "I think that it has some useful information, but it does conflict in a few areas with what it is that we do. We do an inherently dangerous job; it is kind of difficult to be vanilla about safety practices."
Marsonette described the manual as a "living document" and said changes will be made to it as the need arises.
"I'm very pleased with it," Monarch Board Member Jane Cunningham said. "It was a collaborative effort and I think a very fine product, according to our (workers' compensation insurance) carrier."
In each section of the manual, a list of bullet points is given, including safety practices such as "check and prepare your equipment prior to the beginning of each shift," and "wear eye protection when operating all power tools, hand tools, performing forcible entry, breaking glass, performing ventilation, extrication, etc."
The manual also contains flow charts for analyzing the cause of an accident and what to do when an injury is sustained.
"We have excellent employees," Marsonette said. I believe that with a combination of this manual and continued training, we will reduce workers' compensation costs; we will reduce injuries.
"The main thing is that I want our employees to come to work healthy and go home healthy."
November 4, 2014 - Monarch Fire Protection District
The Monarch FPD is currently searching for a Fire Chief at its HQ facility at 13725 Olive Blvd. in Chesterfield, MO. Salary will be commensurate with experience. Resumes of candidates are due no later than 4:00pm on Thursday Nov 20th, 2014.
(Click here for Application: MFPD Application)
Responsibilities Include (but are not limited to):
- Establishes, within policy guidelines, appropriate service and staffing levels.
- Coordinates, administers, and monitors fire and emergency response activities, personnel, and
- Supervises and participates in the development and administration of the fire department budget.
- Directs the selection, supervision, training, development, and discipline of department personnel.
- Assumes personal command at multiple alarm fires.
- Coordinates mutual fire protection plans, emergency responses, and other department activities
with surrounding jurisdictions, other departments, and organizations.
- Confers with officials and community groups and conducts public relations campaigns to present need for changes in laws and policies and to encourage fire prevention.
- Directs investigations into causes of fires and inspections of buildings for fire hazards.
- Makes final interpretation of fire and building regulations, ordinances, codes, and applicable laws to ensure compliance and consistency.
- Coordinates and prepares a variety of plans, reports, presentations, and records.
- Participates in employee relations activities related to the fire department, including providing
advice and assistance for management negotiations.
- Bachelor's Degree preferred
- 5+ Years as Staff Officer
- St. Louis County Fire Academy or willingness to attend
- 10+ years of experience in the fire service
- Other relevant experience and/or education may be considered
- Experience working in a large multi-firehouse District
- Missouri/or National registry Paramedic license required
- Ability to work odd hours as needed
Benefits for the Monarch Fire Protection District Include:
- Excellent medical, dental and vision coverage
- Fully paid life insurance (with option to purchase more)
- Paid Vacation (after 1 year)
- Sick days (8 per year)
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- 11 Paid Holidays
- Tuition reimbursement
- Pension plan
Please send resume with cover letter AND salary expectations on or before 4:00pm, Thursday
November 20th, 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org or to address below. Interviews are initially
scheduled to be conducted in December 2014.
Monarch FPD, Attention: Human Resources Director
13725 Olive Blvd.
Chesterfield, MO 63017
The Monarch Fire Protection District is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
October 24, 2014 - Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach
The Monarch Fire Protection Fire District Firefighters and Paramedics mailed a survey to select residents of the Fire District. Their letter to the residents reads as follows:
To all residents of the Monarch Fire Protection District:
The survey that you may have received in the mail is from the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics who work for you, the residents of Monarch Fire Protection District. We value this process so much that we are funding this through non-tax payer dollars.
We sought out a local, professional and highly recommended business to gather your opinions on various fire-district related items. The firm, Berry Organizational & Leadership Development (BOLD) LLC, randomly selected 3,500 residents to receive the survey by mail, with this selection being representative of the entire community we serve. To allow for full transparency, the scope of the project and survey tool can be viewed for you to make up your own mind on whether to complete the survey, that is not biased towards or against any political agenda. We truly want to know our residents' opinions on various fire-related matters to determine how to respond to future matters, which include the stability of your fire and paramedic-related services, and as always, to make sure Monarch residents are safe if they are ever in an emergency or life threatening situation.
We respectfully ask the residents of The Monarch Fire Protection District to review and complete the survey at:
An incentive for survey completion is a well-founded method to increase response rate, which we value for this project. We can ensure you that the results we will be receiving will not reveal any personally identifiable information by BOLD, LLC.
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS PINK HEALS BREAST CANCER CAMPAIGN VISITS WEBER CHEVROLET IN CREVE COEUR
October 18, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
Car Dealership Decorated in Pink for Rally Set for Monday October 20 - Firefighters and Paramedics in the Monarch Fire Protection District are taking their "Pink Heals" Breast Cancer Awareness campaign to Weber Chevrolet in suburban Creve Coeur to thank the dealership and its employees for supporting the campaign that helps raise money during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
For the second year, Weber Chevrolet has purchased "Pink Heals" breast cancer awareness T-shirts and made a generous donation to support Monarch Firefighters' efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year Monarch Firefighters efforts will benefit the non-profit "No Woman Left Behind" group that helps uninsured and under-insured women who need mastectomy or prosthetic products.
Weber Chevrolet's main building at Olive Street and Interstate 270 is now totally decorated in pink. On Monday October 20 a pink fire truck will be displayed there to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Weber Chevrolet invites the public to join its employees for a rally when the truck arrives at 10:30 am.
Monarch Firefighter Mike Underwood says, "Weber Chevrolet has been a big supporter of our Pink Heals campaign even though the dealership is not located in the Monarch Fire Protection District. Weber employees and sales staff have purchased many of the Pink T-shirts that we sell to raise money for the Pink Heals campaign and we are very grateful for the support."
October 2014 is the sixth year that Monarch firefighters, paramedics, officers and staff have sold "Pink Heals" T-shirts to raise charitable funds for women battling cancer. Throughout the month-long campaign, Monarch fire trucks display pink cancer awareness flags.
Monarch Firefighters have directly raised more than $17,000 in recent years, donating to charities including Bridging the Gap Emergency Breast Cancer Fund; Camp Rainbow; the Life and Hope Fund at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield; and No Woman Left Behind. Their recent fund drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association raised more than $11,000, and the team's participation in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb helped raise nearly $55,000 for charity.
To order a "Pink Heals T-shirt," shirt, visit Weber Chevrolet on Monday October 21 at 10:30 a.m. or email the Monarch Firefighters at MFCOSHIRTS@YAHOO.COM with size and quantity. Learn more about the Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics by visiting http://www.monarchfirefighters.org.
MONARCH FPD PARAMEDICS SPENT TIME IN FERGUSON DURING CIVIL UNREST
September 26, 2014 -
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District Tactical Paramedics responded to the City of Ferguson on 12 different days of civil unrest this month, for a total of 432 man hours at a cost of $21,328.83. Monarch is hoping to recover the costs from the State of Missouri because Governor Jay Nixon declared a "State of Emergency."
The tactical paramedics were in Ferguson to treat any police officers or Highway Patrol troopers who were injured during the protests.
MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT TO IMPLEMENT INCENTIVE-BASED SAFETY PROGRAM
September 15, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District has announced two efforts to emphasize safety and lower costs associated with workers' compensation claims from on-duty accidents.
Plans revealed at a recent Monarch Board of Directors meeting call for implementing an incentive-based program to reduce work-related injuries and completing a manual with safety-oriented practices and procedures covering substantially all work-related activities of on-duty personnel.
Now nearing completion, the manual already has drawn accolades from Missouri Employers Mutual, the district's workers' compensation insurance carrier. According to Monarch Directors Robin Harris and Jane Cunningham, the insurer has described the safety book as one of the best it has reviewed.
Deputy Chief Nick Harper, who is heading the safety manual's preparation, said the document is designed to be an easy-to-use source of practices and procedures covering everything from firefighting situations and the operation of emergency vehicles to training and other activities conducted in the district's engine houses.
"This isn't a manual that's meant to sit on a shelf and collect dust," Harper asserted.
He added that the district was unable to find any similar manuals in the state when work on the document began earlier this year.
According to Harper, three safety training classes will be held in October to roll out the manual and that subsequent morning roll call discussions will cover all seven chapters at the engine house level. Completion and use of the manual will tie in with the incentive-based program to reward employees for safe practices. In a review of the new effort, Monarch's interim Chief Chuck Marsonette (photo left) said it will foster a "safety culture" among all district employees.
Monarch personnel will be informed of the program so that the first steps can begin Oct. 1.
When the goal of 60 days of no injuries requiring outside treatment is reached for any or all of the district's three shifts, an incentive raffle will be held among all registered employees.
Employees in the raffle will be asked to take a short safety quiz on the back of the raffle ticket submitted for a drawing that will award gift cards to those whose names are picked. Although no specific plans were endorsed, Marsonette suggested the prizes amounts be low enough to allow for multiple winners at each drawing. He cited three $50 gift cards as a likely award.
Marsonette noted the incentive program's cost will be minimal compared with the potential savings in workers' compensation claims, and the resulting insurance premiums and overtime pay required when employees must be called in for extra work when other personnel are injured.
The program also will encourage reporting of "near-miss" incidents to increase employee awareness of potential hazards. In addition, Marsonette emphasized that under-reporting of safety-related incidents will not be tolerated and will be handled with progressive disciplinary action up to and including termination.
As part of the program, all fire stations will maintain posters reminding employees on each shift of the number of days without a reportable injury.
Safety accountability will be reviewed with all employees as part of their annual performance evaluations, and all reportable injury incidents will include drug testing even if an employee refuses medical treatment.
Summarizing the program, Marsonette said, "We want all our employees to come to work healthy and to go home healthy."
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS AND PARAMEDICS PARTICIPATE IN 9/11 MEMORIAL STAIR CLIMB IN CLAYTON
Photo by Monarch Firefighter's Community Outreach
September 9, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CLAYTON - The Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach Team completed the Clayton 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on September 7, 2014, for the third year in a row, helping to raise nearly $55,000. The stair climb draws participants from all over the nation and raises money for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation whose mission supports the families of men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
"After meeting some of the families of fallen firefighters from 9/11, you quickly begin to see the immense wake that is left behind when a loved one is lost in the line of duty," says Monarch Firefighter/Paramedic Nick Smith.
The climb of 110 floors, the same number of floors in the World Trade Center Buildings that were attacked and collapsed in New York City, is dedicated to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11/01. The event is hosted and organized by the Clayton Fire Department. Climbing is done in the 23-story Pierre-Laclede building next to the Clayton fire station at Forsythe and Bemiston avenues.
"We Climb Because They Climbed" is the tag line for the event now in its third year, which firefighter/paramedics completed in full turnout gear, SCBA air tank and axe or other tool. The climb is no easy feat.
"110 stories is a long way up no matter how you look at it. It's hot, the gear is heavy and the steps never seem to end," says Smith. Each firefighter making the climb is assigned a personal tag with a picture of a firefighter from 9/11 and their truck assignment on that morning when the World Trade Center collapsed.
"Wearing their picture around your neck gives you all the motivation you need to get to the top; it's unbelievable to try to imagine just what they must have been going through as they climbed higher and higher not knowing what they were walking toward," Smith adds.
More than 300 climbers participated this year, all tasked with the duty to try to raise money for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. This year's event blew away the totals from last year by grossing close to $55,000.
The parents of FDNY Firefighter Christopher Santora were on hand to speak to the crowd of hundreds at the dedication of the newly unveiled Fallen Firefighter Memorial located just outside the Clayton fire house. The top individual fundraiser was honored at the dedication with a custom made axe from Liberty Artwork Designs. That honor this year went to Monarch Firefighter and Monarch Firefighter Community Outreach team member Nick Smith, who raised more than $2,600.
"I felt blessed to be able to represent not only the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11 but every individual who donated to the cause in my name. It was a truly humbling experience and I owe it all to God."
The Monarch Community Firefighters Outreach team consisted of Captain Brent Coleman, Engineer Ben Hotop and Firefighter/Paramedics Adam Stack and Nick Smith. If you would like to donate to the fund, please use this link: https://fundraising.active.com/fundraiser/NickSmith2.
August 29, 2014 - Monarch Fire Protection District
CHESTERFIELD - Dave Schmitt was promoted to Battalion Chief at the open Board Meeting August 28, 2014. Dave has been with Monarch for just under 35 years. He was selected for the office through a rigorous selection process. Dave was sworn in by Board President Robin Harris.
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District is proud to announce the promotion of three employees and the swearing in of 6 new employees at the July 24, 2014 Board meeting.
Board President Robin Harris administered the Oath of Office to all who were promoted and sworn in. Congratulations go to Tommy Beauchamp (photo above) who was promoted to Captain, and to Ben Hotop and Brian Patton who were promoted to Engineer.
We would also like to welcome and congratulate Troy Mims, Mike Zluhan, Joe Ruhl, Tim Troup, Kevin Scheurer and Max Norris (photo below - names not in order) who were sworn in as firefighter/paramedics.
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS TO FILE FORMAL GRIEVANCE AGAINST BOARD OF DIRECTORS
July 22, 2014 - KMOX
CHESTERFIELD - Monarch firefighters are preparing to fire the next shot in their long-running battle with the Board of Directors.
Firefighters Local 2665 vice president Brad Peters said this morning that they're filing a formal grievance against the board, which suspended shop steward Chris Gelven without pay and placed a letter of reprimand in his file.
"Basically, to show that we don't agree with the decision, we don't feel Chris did anything wrong and doesn't deserve the loss of pay," Peters says.
It was Gelven who went public last spring with the district's plan to use decommissioned bulletproof vests as part of a protective wall for Board members.
Peters says the grievance is not likely to meet much success.
"We will be grieving back to the exact same board that made the ruling in the first place," he says.
But he says it will give an arbitrator a starting point for any future talks.
MONARCH CAPTAIN GIVEN TWO DAYS SUSPENSION BY BOARD OF DIRECTORS
July 21, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
Monarch Captain and Local Union Shop Steward Chris Gelven has been suspended for two shift days after a 3-0 vote by the Board of Directors.
Gelven was brought before the Monarch Board of Directors on July 10 for making statements in April to local media outlets regarding security measures for the Board's meeting room.
"The issue was we don't want, nor should anyone desire, that personnel attempt to divulge security protocols to the public," Board President Robin Harris said.
At the time, Gelven said the Board had chosen to line the wall in front of the Board Member's seats with used bulletproof vests. Protesters had lined Olive Boulevard in front of the Monarch Administration Building, picketing the hearing.
Prior to the July 10 hearing, Brad Peters, Executive Vice president with Local IAFF 2665, said Gelven's comments are protected under the first amendment, and that he was simply discussing a matter of public interests.
"We think it's a free speech right, that the information that he divulged was in no way shape or form confidential," Peters said.
CHESTERFIELD - A St. Louis County Circuit Court judge has ruled in favor of Monarch Fire Protection District firefighters in a lawsuit filed last year challenging the district board's failure to make a promotion to captain from those on an existing eligibility list.
In a decision entered July 8, Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott ruled the Monarch Board of Directors must promote one of the three firefighter/paramedics on the then-current promotion list to a captain's position. Further, the judge said the board cannot conduct any further promotion testing until one of the eligible firefighter/paramedics is named to the captain's position.
Contacted for his reaction to the ruling, Robin Harris, Monarch board chairman, said there never was a question about the promotion eligibility of Thomas Beauchamp II, one of the three on the eligibility list who filed the lawsuit against the district last fall. Instead, Harris said, the issue was one of staffing levels. The question was whether Monarch needed 18 or 21 firefighter-paramedics serving at the captain rank.
Harris said a subsequent staffing level review showed Beauchamp was filling the captain's position a vast majority of the time on an acting basis due to vacation days, sick leave and other time off of those serving as captains. On that basis, Harris continued, the district recently extended an offer to the firefighters to promote Beauchamp to the permanent rank of captain.
"The court said to make a promotion so we did," Harris said, adding that the board already had made the promotion offer before the ruling.
The firefighters' lawsuit was filed last fall. In the aftermath, the Monarch board of directors agreed in a consent order that it would not promote anyone to fill a vacancy for a captain's position in the department other than three employees then on a current eligibility list.
As to further action, Harris said the district's legal counsel has been asked to review the overall decision and to recommend if any other board action is appropriate.
For their part, Monarch's firefighters say the court's decision confirms their charges that the Monarch board violated promotion procedures in the district's collective bargaining agreement with Local 2665 of the International Association of Firefighters.
The union has said that the Monarch board wanted to change how promotion candidate evaluations are conducted and create a new list of qualified candidates after the then-existing list of candidates expired.
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS WIN LAWSUIT AGAINST MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
July 11, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Three firefighters in the Monarch Fire Protection District won a lawsuit against the district in a decision by Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott of St. Louis County's 21st Judicial Circuit Court this week. (Case No. 13SL-CC03796).
The district Board of Directors must now immediately promote one of the three Monarch firefighters who sued the district -- Thomas Beauchamp II, Dana Buckley or Craig Sullivan - to captain because of the decision, which also forbids the Board from conducting further testing of promotion candidates until a new captain is chosen.
Beauchamp, Buckley and Sullivan sued the district in October 2013. They charged that the Monarch board violated promotion procedures of the district's collective bargaining agreement with Local 2665, International Association of Firefighters, by not filling a vacant captain's position from an existing list of qualified candidates for promotion.
At the time, the board did not choose from that list of qualified candidates, which included Beauchamp, Buckley and Sullivan. Instead, the board said it would change how promotion candidate evaluations are conducted and, also, that evaluations to create a new list of qualified candidates would occur in November 2013 when the then-existing list of qualified candidates expired.
The new evaluations would not use the traditional practice of relying on senior officers from other fire departments to conduct the process. Instead, Board President Robin Harris and Secretary Jane Cunningham approved a list of names of potential new evaluators. Most of those people did not have previous fire department experience.
Judge Ott's decision this week grants all of the lawsuit's requests by Beauchamp, Buckley and Sullivan, and denies the district's request to reopen the evidence for further legal proceedings.
Brad Peters, executive vice president of Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665, said, "Resolution of this lawsuit in favor of Monarch firefighters Thomas Beauchamp II, Dana Buckley and Craig Sullivan is a win-win situation for several reasons.
"The Judge's decision essentially defies a move by board members Robin Harris and Jane Cunningham to violate our collective bargaining agreement," Peters said. "Also, the decision preserves a successful, objective process of relying on experienced officials from other fire departments to evaluate qualified candidates for promotion within the Monarch district. In addition, it blocks a maneuver by Harris and Cunningham to stack a new candidate evaluation committee with people they could potentially influence or control."
The Monarch Fire Protection District and its Firefighters/Paramedics serve large parts of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights and Wildwood, plus parts of unincorporated St. Louis County, Missouri. It covers approximately 63 square miles as an independent taxing authority with a three-member Board of Directors elected to six-year terms.
For more information, contact Brad Peters at (314) 393-9762 or see the website http://www.monarchfirefighters.org.
NO DECISION FROM MONARCH FIRE BOARD ON DISCIPLINE AGAINST CAPTAIN FOR SPEAKING ABOUT BULLET-PROOF VESTS
July 10, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - The board of the Monarch Fire Protection District reached no decision at two closed meetings Thursday on disciplinary action against a department captain for talking to the media about the board's plans to buy bulletproof vests for protection during meetings.
The board held a disciplinary hearing for Capt. Chris Gelven at 4 p.m. at district headquarters in Chesterfield, and then went back into closed session after its scheduled 5:30 p.m. open meeting.
Board President Robin Harris said no vote was taken during the meetings and that the board would take up the issue again at next Thursday's closed meeting.
"We don't want to make a snap decision," Harris said. He said the board could chose a range of options: taking no action; a written or oral reprimand; suspension; demotion or termination.
Gelven, a shop steward for the firefighters' union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, spoke to the Post-Dispatch and other media outlets in April about the vest controversy. The board planned to use them to line a half-wall that sits in front of a desk board members use at meetings.
Gelven said he suspected the vests were a ploy by the board members to make the public think they're scared of the union. "It's just another tactic to make people think we are bad guys," he told the newspaper in April.
About 100 firefighters and supporters rallied at 3 p.m. before the afternoon closed-door disciplinary hearing. They stood at the entrance with waving signs criticizing board members and highlighting the controversy over the vests. Brad Peters, executive vice president of the union who attended the disciplinary hearing, said Gelven did nothing improper.
"Gelven was merely answering questions from a reporter on a matter of public interest," Peters said. "He was basically advising the public of how their tax dollars were being spent."
This is the latest of several controversies in the district. The union strongly opposed the March rehiring of a deputy chief who was fired from the department in 2011 when he was accused of misdeeds. The deputy chief, Cary Spiegel, was rehired as assistant chief.
In May, Chief Tom Vineyard resigned. Earlier this year, Assistant Chief John Borgmann and Batallion Chief Dave Houston also resigned.
The union said the board exceeded the district's 2013 budget by $725,000, including for legal fees of about $230,000 paid to two attorneys who contributed cash to the election campaigns Cunningham and Board President Robin Harris.
MONARCH FIRE BOARD MAY DISCIPLINE CAPTAIN FOR SPEAKING OUT ABOUT WALL OF BULLET-PROOF VESTS
July 10, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - The board of the Monarch Fire Protection District may discipline a department captain for talking to the media about the board's plans to buy bullet-proof vests for protection during meetings.
A disciplinary hearing for Capt. Chris Gelven will be held at district headquarters in Chesterfield this afternoon at 4 p.m. A rally by firefighters and supporters will be held at 3 p.m. before the closed-door meeting.
Gelven, a shop steward for the firefighters' union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, spoke to the Post-Dispatch and other media outlets in April about the vest controversy. The board planned to use them to line a half-wall that sits in front of a desk board members use at meetings.
Gelven said he suspected the vests were a ploy by the board members to make the public think they're scared of the union. "It's just another tactic to make people think we are bad guys," he told the newspaper in April.
Disciplinary action may include job termination, suspension, or demotion, the union said.
This is the latest of several controversies in the district. The union strongly opposed the March rehiring of a deputy chief who was fired from the department in 2011 when he was accused of misdeeds. The deputy chief, Cary Spiegel, was rehired as assistant chief.
In May, Chief Tom Vineyard resigned. Earlier this year, Assistant Chief John Borgmann and Batallion Chief Dave Houston also resigned.
The union said the board exceeded the district's 2013 budget by $725,000, including for legal fees of about $230,000 paid to two attorneys who contributed cash to the election campaigns of Board President Robin Harris and Secretary Jane Cunningham.
Cunningham, reached Wednesday night, said she could not comment about Gelven because it is a personnel issue.
According to Monarch Firefighters, Monarch Fire Captain Chris Gelven will be facing a pre-termination hearing on Thursday, July 10th at 4:00 p.m. There is no word on the cause of the termination threat.
The Monarch Firefighters will be holding a rally in support of Captain Gelven this Thursday, July 10th at 3pm at Monarch FPD Headquarters, 13725 Olive Blvd., prior to the hearing.
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District has hired an interim fire chief, as it continues looking for a permanent replacement for Tom Vineyard, who resigned in early May.
According to a district release, Wayne "Chuck" Marsonette has 23 years experience in fire, emergency medical services and law enforcement. He most recently was in the Risk Management Division of nursing home operator Reliant Care Management.
The release says Marsonette contributed to a reduction in employee injuries and workers' compensation claims.
Carey Spiegel has been serving as acting chief since Vineyard's resignation.
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District is hosting training for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).
The training includes fire investigation practical evolutions and classroom learning. Monarch's training tower is being used for the practical evolutions. In order to make it realistic, rooms were set up and furnished as living spaces. Then fires were set to simulate accidental and intentional fires. Monarch fire crews were used to extinguish the fires, and to gain live fire training.
BATFE personnel will perform fire scene examinations to determine the simulated cause and determine if they were "accidental" or "intentional" fires.
BOARD PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO ACCUSATIONS REGARDING MAINTENANCE, EQUIPMENT IN MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT
June 9, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - Last month, accusations were made regarding maintenance issues in the Monarch Fire Protection District. At its May 28 Board of Directors meeting, Board President Robin Harris responded to some of those accusations, including the sharing of emergency services and equipment, the current state of the Monarch water rescue boat and exposed wires and holes in the drywall at Firehouse #1.
Harris confirmed that Monarch has borrowed equipment and used services from other local fire districts, saying that the sharing of services and equipment is fairly common and is an accepted practice among emergency service providers in St. Louis County.
"On rare occasions, just like other fire districts in West County and all across the country, we will borrow a piece of equipment from a nearby district for a short span of time," Harris said. "More often than that, we loan one of our trucks to neighboring fire districts. That is part of a mutual aid agreement to provide unbroken service that we and our neighbors have."
Michael Turner, executive director of local dispatching service Central County Emergency 911, said having multiple fire districts responding to the same emergency can be expected, and multiple factors are taken into consideration in terms of which district and how many responders are sent out on a call.
"It's not unheard of, and it's usually set up that way for a faster response," Turner said. "It depends on what kind of fire it is. If it is a house fire, or a structure fire or a hazardous chemical spill or a vehicle rescue, that could very well occur, it just depends on the need and what kind of incidence it is."
Harris also discussed the condition of Monarch's Zodiac Boat, an inflatable watercraft used for river rescues, which had been damaged last year. Harris said the damaged section of the boat has been patched. However, at presstime, the boat's engine, which had been removed for repairs, was waiting to be fixed by a mechanic. Harris noted that the district's mutual aid agreements help to provide water rescue services if and when the Monarch boat is out of commission.
According to Harris, the removal of drywall at Firehouse #1 was due to a water leak that had caused some molding. Harris said the mold had been removed, and that Monarch is waiting for an insurance inspector to assess the damage before replacing the drywall.West Newsmagazine visited Firehouse #1 and observed one hole located in the station's laundry room, across from a shelf of cleaning supplies. The other is located near the station's water heater. The exposed wire is connected to an electronic buzzer and is located in a hallway connected to the garage.
Monarch Fire Marshal Roger Herin said the fire code requires wires with at least 110 volts running through them to be covered; the exposed wire at Firehouse #1 is low-voltage.
While acknowleding that the exposed wire should be fixed, Herin said: "The only wire that I know of is a low voltage wire. There's no danger to that at all."
The Monarch Fire Protection District has a long history of people coming and people going, as would any organization of 57 years. And that process continues.
Monarch hailed the arrival of two new Fire Prevention Bureau (FPB) employees due to the retirement of two previous FPB employees last year.
FPB Administrative Assistant Julie Gaylord started work on August 5, 2013, replacing Sylvia Gerdes who had been with Monarch for 18 years. Julie previously worked at Credo Community Center in New York as a Human Resource Assistant. She is a US Army veteran with a Purple Heart earned in a tour of service in Iraq.
Fire Inspector Joe Heitkamp started work with Monarch on September 3, 2013, replacing Roger Morris who had been with Monarch for 29 years. Joe previously worked at the Wentzville Fire Protection District where he was Fire Marshal. He has extensive experience in construction code enforcement as well as fire prevention.
Both of these employees were selected through a rigorous hiring process, and were judged the best qualified candidates for their respective jobs. We are happy to have both of these individuals in our Fire Prevention Bureau.
They were followed by the arrival of Assistant Chief Cary Spiegel in April. Chief Spiegel has more than 37 years of experience in the fire service. His training, experience and integrity will serve our District well.
Our newest arrival is Shanna Gelb. Shanna joined Monarch full-time on May 1st as a general office specialist. Her new
position means she will likely be the person greeting visitors to our Headquarters. Monarch has also said farewell to three employees recently.
Assistant Chief John Borgmann retired on March 7, 2014 after 33 years of service with Monarch. Assistant Chief Borgmann started his career with the District in January 1981. He was promoted to Captain in August of 1988, was promoted to Battalion Chief in December of 2006, and was promoted to Assistant Chief in February 2012.
Battalion Chief Dave Houston retired on April 27, 2014 after 26 years of service with Monarch. Battalion Chief Houston started his career with the District in August 1988. He was promoted to Captain in 1999 and was promoted to Battalion Chief in 2012.
Fire Chief Tom Vineyard resigned his position May 9, 2014 after just over two years of service with Monarch to accept a position as Chief of the O'Fallon Fire District. Chief Vineyard started as Chief of the District in January of 2012. While at Monarch, Chief Vineyard was elected President of the Greater St. Louis Area Fire Chiefs Association.
We sincerely thank all three of these Chiefs for their years of service to Monarch, and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.
PROBLEMS WITH EQUIPMENT IN TROUBLED MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
May 21, 2014 - KTVI
CHESTERFIELD - The You Paid For It team investigates the troubles with facilities and equipment in the troubled Monarch Fire Protection District in West County.
According to internal reports obtained by Fox 2, the district needs hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs to facilities and million for equipment. Investigator Elliott Davis went to engine houses in the district to see problems with the roof, with electrical wiring, issues with foxing a mold problem, and a broken down rescue boat.
The former fire chief tells Elliott Davis the district has had to borrow fire trucks when their own truck and back-up broke down.
But District Board President Robin Harris says this board is doing a good job keeping tab on things. The board has been locked in a bitter battle with its own firefighters over spending priorities and personnel issues.
CHESTERFIELD RESIDENT PRAISES FIREFIGHTERS AND PARAMEDICS IN MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
May 16, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
ST. LOUIS - Russell Lake, founder of non-profit community organization Monarch Residents for Truth www.monarchresidentsfortruth.org is praising firefighters and paramedics in the Monarch Fire Protection District who are dealing with resignations of three fire chiefs in recent months and leadership controversy.
"As a Chesterfield resident and taxpayer I am very relieved that our firefighters and paramedics are assuring citizens that services will not be affected despite the resignations of Chief Tom Vineyard and two other chiefs in recent months, and the appointment of a new Acting Chief," notes Lake.
"Chief Vineyard was much admired," says Lake, who works as a Certified Business Advisor for small and mid size businesses in metropolitan St. Louis. "Chief Vineyard had entered the fire service as a private and worked his way to the top. He resigned in April a few weeks after Battalion Chief Dave Houston resigned and two months after Assistant Chief John Borgmann resigned.
"These resignations occurred at a time when the Monarch Board has been publicly chastised for exceeding the District's 2013 budget by $725,000 and for rehiring former Deputy Chief Cary Spiegel, who was previously fired after he was embroiled in a gender discrimination lawsuit," notes Lake.
"These issues raised questions among local residents about Board management of the district and the district's future," he adds.
"Despite these leadership resignations and questions about the Board of Directors' management of taxpayer dollars, our community's firefighter/paramedic team is constantly on duty providing emergency services to residents, businesses and property owners," says Lake.
"I applaud our firefighter/paramedic team who are members of the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri IAFF Local 2665 for their unwavering commitment to serve our community."
Firefighters/Paramedics in the Monarch Fire Protection District serve large parts of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights and Wildwood, plus parts of unincorporated St. Louis County. The district covers 63 square miles as an independent taxing authority with a three-member Board of Directors elected to six-year terms.
The independent, non-profit community organization Monarch Residents for Truth provides information, news and opinions to help people understand important issues in Monarch Fire Protection District.
For more information, see the website http://www.monarchresidentsfortruth.org.
The Monarch FPD is currently searching for a qualified candidate to fill the position of Battalion Chief. Resumes of candidates are due no later than Friday May 30, 2014:
Responsibilities Include (but are not limited to):
- Determines plan of action of fire companies responding to calls in fire, salvage, and rescue operations. Directs personnel in use of firefighting equipment.
- Enters fire site during fires to coordinate and supervise firefighting activities of companies on-site, and reports events to appropriate command position.
- Directs rescue and evacuation activities.
- Determines need for additional personnel and apparatus to control and extinguish fires.
- Determines when fire is extinguished and fire grounds are secure.
- Questions witnesses to determine cause and origin of fire.
- Evaluates operations and practices used in fighting fires.
- Plans for purchase of new equipment and use of new techniques in rescue, first aid, and firefighting operations.
- Directs inspections of commercial buildings to ensure compliance with fire and safety regulations.
- Inspects fire stations, equipment, personnel, and records of assigned companies to ensure efficiency and enforcement of departmental regulations.
- Recommends awards for personnel for superior service.
- Responsible for the safe operation of a department vehicle.
- Bachelor's Degree preferred
- 5+ Years as a Captain or previous experience as a Battalion Chief.
- St. Louis County Fire Academy Firefighter I & II Certification or willingness to attend and comply with county ordinance.
- Experience working in a large multi-firehouse District
- EMT/Paramedic license preferred
- Ability to work odd hours as needed
Benefits and Benefits Include:
- Salary commensurate with experience
- Excellent medical, dental and vision coverage
- Fully paid life insurance (with option to purchase more)
- Paid Vacation (after 1 year)
- Sick days (6 per year)
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- 11 Paid Holidays
- Tuition reimbursement
- Pension plan
- + MORE!
Please send resume with cover letter AND salary expectations on or before May 30, 2014 to Lexow.email@example.com or to address below.
Monarch FPD, Attention: Human Resources Director
13725 Olive Blvd.
Chesterfield, MO 63017
The Monarch Fire Protection District is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
MASS CASUALTY DRILL OFFERS REALISTIC TRAINING OPPORTUNITY
May 6, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
ST. LOUIS - For a few hours on May 4, Chesterfield Mall no doubt had more first responders at the retail complex than any other place in the metropolitan area. That's because the location also had scores of "victims" to be rescued and given medical attention and two "bad guys" to be dealt with.
No, it wasn't an actual mass casualty incident, although it was as real as local, state and national law enforcement and emergency agencies could make it.
In total, more than 250 participated in the simulation - included were local students, teachers and parents whose realistic make-up displayed a variety of wounds, and personnel from fire and emergency medical agencies in both St. Louis and St. Charles Counties, as well as Chesterfield police, St. Louis County police, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and a number of area hospitals.
Monarch Fire Protection District and Chesterfield Mall hosted the event, designed to give participants the chance to assess capabilities, plans, policies and procedures for dealing with a mass casualty incident.
According to Nick Harper, Monarch deputy chief, the area's disaster capabilities haven't been realistically tested since a previous exercise in 1998. Since then, "the best practices learned from increased terrorism activity have changed the way we think and react," Harper said.
The exercise scenario involved two armed terrorists shooting randomly at people in the mall. One of the shooters is hit by police gunfire but detonates a backpack of explosives before he dies, sending shrapnel flying in all directions. His companion hears the explosion and takes hostages. He eventually is overpowered by police, and the hostages are rescued.
Harper said the exercise went well.
"I believe we met all of our objectives," he said. "We found a few glitches in our communications process, but those will be lessons learned and we can develop procedures to address them.
"We had great support from our volunteers and all the agencies that participated, There was a little time lost as we were getting everybody set and ready to go, but that goes with the territory."
Rebecca Wu, spokeswoman for the local FBI office, said the Chesterfield Mall exercise is one of a number of similar drills the FBI is conducting throughout the nation with the DHS. The FBI learned of plans for event here and asked to be included, she said.
It's important to note, she added, that the FBI office joined forces with local agencies not in response to any threat here but simply to validate its response to such emergency situations in coordination with others.
CHESTERFIELD - The embattled Monarch Fire Protection District is losing its well-respected chief. Some of the department's firefighters are calling the resignation a huge loss as they express concern over the future of the department.
The concern comes from an intense ongoing fight between the firefighter union and the district's board of directors. The union says the fight is making the department a difficult place to work.
"We need to get back to serving the community. The political agendas and everything else that's going on needs to stop," said local firefighter union Business Manager Jeff Proctor.
There are a long list of disagreements between the firefighter union and the board of directors. One of them is the board's decision to re-hire a man fired a couple of years ago over gender discrimination, and appoint him assistant chief.
"Obviously we've voiced our views and concerns about that," Proctor said.
Chief Tom Vineyard tells Newschannel 5 about his resignation that he's "doing what's best for my career and my family."
"He was a great chief to the men and women of the Monarch Fire Protection District," Proctor said.
So, some firefighters are expressing deep concern over the resignation and accusing the board of making Monarch an unattractive place to work. The board denies that claim.
"I would suggest that an outstanding pay and benefit package is indicative of a district that's making sure its employees are well cared for," said Monarch Board of Directors President Robin Harris.
Harris also says the union is fueling the conflict by filing numerous grievances and complaints against them.
"I would love for this conflict to end," Harris said.
But firefighters say if that were true all they'd be worrying about, is doing their jobs.
"This has got to stop. This cannot effect public safety," Proctor said.
Chief Vineyard's last day will be May 9. Then, the controversial assistant chief will take over until a replacement is hired. The board says it will start the process of hiring a new chief at its meeting Thursday.
FIRE CHIEF OF EMBATTLED MONARCH DISTRICT SUBMITS RESIGNATION
April 29, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - The chief of the embattled Monarch Fire Protection District has resigned, a board official said Tuesday.
Tom Vineyard, who has been the chief of the Monarch district since January 2012, submitted a letter on Friday saying he was quitting, said board member Jane Cunningham.
Vineyard may be going to O'Fallon, Mo. Neil Bruntrager, attorney for the O'Fallon Fire Protection District, said officials there had offered Vineyard that agency's fire chief job. He has yet to accept or decline.
The resignation letter did not offer a reason for Vineyard's departure or mention his future plans. It did say his last day with the district will be May 9, Cunningham said. He earned $133,193 last year as chief.
Vineyard could not be reached for comment.
In recent months, Monarch has been embroiled in controversy, pitting union firefighters against board members who had pledged reform.
Controversies have erupted over several issues, including:
- Placing the union logo on pink T-shirts the firefighters wore during October, breast cancer awareness month.
- Disclosure of a plan to line part of the board room with bullet-proof vests for the safety of fire officials.
- The use of a firefighter Twitter account to deliver information that the board said was "skewed and sometimes completely inaccurate."
The O'Fallon Fire Protection District has been marked by its own controversy in recent months.
Ten top officers were offered buyouts last fall in an effort to trim an organization that board members said was top heavy.
Five of the 10 officials who were targeted answered the board's request with a lawsuit in early December that asked a judge to ensure they'd get severance pay if they were fired in a cost-cutting move.
Then on April 21, two of those officials - Chief Mike Ballmann and Division Chief Randy Sanders - were placed on paid administrative leave.
The two officials have until May 12 to make a decision on a termination offer.
Bruntrager said hiring Vineyard for the chief's position before Ballmann and Sanders make their decision presented no legal problems for the district.
He said he could not disclose the details of the offer made to Vineyard since he has not yet accepted it.
Vineyard could take a pay cut if he accepts; Ballmann's base salary was $109,000 in 2013.
Steve Koslovsky, attorney for Ballmann and Sanders, declined to comment on the latest twist in the situation.
CHESTERFIELD MALL MASS CASUALTY EXERCISE SET FOR MAY 4
April 29, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
The Monarch Fire Protection District/Chesterfield Mall mass casualty exercise is swiftly approaching. At 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, multiple first responder agencies will take part in a large-scale drill designed to give participants an opportunity to assess their capabilities, plans, procedures and policies. The drill will start in earnest after the mall closes for the day, and will continue until 10 p.m.
According to a Monarch press release, the scenario is expected to show successful communication, information sharing and coordination between fire, EMS, law enforcement, FBI and St. Louis regional hospitals.
"The St. Louis area disaster preparedness capabilities have not been stressed to this level of realism since 1998 (during a previous mass casualty exercise),"
Monarch Deputy Chief Nick Harper said in the release. "The 'best practices' learned from the increased terrorism activity over the last decade has changed the way we think and react toward the terrible acts against the innocent."
According to the release, the May 4 scenario will include two "active shooters" randomly shooting at citizens in the mall. The scenario will have responders dealing with the detonation of an improvised explosive device, and a hostage situation as well.
ST. LOUIS - A firefighter is fired over gender discrimination, only to be hired back a couple of years later.
It's the biggest issue in an ongoing battle playing out in the Monarch Fire Protection District. One of the female firefighters who filed the suit says she never wanted it to get that far. But, she says she felt she'd run out of options. So, she went to court, and won her case only to have the issue come back to haunt her.
That firefighter is Donna Kessler. She's worked for the department for around 20 years. So, when she says she was treated differently because she was a woman, she hoped her superiors would fix the problem. But, that didn't happen.
"I was just threatened and told to stay away from the boys," said Kessler.
Years went by, and finally, Donna and another female firefighter felt they had run out of options. So, they filed their case in court and won. The department appealed, but lost the appeal, with a judge calling the district's working environment "abusive."
"That's when I thought everything would get better. I thought our department really made strides to correct this issue," said Kessler.
Four people were fired. But then, a new board of directors took office, and just recently one of the men fired in the wake of the suit, Cary Spiegel, was re-hired as the assistant chief.
"This is somebody who has threatened me before. And now he's going to be directly in charge of my safety," said Kessler.
But the two board members who voted to rehire him call him a man of "integrity."
"He is not attempting to do anything other than perform the job that he loves. And he is not focused on the past but wanting to look forward into the future," said President of the Board of Directors, Robin Harris.
Harris also says he believed Spiegel should have never been fired because he says the lawsuit was filed against the department and not against Spiegel. Another board member has called the suit a political move by the firefighter union.
"I was very appalled and disturbed by that. This was never a ploy by the union, this has everything to do with human rights," said Kessler.
The board says it did not speak with Kessler or the other woman who won the lawsuit when making the decision to hire Spiegel, because it says that is not normal protocol. There are three people on the board. We're told one of them voted to not re-hire Spiegel.
NewsChannel 5 reached out to Spiegel for comment but did not hear back.
MONARCH FIRE BOARD DISPUTES RUMOR FROM FIREFIGHTER'S UNION
April 23, 2014 - KTVI
CHESTERFIELD - A member of the Monarch Fire Protection District Board is calling reports the board has purchased used bullet proof vests to line a podium desk 'rumors.' Board Secretary Jane Cunningham criticized firefighter union leader Chris Cleven as 'reckless and irresponsible' for even sharing possible security measures.
However she said any purchases will be posted on the fire district web site as part of the district's transparency policy. "If you don`t find it on there, then obviously there was no expense," Cunningham said Wednesday.
She refused to discuss the possibility of any security measures, but said "Like any good organization or political subdivision we're gonna plan ahead; we're gonna do the things that are proper to protect our colleagues and officers."
MONARCH FIRE DEPARTMENT LEADERS DECRY USE OF FIREFIGHTER TWITTER ACCOUNT
April 24, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - Leaders of the Monarch Fire Protection District said the department "may be an identity theft victim," decrying the use of a Twitter account run by firefighters and paramedics.
Members of the department's board, Chief Thomas Vineyard, and Assistant Chief Cary Spiegel said in press release issued Wednesday that a Twitter account @MonarchOutreach, described on its account page as the "Official Twitter account for the Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics" is "delivering skewed and sometimes completely inaccurate information."
The department points the public to its website, www.monarchfpd.org, and its Twitter account, @monarchfpd, for "current, detailed and accurate information."
Andrew Shoop, speaking as a staff representative for the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2665, says the Monarch Outreach account is used for providing information about charitable causes members contribute to as well as other information. "I can tell you that the outreach account as well as monarchfirefighters.org website all tend to be extremely accurate in the stuff they're bringing to light, stuff that taxpayers should be concerned about," he said.
This isn't the first public squabble this week between the board and union members. Union members decried the board's apparent plans to buy used bulletproof police vests and use them to line a half-wall that board members sit behind during meetings. A shop steward called the plan "absolutely ridiculous." Board secretary Jane Cunningham refused to discuss the rumors, saying that firefighters jeopardized the safety of their colleagues by leaking information about it.
The union strongly opposed the rehiring of Spiegel in March as its new assistant chief. Spiegel was fired from the department in 2011 when he was accused of misdeeds. The majority of the fire protection board determined that the misdeeds were "unfounded," according to a statement from the board.
BULLET-PROOF VESTS WILL LINE MEETING ROOM WALL TO PROTECT MONARCH FIRE BOARD, FIREFIGHTERS SAY
April 23, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - The members of Monarch Fire Protection District's Board of Directors have bought used bulletproof vests from police to help protect themselves during meetings, firefighters said.
"We'd heard rumors about it, and it's been the big running joke around here that they're going to do it, because it's sounded absolutely ridiculous," Capt. Chris Gelven, a shop steward for the firefighter's union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, said Tuesday night. "But apparently it's actually happening."
The district's board members will not wear the vests, however - the vests will line a half-wall that sits in front of the desk they use at board meetings, Gelven said. The vests are supposed to be installed by the end of the week, Gelven said.
Gelven hasn't heard of any threats against the board members, or Chief Tom Vineyard or Assistant Chief Cary Spiegel, who sit behind the desk at meetings. Board members are President Robin Harris, secretary Jane Cunningham, and treasurer Steve Swyers. Two or three off-duty police officers usually attend the district's meetings to provide protection, Gelven said.
Cunningham, reached Tuesday night, said she could not speak about any security plans and blasted Gelven for doing so. "Anything we have to do to keep our employees or officers safe is obviously private information, and for him to leak any kind of information like that only jeopardizes his safety and those of his colleagues," she said.
Gelven said he suspects the vests are a ploy by the board members to make the public think they're scared of the union. "It's just another tactic to make people think we are bad guys," he said.
The union strongly opposed the rehiring of Spiegel, who was fired from the department in 2011 when he was accused of misdeeds. Spiegel was rehired in March as its new assistant chief.
The majority of the fire protection board determined that the misdeeds were "unfounded," according to a statement from the board.
Cunningham pointed out the positive changes the department has made in recent months, including starting drug and alcohol testing of employees, opening collective bargaining to the public, and placing a "transparency portal" of expenses online. The portal does not yet appear to mention the vests.
"There's still a lot of ugly, horrible things going on," said Cunningham. "There's some good things happening in the middle of it."
IS THE MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT WASTING MONEY ON SECURITY MEASURES?
April 22, 2014 - KMOV
CHESTERFIELD - News 4 has learned the Monarch Fire Poretection District's board recently bought bullet proof vests so they could protect board members during meetings.
Representatives from a firefighters union have told News 4 that the board recently purchased used Kevlar bullet proof vests from police. The vests will be used to create a bulletproof wall meant to protect board members during meetings.
News 4 attempted to obtain a comment from Board President Robin Harris and Secretary Jane Cunningham but they refused to talk about the wall because all security measures are discussed during closed meetings and are not made public. Currently, a police officer stands guard at board meetings.
Firefighters have told News 4 they understand why a police officer is necessary at meetings, but do not understand why the wall is being built.
"I'm not sure what good it'll even do for them safety wise in the event something were to happen," Chris Gelvin said. "But I can't even imagine what it's going to look like so I'm not sure."
There has been tension between the board and firefighters in the past. In 2011, a deputy chief was fired, but then rehired as assistant chief in March
COMMUNITY RESPONDS WITH PROTEST, PRAISE TO NEW MONARCH ASSISTANT CHIEF
April 14, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
Mixed declarations of protest and support regarding the Monarch Fire Protection District's new assistant chief filled the Board of Directors meeting on April 10.
The reaction stemmed from the board's March 26 decision to hire former Monarch employee Cary Spiegel.
Spiegel, and three other Monarch employees, had been dismissed from Monarch after a 2011 lawsuit involving discrimination against female firefighters was filed against the district.
Monarch board member Jane Cunningham said she could not find anything in the court documents that justified the termination of any individuals in Monarch, except one person who had not been dismissed.
"There was nothing, as people have said, there were no lawsuits, there were no judgments against any individuals, and if you read the court documents you'll see that the women actually said they had nothing against any individuals and carefully did not want to name any individuals," Cunningham said.
But board member Steve Swyers said, "To assert that it was the district and no individuals, I find interesting. But I find it ridiculous to assume that there's no individuals culpable in this situation. I really, really do."
During the public comments at the April 10 meeting, IAFF Local 2665 business manager Jeff Proctor presented the board with a vote of no confidence in Spiegel on behalf of the Monarch firefighters, and requested that Spiegel be removed.
"On behalf of the 2,000 men and women of the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri IAFF Local 2665, I ask this board, this community, to end this discriminatory and hostile work environment," Proctor said.
Marlyn Flanter, a local resident, told those gathered at the meeting that she finds it hard to comprehend the decision to rehire Spiegel.
"Not only was there an original judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in St. Louis County Court, but a second suit that was affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals," Flanter said. "By its very nature, these judgments render him not qualified for leadership or management positions."
But Chesterfield Resident Jane Durrell said she "categorically disagrees" with the statements made by Proctor and Flanter.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank the board for serving the citizens of this district. Tonight especially I thank you for appointing assistant chief Cary Spiegel. Congratulations to you on your well deserved return," she said, turning her attention to the new assistant chief.
Local resident Ron Cawood also congratulated Spiegel's appointment.
"We were elated that you found someone with assistant chief Spiegel's credentials," Cawood said. "We're tired of the antics of the firefighters here in the Monarch Fire District."
On April 4, the Missouri Chapter of the National Organization for Women announced through a press release that they were supporting Local 2665's protest of Spiegel's appointment.
"In 2014, we will not be silent while public servants are treated disrespectfully," the release reads. "We demand a public accounting by Robin Harris' Monarch Fire Protection District board, and strongly urge reconsideration of the decision to place Cary Spiegel in any position of authority."
After the meeting, Spiegel said he appreciated the residents' comments, and that he is looking forward to working toward moving the district forward.
"I'm honored to serve as assistant chief and eager to work with the chief to restore faith and confidence in the fire district," he said.
CHESTERFIELD - Chesterfield Mall will be the scene of a drill for a mass casualty incident on Sunday, May 4, involving 13 first responder agencies, 18 hospitals and some 150 "victims."
The exercise is designed to test the procedures and readiness of health care and first responder organizations to deal with scores of casualties from an unexpected emergency. It's the first large-scale drill of its type held in the area since 1998, Nick Harper, deputy chief at the Monarch Fire Protection District, recently told the district's board of directors.
According to Harper, the incident will be patterned after the terrorist attack last September at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where more than 270 people were killed or injured.
Students, parents and teachers from high schools in the area have volunteered to be "victims" and will be wear make-up to simulate various kinds of wounds.
The exercise will begin after the mall closes for the day and will continue until about 10 p.m. A briefing will follow.
MONARCH FIREFIGHTER'S UNION REQUESTS REMOVAL OF NEW CONTROVERCIAL CHIEF
April 10, 2014 - KTVI
CHESTERFIELD - Many heated words were exchanged at Thursday's Monarch Fire Protection District board meeting.
It's the first board meeting since newly hired Assistant Fire Chief Cary Spiegel took office. Spiegel is a former Monarch Deputy Chief. His return to the district is controversial, since he was fired in 2011, along with three other Monarch officials, following a gender discrimination lawsuit.
At Thursday's board meeting, the firefighters' union presented the board with a vote of no confidence in this recent hire. The letter includes a request to remove Spiegel, thus removing the threat of a hostile work environment.
However, two out of the three board members who chose to hire Spiegel, along with half a dozen citizens who spoke at this meeting, shared a different narrative. By supporting Spiegel in his new role, they say they are not refuting the court findings. Two of the plaintiffs were awarded damages, but Spiegel was not named in the lawsuit; only the district was. They maintain Spiegel's innocence, and say he was the best candidate for the job. Some, including Monarch Board President Robin Harris, stated that these four officers were fired in 2011, not for discrimination, but because they wouldn't take union orders.
Spiegel started his new job on Monday. Fox 2 spoke with firefighters who said Spiegel's first week on the job has been awkward, especially since several of those who now work under him testified against him during the lawsuit.
THE MISSOURI CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN ISSUES STATEMENT ON MONARCH'S ASSISTANT CHIEF
April 4, 2014 -
The following is a statement released by The Missouri Chapter of the National Organization for Women regarding the hiring of Cary Spiegel as Assistant Chief For the Monarch Fire Protection District:
The Missouri Chapter of the National Organization for Women joins the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 in protesting the decision by the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors to hire former Deputy Chief Cary Spiegel as Assistant Chief.
Having been fired by the Fire District in 2011, after the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed judgments against Monarch in favor of two female employees who had brought a gender discrimination law suit against the District naming Spiegel, third in command at that time, and others as complicit in actions of gender discrimination and creation of a hostile work environment, makes Spiegel, by definition, inappropriate for any managerial position. Aware that he has maintained his innocence, we assert that if not complicit, he would have had to have been clueless as to what was going on throughout his department, for discrimination and a hostile work environment to have flourished. Neither alternative is acceptable.
Though Monarch Board President Robin Harris says his education and experience make Spiegel the most qualified candidate for Assistant Chief, his accusers have maintained that he was complicit in the abuse leading up to the 2011 judgment. Experience and education are only two among many factors that make a candidate qualified for a position. Spiegel will have neither the respect of the firefighters nor the confidence of the public. We find it extraordinary, as well, that Chief Tom Vineyard, to whom Spiegel will directly report, was not included in the selection process for his own Assistant Chief.
Firefighters, indeed all workers, deserve dignity, supportive working environments, and freedom from discrimination. In 2014, we will not be silent while public servants are treated disrespectfully. We demand a public accounting by Robin Harris' Monarch Fire Protection District board, and strongly urge reconsideration of the decision to place Cary Spiegel in any position of authority.
ST. LOUIS - A somber team of firefighters and paramedics from the Monarch Fire Protection District in Chesterfield are attending funeral services this week in Boston to honor two members of the Boston Fire Department killed in the line of duty when an explosive fire trapped the men a four-story building on March 26.
"We are here to pay our respects and honor our brave brethren who died horrific deaths while doing their jobs," said Andrew Shoop, firefighter/paramedic with the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 serving the Monarch District.
"This is a sad day for the families of our fallen comrades and for every firefighter/paramedic across America, yet it is a day of glory because those brave men died as heroes," Shoop said.
An estimated 10,000 firefighters from across the nation are in Boston this week to mourn the deaths of Boston Fire Department Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. of and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy.
"Times like these remind us and citizens whom we serve that firefighting is a profession that can kill at any moment, robbing people of their friends and family," said Shoop. "Our Monarch team is proud to be members of the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 who serve people in the Chesterfield, Missouri region and proud to pay our respects to the Boston Fire Department and their fallen heroes."
The two men died battling an inferno that tore through a Boston apartment building, causing a fiery explosion that trapped them in the basement where they desperately called for help as their water ran low despite frantic attempts to save them. "The fire escalated very quickly; in 30 years, I've never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quickly, and cause such havoc." said Boston Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn.
Fanned by wind gusts, the nine-alarm fire in Boston blasted up from the basement of the four-story apartment building, triggering a powerful explosion that sent people running and screaming into the street. Authorities said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but that wind blowing off the Charles River caused it to rage out of control within minutes, engulfing the Beacon Street neighborhood in a thick cloud of black smoke.
The Monarch Fire Protection District and its Firefighters/Paramedics serve approximately 63 square miles across large parts of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights and Wildwood, plus parts of unincorporated St. Louis County, Missouri.
For more information, contact Andrew Shoop at 636 278 0279 or Andrew T. Stecko at 636 368 6123.
Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665
Former State Senator Jane Cunningham has chosen not to return to the Missouri State Senate, instead opting to continue her work on the Monarch Fire Protection District's Board of Directors.
According to Cunningham, the Republican Party had recently arranged a meeting between her and State Rep. Dave Schatz (R-District 111), who had already filed for the 26th Senatorial District. Cunningham said that this was done to see if either she or Schatz would agree to step back, in order to eliminate the need for a primary.
"He was unwilling at all to step back from his decision to run," Cunningham said.
According to Cunningham, the main reason behind her decision was to save Republican Party supporters from being strained by an unnecessary primary.
"I felt like the party is more important and governing in the state is more important than burdening donors anymore," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said that originally, she had been drawn toward returning to her former position for several reasons, one being that she felt her expertise on issues currently circulating through the legislature, including education reform and labor management issues, would be beneficial.
Now, Cunningham said, her work with Monarch will have her undivided attention.
"Obviously I will stay with Monarch," Cunningham said. "That was always a priority of mine and will continue to be."
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS REACT TO HIRING OF ASSISTANT CHIEF
March 28, 2014 -
Monarch Fire Protection District firefighters and paramedics issued the following statement in reaction to the Board of Directors hiring of the new Assistant Fire Chief:
Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics are astounded that in a 2 to 1 decision the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors have chosen to hire former Deputy Chief Cary Spiegel as our new Assistant Chief.
Mr. Spiegel was fired by the Fire District on November 19, 2011, after the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed judgments against Monarch in favor of two female employees who had brought a gender discrimination law suit against the District that named Cary Spiegel, Leslie Crews, Michael Davis and one other command officer in the lawsuit.
The decision to re-hire former Deputy Chief Cary Spiegel after he was terminated following a gender discrimination lawsuit will generate a hostile environment within the District.
We are baffled as to why Board Secretary Jane Cunningham and Board President Robin Harris made the majority vote to reinstate Cary Spiegel. A command position such as Assistant Chief requires respect. Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics and many citizens in the communities that we serve have lost all respect for Cary Spiegel.
This is a careless decision by Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris that could pose very negative outcome for employees and citizens of the Monarch Fire Protection District. We demand careful reconsideration and a full explanation, as to why Cary Spiegel should be rehired, especially to a command position.
Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics will continue monitoring the situation over the weekend and by Monday will have a plan in place to possibly take legal action to prevent such a detrimental decision by the board. We will be evaluating the best ways to represent our membership and the two female employees, (previously involved in the matter) and currently still employed at Monarch.
Andrew T Stecko
3rd District Vice President
Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665
SPIEGEL NAMED AS NEW ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF FOR MONARCH
March 28, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District's Board of Directors has named Cary Spiegel as its new assistant fire chief.
In a press statement released on Friday, March 28, Spiegel is cited as having met and exceeded all the requirements needed for a command position.
The release goes on to say that "Mr. Spiegel possesses the skills, background and integrity to be an excellent Assistant Chief in leading the District into the future."
Prior to the announcement of Spiegel as assistant chief, Captain Chris Gelven, shop steward of Local 2665, had said the union had some concerns with the upcoming appointment.
"We feel like, based on the things that have happened and that we've heard about, this is going to be nothing more than a political appointment," Gelven said.
EMBATTLED MONARCH FIRE DEPARTMENT HIRES NEW ASSISTANT CHIEF
March 27, 2014 - KTVI
CHESTERFIELD - Controversy continues in the Monarch Fire Protection District over the appointment of a new assistant chief. Relations between the board members and unionized firefighters have been on thin ice ever since an April election changed the board's makeup.
The assistant chief for this west St. Louis County fire department stepped down on March 9th. Since then, Monarch board members have quickly worked to replace him. But Monarch firefighters are deeply concerned about two candidates they claim are on the list. They say both were fired from previous posts.
One was terminated from Wentzville's fire department; the other was a deputy chief fired from Monarch over gender discrimination.
Monarch Fire Captain Chris Gelven says, "One of the big concerns is that two of the females that were harassed still work here at the district, and they're considering hiring this person who created a hostile work environment."
Gelven, who serves as a union shop steward, says firefighters are also upset that no internal candidates made the final rounds: "We have several guys who applied who have many years of experience, over 35 years of experience each, and I know for a fact that they didn't get to any final interview, from word of mouth from them, and that's a shame."
When it comes to the candidates, Monarch Board President Robin Harris will neither confirm nor deny who applied: "Only the HR officer and the board were aware of the list of applicants."
But Gelven insists, "Anything around town gets around, when somebody's doing an interview, people talk."
In a closed session before Wednesday's public meeting, the board chose the new assistant chief, but his identity won't be released until he officially accepts the job. "Certainly not later than Monday evening, we'll have the answer," Harris says.
As for the firefighters, Gelven adds, "I guess our hope is that whoever is picked, it's not a political appointment, and it's somebody that we can work with and move the district forward in a positive manner."
LOWER PROPERTY VALUATIONS PLAY ROLE IN MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT REVENUE DECLINE
March 25, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - Although no one is pushing a panic button, members of the Monarch Fire Protection District board are looking carefully at the district's financial situation and what the future may hold.
The issue arose at the board's March 13 meeting when directors considered and unanimously approved a resolution amending the 2013 budget to align it with year-end results. Among other things, the year saw a drop in tax revenues. In response to a question from Director Jane Cunningham about whether the decline was due to a drop in the assessed value of property in the district or because more people had protested their taxes, Michelle DePew, Monarch's controller, said both factors played a role.
In light of those factors, Director Steve Swyers posed three issues he believes merit further examination - whether the district's financial reserves are adequate, whether budgeted expenditures can be cut further without harming service, and developing a plan to manage capital expenditures. On the final point, Swyers suggested a management-employee team be formed to determine the district's capital expenditure needs and priorities and how they could be met.
No action was taken on Swyers' recommendations but Board President Robin Harris said Monarch's reserves now are 44 percent of the current budget, compared with the 40-percent level current board policy has targeted as a minimum.
On a different, but related, front, the board asked Chief Tom Vineyard (right) to submit a monthly report detailing the use of Kelly days - time off scheduled to avoid payment of overtime. A recently approved board policy officially abolished Kelly days but calls for granting the time off if doing so doesn't result in having to call in a replacement employee who is paid overtime.
Overtime payments in 2013 were substantially less than in 2012.
CUNNINGHAM SAYS SHE WON'T SEEK GOP NOD FOR ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE
March 19, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - Former state Sen. Jane Cunningham, asked by Republicans to consider running for St. Louis County executive, announced Wednesday that she will not seek the nomination in the August GOP primary.
Cunningham, director of the Monarch Fire Protection District in west St. Louis County, had tweeted to a supporter on Tuesday that she was "coordinating with others" and "there is good news ahead!"
But in comments to reporters on Wednesday after a Monarch board meeting, she revealed that the good news was that Republicans had a different candidate in mind to run for the county's highest office. She said he needed "to be reassured that (he) will not have to face a primary campaign against me in order to reform our wayward county government."
Cunningham would not give away the name of the candidate and said to expect an announcement on Monday. "I want this to be his announcement, his surprise," she said.
She said she had been serious about running but also wanted the publicity about her interest in the position to "prime the Republican pump" for other qualified candidates.
She said the candidate is highly qualified, and well known, but has not run for executive in the past.
"I can't tell you who it is," she said. "Oh, I want to so bad!"
Cunningham said she is considering running for the state Senate in the 26th District, the seat being vacated by Brian Nieves. She said she would announce her decision on Tuesday, the filing deadline.
Cunningham left the senate in 2012 after her district, the 7th, was reconfigured.
She was also a four-term member of the Missouri House from 2000-08.
Green Park Alderman Tony Pousosa and Ellisville Councilman Matt Pirrello are already seeking the GOP nomination for the county post.
St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger is challenging incumbent County Executive Charlie Dooley on the Democratic side.
Theo "Ted" Brown Sr. is running unopposed on the Libertarian ticket.
ST. LOUIS - Former state Senator Jane Cunningham will answer the question, "Are you running for St. Louis County Executive?" at tonight's Monarch Fire Board meeting, where she serves as secretary.
Cunningham hasn't said whether she's running, but she talks as if she will.
"The experience I've had on Monarch Fire Board, has been very instructive to me of reforms that can be used in the county," said Cunningham. "How we can quickly turn around a district that's in disarray."
The last Republican attempting to a run was Bill Corrigan, who lost to incumbent Democrat Charlie Dooley. After what happened to Corrigan, is there a silver lining for Republicans this time around?
"I have been deciding after the urging Republican leaders in St. Louis County, deciding about running for county exec and I will announce that decision tonight," says Cunningham.
She feels that the party has an excellent chance because of highly publicized mismanagement, FBI investigations, corruption and the misuse of money.
MONARCH FIREMEN EXPRESS CONCERNS OVER CUNNINGHAM RUNNING FOR OFFICE
March 18, 2014 - KMOX
ST. LOUIS COUNTY - With one week until the filing deadline for the St. Louis County Executive race, some Monarch firemen and paramedics say they've got a lot of concerns about Jane Cunningham running.
Cunningham is the Monarch Fire Board Director. She has publically considered running for the office, but she's still on the fence.
Local 2665 staff representative Andrew Shoop says if she does decide to run, the people of St. Louis County should know that the fire protection district is a quarter of a million dollars in debt-and he says it's mostly Cunningham's fault.
"There's a complete mismanagement in legal fees to the ring of in between $230,000 and $250,000," he says.
He says Cunningham and co-director Robin Harris spent $200,000 on a lawyer and spent $200,000 on indemity insurance.
Cunningham says the fire district's debt is a result of decreasing revenues, and lots of local districts are also in debt.
"With the revenue down all over the county, Monarch is in the same situation as other political subdivisions," she says.
She also says she's not abandoning Monarch.
"It stays my top priority no matter what, and I will not leave Monarch for anything else," she says. "I can do both."
But Shoop questions whether it's legal for Cunningham to do both.
The Monarch FPD is currently searching for an Assistant Fire Chief at its HQ facility at 13725 Olive Blvd. in Chesterfield, MO. Salary will be commensurate with experience. Resumes of candidates are due no later than 4:00pm on Friday, March 14, 2014.
The Monarch Fire Protection District covers a geographic area of almost 62 square miles in West St. Louis and service more than 60,000 people that live in portions of Ballwin, Chesterfield, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Wildwood and parts of unincorporated St. Louis County. The District operates 5 Engine Houses, a Maintenance Center, an Administration Facility and a Training Tower and has a staff that is made up of more than 125 Firefighter/Paramedics, Fire Prevention Specialists, Officers and Administrative Personnel.
FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT WORKS TO CURTAIL CLAIMS, COSTS THAT SKYROCKETED IN RECENT YEARS
March 4, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - Workers' compensation has been a source of controversy since the first laws dealing with workplace injuries went into effect more than 100 years ago.
The basic goal of such laws is difficult to argue: Have employers provide their employees with a type of insurance that replaces lost wages and pays medical costs and benefits when a worker is hurt on the job. In exchange, the employer receives protection from negligence lawsuits, minimizing costly and lengthy litigation.
However, a glance at daytime television commercials or Yellow Pages advertising shows that disputes over claims still represent an active and presumably lucrative field for the legal profession.
In the West County area, workers' compensation also has become a political issue, especially in the Monarch Fire Protection District. Sen. Jane Cunningham let it be known early in her 2013 campaign for a seat on the district's board of directors that injury claims and the resulting cost Monarch pays for workers' compensation insurance were going to receive her quick attention. And, once elected, she followed up. Cunningham called in an attorney and workers' compensation experts to conduct a review of policies and procedures related to Monarch's handling of claims and aimed at preventing injuries; then, she led the charge for new safety and drug and alcohol testing practices.
The resulting Workers' Compensation Review, prepared by attorney J. Bradley Young and Sharron Hughes, president of England & Company Case Management, included a lengthy list of recommendations for new or revised policies, including those on safety and drugs and alcohol in the workplace, and for strengthening procedures involved in workers' compensation claims.
High volume of claims raises concern
The workers' compensation issue isn't a new one for Monarch.
Monarch's incurred workers' compensation losses from 2008 through 2011 ranged from a low of $755,129 in 2009 to a high of $1,148,087 in 2011. And, because workers' compensation insurance rates are based on losses during three preceding years, not including the most recent year, the district's premiums rose steadily to a high of nearly $1.2 million in 2012.
Among the client operations of the Missouri Fire and Ambulance Districts Insurance Trust's (MoFAD), the district's yearly cost of claims from 2008-2011 was the highest. A partial reason is that Monarch was one of the largest operations from the standpoint of employee numbers that MoFAD covered. (Monarch moved its workers' compensation coverage to Missouri Employers Mutual, effective Jan. 1, 2014.)
Not surprisingly, views on what caused the high level of claims vary considerably, with some Monarch residents charging fraud and abuse of the workers' compensation system and pointing to multiple claims by some employees as evidence.
"I don't believe the increase was caused by a lack of training, an influx of new personnel or the lack of safety measures," said Monarch Board President Robin Harris. "While I can't definitively point to any specific factor, I do note that the upswing mirrors a perceived change in the board's allegiance to the (firefighters) union, as opposed to the residents of the district."
Harris declined to elaborate on his comment but did add, "If anyone can show me a shortfall (in employee safety efforts) at Monarch, I will be glad to take steps to remedy it."
Chris Gelven, a veteran Monarch firefighter-paramedic and shop steward for Local 2665, had a different view.
"Because of medical confidentiality rules, I don't know the details of individual cases," he said. "What I do know is that there's no firefighter out there who would want to be hurt and off work, and I absolutely deny there has been any kind of fraud and abuse."
As noted in a report from Corporate Claims Management, Inc., a firm that serves as a third-party administrator on workers' compensation claims for MoFAD, some 27 percent of Monarch's claims from 2008 through August 2013 were from slips, trips or falls. While that number is comparable to other fire operations, strains while lifting accounted for another 36 percent, an amount considerably higher than other districts.
Improvement began in 2012
The picture at Monarch started to change in 2012 when incurred losses from claims plummeted to $439,763, a drop of nearly 55 percent from 2011. The average cost per claim also was 41 percent less than other MoFAD-insured operations.
Although the books on 2013 claims have not been closed yet, the district appears on its way to recording an even lower loss figure than in 2012.
One reason might be the development of a light-duty program that allows firefighters to return to work sooner.
"We note that this decrease has occurred concurrently with the district's implementation of its return-to-work (light duty) program," the CCMI report said.
"Light duty is a huge incentive to return to work," Gelven said. "That and the health and fitness program, which measures our fitness levels every year, were suggestions we (firefighters) made and the board approved them. Those programs have made a big difference."
CCMI's figures show that lost-time days in 2012 were 341, compared with 1,021 in 2011 and a high of 2,033 in 2009.
Lost-time days also lead to higher overtime costs as off-duty employees are brought in to fill staffing gaps.
Others in the workers' compensation arena also support the light duty concept.
Brad Young, the attorney hired to study the workers' compensation situation at Monarch, strongly supported "an aggressive.....program that allows injured workers to return to work in a light duty capacity."
Stephen Wicker, senior vice president of Daniel and Henry Co., an insurance and risk management company that represents MoFAD, said he strongly believes in the value of light duty programs.
And, in the view of Vince Loyal, chief of the Metro West Fire Protection District, a light duty assignment "allows the employee to remain engaged in the work environment and.....the employer to assist the employee with any issues involving their treatment and recovery."
But the absence of a light duty option was not the only factor contributing to Monarch's high workers' compensation costs. Another major factor has been the use of hospital emergency rooms for initial treatment of non-emergency injuries, according to the CCMI report. Of 87 claims that involved emergency room treatment during the period CCMI reviewed, the report says that only 12 appeared to be actual emergencies.
Creating a climate of change
While workers' compensation is a hot button issue at Monarch, injuries and even fatalities are a fact of life for all fire protection districts and departments and are the focus of considerable attention.
On-the-job fatality rates of firefighters actually are a fraction of those recorded by logging and commercial fishing operations, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks as the most perilous jobs. In some years, firefighter death rates have been less than the average for all jobs in the United States. But when it comes to measuring both on-the-job injuries as well as deaths, the firefighter's job zooms up in the listing of hazardous occupations, ranking as high as second by some measurements. Fire department officials and insurance experts concur that addressing the injury problem calls for a major emphasis on safety.
"First and foremost, (we work to) manage the environment to be as safe as practical," Loyal said.
He shared this advice: "Listen to the staff and the insurance professionals when they bring something to your attention that may prevent injuries. Most preventive measures are more economical than fill-in staffing for an injured employee."
"A good safety program designed to keep injuries from happening is essential," he said.
Ernie Rhodes, chief of the West County EMS and Fire Protection District, said, "We really preach a 'be safe' approach here. Much of our ongoing education and training programs centers on properly using all of our safety equipment and on ways of working smart to avoid injury."
According to Loyal, another important factor in managing the workers' compensation issue involves investigating all injury incidents as a way of identifying preventable circumstances and heading off similar events in the future.
Failure to fully investigate claims is one of the concerns of board members Cunningham and Harris and was addressed in the Workers' Compensation Review, which cited that while Monarch has a report of injury form, "there is little evidence that this investigation form has been used with any regularity."
Specifically the Review said:
"According to the review of the claim files for all claims going back to 2009 that was performed by Sharron Hughes, she found that less than 10 percent of the work-related claims had any evidence that the accident was investigated in any way. It cannot be stated if these accidents/injuries were investigated because there is very little evidence in the files that the injuries were investigated in any way other than simply acting on whatever the claimant stated."
While the CCMI report found that injured Monarch employees reported their injuries to the district in an average of 1.8 days (based on data beginning in January of 2008), the Workers' Compensation Review said that the district "has averaged 16.9 days to report claims to CCMI, who then must file the required Report of Injury" Form 1 with the Division of Workers' Compensation."
The review went on to list recommendations for improved accident investigation.
In the day-to-day routine of firefighters risk is ever present. Loyal cited the challenge firefighters face when their environment changes rapidly.
"In the fire station, the employee can become very comfortable" at times and "let their guard down," he said. Then, when an emergency arises, "they go from (being) at rest to an uncontrolled environment very quickly. This has great potential for injuries.
"We manage that risk through training and good equipment," he added. But, despite "our best efforts, accidents are unpredictable even if they often appear preventable retrospectively."
When not responding to fire calls and medical emergencies - the latter outnumber the former - firefighter-paramedics' daily activities can include various kinds of training, equipment inspections, fire station upkeep, workouts to maintain physical fitness, public building inspections, smoke detector checks and installation, public education assignments, and area familiarization, designed to pinpoint potential problems that could be encountered while responding to emergencies in various areas in the district.
Commenting on the steps Monarch has taken, Chief Tom Vineyard noted, "It's a matter of being safe and doing the job safely. The district has taken a proactive, common sense approach and the result has been some things that have helped us."
CUNNINGHAM WEIGHING OPTION OF SEEKING ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE POST
March 3, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CLAYTON - Former state Sen. Jane Cunningham said Monday she is giving "serious consideration" to a request by the St. Louis County Republican Central Committee that she place her name on the 2014 ballot for St. Louis County executive.
"This was new to me, it was not a direction I was headed in," Cunningham said of the unexpected overture from county Republicans. "But I'm exploring it."
Committeeman Dan O'Sullivan said a desire to present voters with a high-profile alternative to the Democratic candidate in the November general election prompted the GOP to reach out to Cunningham.
"Jane is a proven winner and a person who is not afraid to get into a fight," O'Sullivan said of Cunningham, currently secretary of the Monarch Fire Board. "In the past our candidates have lacked credibility or a willingness to get into a serious discussion about the faults and failures of Charlie Dooley and his office. Jane will not have this problem."
Dooley, who took office in 2003, is facing an August primary challenge from Democratic County Councilman Steve Stenger.
Green Park Alderman Tony Pousosa and Ellisville City Councilman Matt Pirrello filed papers last week with the St. Louis County Board of Elections to square off on the GOP ticket in August.
O'Sullivan said the committee hopes to avoid an intra-party showdown this summer.
Pousosa spokesman Nick Kasoff called the effort to circumvent a primary "ill-timed and ill-advised - they should have had this conversation months ago before people invested time and money in the race."
O'Sullivan said Republicans believe county Democrats are particularly vulnerable this year, be the opponent Stenger or Dooley.
He predicted the absence of a prominent statewide campaign will elevate the competition for the top post in Missouri's largest county into the "biggest race on the ballot."
O'Sullivan further contends the police board and health department scandals that have plagued the Dooley administration since last summer present the GOP with leverage to take the office of county executive office out of Democratic hands.
A conservative state senator, Cunningham championed education and other causes. She departed the legislature following a 2012 redistricting and was elected to the Monarch Fire Board last year.
Cunningham said she will weigh her options about a possible run for county executive and expects to make a decision in advance of the March 25 filing deadline.
MONARCH ADOPTS NEW DRUG, ALCOHOL POLICY FOR EMPLOYEES, BOARD MEMBERS
February 24, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District Board has unanimously adopted a policy prohibiting on-duty employees from possessing, using and being under the influence of unauthorized drugs or alcohol.
The new policy calls not only for pre-employment screening but also random testing and tests in other situations, such as when an employee's behavior or conduct raises suspicion when an on-the-job injury, illness, accident or other incident results from possible drug and alcohol use; and when driving a company vehicle that's involved in an accident.
Refusal to submit to testing when required or avoiding a test by leaving the job can be considered an act of insubordination justifying disciplinary action, including termination.
Members of the board also must be tested within a month after the policy's approval or after being elected.
Before the new policy, Monarch required pre-employment screening, but later testing was limited to when an employee driving a company vehicle was involved in an accident in which injuries occurred or when an employee displayed obviously impaired behavior.
The policy first was presented at an earlier session with a request that the union representing Monarch employees support it.
Robin Harris, board president, had said that while union backing of the policy was wanted, the board could and would act without it. But Harris added that if the union supported the measure, a provision calling for treatment and/or rehabilitation would be added to deal with an employee's first-time failure of a drug/alcohol test. Without union support, the policy would contain no alternative other than possible termination for first-time offenses.
On Feb. 13, Harris said the union had agreed to support the policy with the provision for first-time offenses.
The policy also calls for employees:
- To report any conviction of a guilty plea to any drug - or alcohol-related charge, including driving under the influence.
- To list all legal and prescription drugs taken during the month preceding any test.
- To submit to periodic testing for up to 24 months after a positive test, after being arrested and convicted of charges involving drugs and alcohol, and after completion of a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.
If an employee voluntarily reports a substance abuse problem before any announced test or before any incident calling for testing or disciplinary action, the employee may request leave time of up to 12 weeks or more under Monarch's policies for a treatment or counseling program.
FIREFIGHTERS SAY IN LETTER TO CITIZENS THAT BOARD MEMBERS LIED TO PUBLIC
February 3, 2014 - Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach
The followings is a letter published to the citizens by Monarch Firefighters:
Citizens of the Monarch Fire Protection District,
The Firefighters/Paramedics of the Monarch Fire Protection District would like to reaffirm their mission and values to you the taxpayer. We strive to provide you with the highest standard of service possible with the most experienced and trained personnel in the area. Our mission does not end when we walk out of the door at the end of our shift. When off duty, we work to improve quality of life with charitable and community volunteer services. We are proud of our traditions of emergency service and community involvement and we are always ready to serve you, both on AND off duty. Every single Firefighter/Paramedic in the Monarch District got into this field fueled by the common desire to help and serve their community. Many of us were born and raised in this very district
Unfortunately current Board Politicians Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris have publicly and privately attacked our value system with blatant misinformation and half-truths. The attacks have ranged from prohibiting the support of Breast Cancer awareness to blatantly lying about our job requirements, skill sets and hours of duty.
These same Board Politicians Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris prohibited employees from participating in the nationwide Pink Heals Campaign to raise money for breast cancer awareness by the wearing of pink t-shirts. They reversed their decision only after an overwhelming outcry from the public.
Jane Cunningham has also publicly stated that Firefighter's "personal assets are not on the line." This was in response to a media inquiry questioning the irresponsible purchase of $206,000 of personal indemnification insurance. Politician Cunningham also lied in the interview stating that all major districts in the area have that insurance when in reality not a single district does. We put our lives and livelihoods on the line everyday to serve our community.
Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris again put politics in front of your safety by firing the districts Public Education Officer (PEO). The PEO is a vital component to every large successful Fire Department. By eliminating this position the district has taken a giant step backwards. Our PEO was responsible for everything from coordinating safety talks in our elementary schools, coordinating smoke detector installations, working with local nursing homes on safety standards and maintaining the Safe Kids car seat program that allows us to install car seats for our residents. Our Car seat program has already taken a drastic reduction in availability since the position was eliminated. The PEO position is a staple at all surrounding fire districts and is nothing short of a necessity for the safety of you and your loved ones.
Most recently Jane Cunningham attacked the employees she is charged with "leading" by blatantly lying about the minimum job requirements for this job. She stated that the only requirement to be a Firefighter/Paramedic at Monarch is "a GED and 1 year of trade school." We work relentlessly through a 2 year Associates program to obtain a degree in Paramedic Technology. In addition to 2 years of school we complete hundreds of clinical hours to obtain this degree. We also complete hundreds of hours each year in continuing education to maintain our license. Furthermore almost one third of our employees have their Bachelors degrees as well.
Board Politicians Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris are regularly putting politics in front of public safety and by doing so they will turn the Monarch Fire Protection District into an entry level Firefighter position rather than the career position attracting the best applicants in the county. Our mission is to provide you with the highest level of service possible, with the highest trained employees, utilizing state of the art equipment. These levels of service can only continue if you, the taxpayer of the Monarch Fire Protection District stand up and let Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris know that these political motives have no bearing when it comes to your safety.
Sincerely, Your Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics
MONARCH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT PUTS FINANCIAL, EMPLOYEE INFORMATION ON WEBSITE
January 30, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
ST. LOUIS - The Monarch Fire Protection District has announced the rollout of a "transparency portal" on the district's website. The portal will allow users to look up individual vendors, employee pay and benefits and financial details of the district.
The district board has struggled with controversy in recent years, including a rescinded tax increase and a lawsuit alleging a gender-related hostile work environment that resulted in $1.5 million in judgments and fees. A 2012 audit revealed several problems with district expenses and practices. In 2011, a battalion chief committed suicide, and some blamed it on his firing by the board.
The portal was developed with the help of United for Missouri, a non-profit group which aims to educate citizens about the impact of economic policy.
CHESTERFIELD - Monarch Fire Protection District firefighter Steve Kell salvages a homeowner's personal papers from the ashes and soot of a fire in a home on the 2100 block of Hillsgate Court in west St. Louis County on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. The three-alarm fire is believed to have started in the kitchen, but the cause of the fire is still under investigation. No one was home when the fire started and no one was injured in the blaze. Firefighters arrived on scene at about 3:30 a.m. and battled bitter cold temperatures to put out the fire. Photo By David Carson, firstname.lastname@example.org
MONARCH FPD CONTINUES PUBLIC NEGOTIATING SESSIONS WITH FIREFIGHTERS' UNION
January 19, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - While no final agreement was reached on the two primary issues up for discussion at the Jan. 8 public negotiating session between the Monarch Fire Protection District board and Local 2665 of the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri, the two sides did reach a consensus on which issues where they do or don't agree in a potential new contract.
The paragraph-by-paragraph review of the lengthy document came after the Monarch board and firefighter representatives spent more than an hour debating the future of Kelly days and whether the district should continue its automatic deduction of union dues from employees' paychecks.
Kelly days, or Federal days as the union now proposes to name them, are the four additional paid days off firefighters now receive yearly to avoid exceeding the maximum number of on-duty hours during any pay period. As a result, they receive a paid day off rather than working at the time-and-a-half overtime rate.
Problems arise when any employee's scheduled Kelly day comes when sickness, injuries and other unforeseen circumstances leave Monarch short-staffed, requiring the call-in of other personnel on an overtime basis.
Robin Harris, Monarch's board president, has proposed eliminating mandatory Kelly days but allowing them on a case-by-case basis when schedules don't require calling in another employee on overtime. He offered a 2013 visual, month-by-month chart of when overtime was, or wasn't, needed on scheduled Kelly days and the overtime payments that resulted.
While noting the approach has elements of a good compromise, Monarch firefighter and union negotiator Brent Coleman said it could result in some employees having no Kelly/Federal days while others wind up with as many as four, depending on unpredictable scheduling circumstances.
Coleman also said it would be unfair if an employee reported to work only to be told to return home for a Kelly/Federal day because staffing requirements already were adequate.
The check-off of union dues from employees' paychecks resulted in a predictable debate and difference of opinion.
Monarch director Jane Cunningham said the elimination of the check-off empowers Monarch employees and doesn't put the district between employees and the union. Rather, the approach gives the union an incentive to provide more services to employees to earn their dues dollars.
Coleman countered that Monarch's stated emphasis in negotiations has been to save money. The dues check-off doesn't involve any cost, he said. That's because an outside firm already handles the district's payroll and sends paycheck money to institutions directed by employees. The union proposal also calls for compensating the district for time spent setting up any new employee's payroll account to include the check-off.
This and later discussion appeared to emphasize the union check-off issue will be an ongoing topic in future negotiating sessions.
Briefly mentioned during the Jan. 8 negotiations was a Monarch proposal for a new and stretched-out schedule for employees to earn vacation days. The plan includes a grandfather provision whereby current employees would keep vacation benefits already earned.
MONARCH DROPS CURRENT WORKER'S COMPENSATION INSURANCE CARRIER, THE MISSOURI FIRE AND AMBULANCE DISTRICTS' INSURANCE TRUST (MOFAD)
December 31, 2013 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District will start the new year by saving some money on its workers' compensation insurance.
On a 3-0 vote, the Monarch board has approved a coverage proposal from Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance (MEM) with a 2014 premium of $995,601. That amount is more than $200,000 less than what was budgeted in 2013 and more than $43,000 less than what the district's current insurance carrier, the Missouri Fire and Ambulance Districts' Insurance Trust (MoFAD), offered as its premium for 2014 coverage.
At an earlier meeting, the board had announced its intention to seek proposals for the district's workers' compensation insurance. The MoFAD contract period ended Dec. 31.
The number of workers' compensation claims and their costs, in the form of insurance premiums, has been a hot-button issue at Monarch in recent months. However, as pointed out by representatives of both insurance firms, claims dropped dramatically in 2012 and are on track to be even lower in 2013.
Stephen Wicker, from Daniel and Henry Co., the firm that represents MoFAD, submitted loss and insurance premium data for Monarch and 34 other fire and ambulance districts during the five-year period between 2008 and 2012.
During the first four of those years, Monarch's workers' compensation claims were the highest in that group. Despite the nearly 55 percent drop in claims from 2011 to 2012, insurance premiums for the district's coverage still remained the highest because rates are based on the three most recent years of complete loss history.
For example, 2014's premium would be based on claims experience from 2010-12. So while Monarch's 2012's drop in claims had a positive impact on the 2014 premium submitted by MoFAD, the decline couldn't overcome the much higher claim expense in 2010-11.
During Wicker's presentation, Monarch Director Jane Cunningham said she was upset about the reluctance and delay by MoFAD's accounting firm in providing the district's past workers' compensation claims for review and analysis.
"This is unacceptable," she said to Wicker, adding that she also not received model policies on drug and alcohol testing, safety procedures and manuals that she had requested.
Mike Hennessey, from Smith McGehee Insurance Solutions, which represented MEM, noted that the volume of Monarch claims was because the district did not have an advocate committed to looking after its interests.
He cited a number of "red flags" that should have prompted follow-up, including 199 workers' compensation claims filed during a 4.5-year period beginning in January 2009. During that time, 54 employees accounted for 163 of the claims and 15 submitted four or more, he noted.
"No one came to help you - address these issues, and "that's not the fault of Monarch," he added.
While no one can make Monarch's earlier history of high workers' compensation claims disappear, Smith McGehee-MEM based its premium calculation on the past two years and the new direction Monarch appears to be going.
Hennessey urged that the board's decision regarding a company to deal with the district's insurance needs should be based on what Monarch can expect to receive in services. Those services should include everything from medical and disability claims management and medical bill review to fraud investigations and safety manual development.
He said Smith McGehee is committed to working with clients to find ways to better manage risk, as well as costs.
"We're big fans of MEM but we don't work for them," he said, emphasizing that his company's emphasis would be on assisting Monarch.
Cunningham predicted, "They looked beyond the surface to see that there's a cultural change happening here. This is going to be a success story."
ST. CLAIR FIRE DISTRICT HIRES FORMER MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT CHIEF OFFICER
December 25, 2013 - Missourian.com
ST. CLAIR - A familiar face will be taking over the reins as chief of the St. Clair Fire Protection District early next year.
Board of directors President Robin Jobe announced that longtime St. Clair firefighter and alderman Leslie Crews was hired last week and will start his duties on Jan. 6.
"We're looking forward to having Les on board," Jobe told The Missourian on Monday morning. "He has a long and good history in this area, and we're thrilled to have him. We know he will do an outstanding job for us."
He replaces former Chief Eric Hinson, who currently is serving a 35-month prison term in the U.S. penitentiary in Marion, Ill. Hinson was found guilty in June of one felony count of fraud and five felony counts of tax evasion after he pleaded guilty earlier this year to the charges.
The charges stemmed from his misuse of about $593,236 of district funds between January 2006 and September 2011.
Crews, 56, lives in Washington, but was a longtime St. Clair resident.
He served as a St. Clair alderman for 16 years and worked in the St. Clair Fire Protection District from 1971 to 1996. He also served with the Monarch Fire Protection District from 1979 to 2011 and was with the Glendale Fire Department for one year.
According to his resume, Crews is certified in several areas, including as a fire officer and as a rope rescue technician, trench rescue technician, structural collapse technician, swiftwater rescue technician, boat operator rescue technician, helicopter rescue technician, ice rescue technician and hazardous materials technician.
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS, FIRE BOARD AT ODDS OVER OPEN MEETINGS
December 14, 2013 - KMOX
CHESTERFIELD - Are they playing politics or providing transparency for taxpayers? When it comes to the ongoing open contract talks in the Monarch Fire Protection District, it depends who you ask.
International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665 Shop Steward Chris Gelven says the board's decision to hold the talks in open meetings is purely political.
Gelven says he has no problem allowing taxpayers the ability to see what is happening but negotiations often involve details which cannot legally be discussed in public.
"HIPAA information; some information about employees. That's why we felt like it should be closed. Our attorney felt like the meeting should be closed," he said.
Monarch Fire Board Director Jane Cunningham says that has not and will not happen.
"We agreed with them: if you have something personal to share with us, like someone's personal health information, we'll close the meeting and you can tell us," she explained.
The talks have been going on since October. The current contract expires New Year's Eve but its provisions remain in effect until the contract is replaced.
"This is just a big dog and pony show for them, for some of their supporters," Gelven added.
Monarch firefighters and the board that governs them have often been at odds over the past year, disagreeing on issues ranging from terminations to shirt colors. Earlier this month, firefighters questioned the board's decision to fire a public education officer before acquiring a $5 million insurance policy for each board member.
MONARCH FIRE BOARD MEMBER URGES TRUST BETWEEN BOARD, UNION
December 4, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - One of the three directors of the acrimonious Monarch Fire Protection District called on all parties to try to rebuild trust rather than continue squabbles, lawsuits and bitter differences that end up costing taxpayers.
Board member Steve Swyers (photo) made the statement during a board meeting Wednesday evening.
"I'm very concerned about the lack of trust between the board and our employees," Swyers elaborated afterwards. "When you don't trust each other, you're going to have lawsuits and you're going to see grievances."
The latest points of contention are the board's vote in September to eliminate the job of public education officer and subsequent expenditures of $206,000 to increase liability insurance for the board members and district to $10 million.
Swyers voted to keep the public education officer.
"If all we do is respond to alarms, we aren't doing everything we need to be doing for the public," he said. "We need to be training the elderly and young about how to prevent fires, what to do as a family to respond and other" safety prevention measures.
All three board members said Wednesday that the liability insurance was needed given the litigious nature of the Monarch district.
"I think it's justified," said Swyers, a retired certified public accountant who voted against one insurance expenditure this fall only because he got the information too late to run through the numbers. Board member Jane Cunningham already is facing personal liability in a pending lawsuit.
MONARCH FIRE BOARD AND UNION CLASH OVER BOARD INSURANCE AND A FIREFIGHTER LAYOFF
December 4, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - The firefighters union of the Monarch Fire Protection District is blasting district board members for eliminating the position of public education officer while voting for additional liability insurance for board members.
"We feel they're once again decreasing services to our residents while increasing the costs,&acir Capt. Chris Gelven, a paramedic and union shop steward, said Tuesday night.
"They're saying 'the heck with the citizens and services' we're providing them in the form of public education ...but we'll take that money' to insure" the board members.
Gelven said the insurance premiums amounted to $206,000 a year plus deductibles.
The issue, the latest in the contentious relationship between the board and union, will be brought up by Local 2665 of the International Association of Fire Fighters at a meeting tonight.
Board directors Robin Harris and Jane Cunningham voted in September to end the public education officer position Dec. 31, citing budgetary considerations. The officer, an 11-year veteran of the department, is paid $55,000 plus benefits, Gelven said.
The union says that eliminating the position, created early this year, leaves a gap in safety outreach services for schoolchildren, senior citizens, churches, Boy Scouts and local businesses.
Cunningham defended the move Tuesday night, saying, "For many, many years, the district functioned quite well without a public education officer."
She said educational services will continue to be offered just as they were before the job was created, and that "public safety will not be affected by the elimination of this position."
The board voted to buy the new Directors and Officers insurance at meetings in October, with a policy that provides coverage into the millions of dollars. The vote was 2-1 at the Oct. 29 meeting.
Cunningham said that the district faces court actions and needs insurance.
"In view of ... pending litigation, we will not comment further about this subject, other than to say that the proliferation of litigation by the firefighters union and their members against the district shows the wisdom of the purchase of adequate insurance coverage," Cunningham said.
The education officer position is held by Ray Antonacci (photo above), who was hired in February after recovering from a serious motorcycle accident. He was previously a Monarch firefighter and paramedic for 10 years, with more than 20 years of experience in the field. "I don't understand the Monarch board's decision, particularly since board members voted in October to acquire more insurance for themselves that taxpayers will pay for," he said in a statement released by the union.
Honored for their life-saving actions by the Monarch Fire Protection District are, from left, Matthew Grewe, Tobi Keane, Matt Rayckovan, Susan Kammerzell, Stacey Grube, Dr. Toni Patterson and Alex Roehrig. Also honored was Lorrie Rugge who was unable to attend the ceremony.
August 26, 2013 - Newsmagazine Network.com CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Fire Protection District on Aug. 15 honored eight people whose actions in emergency situations helped save lives.
Receiving awards and recognition at the Board of Directors meeting were:
- Alex Roehrig, 13, of Chesterfield, who came to the aid of his 9-year-old sister last April when he saw she was choking on a piece of hard candy. He dialed 911 and then performed abdominal thrusts (the Heimlich maneuver) on her, easing her breathing problem. When the EMS crew arrived, the girl did not appear to be in any respiratory distress, which paramedics attributed to Roehrig's quick action.
- Matthew Grewe, a St. Louis County police officer, who was dispatched last May to help a 60-year-old delivery driver who was trapped and being crushed by heavy steel fencing that fell on him while he was unloading it in Wildwood. Grewe rapidly began removing the fence sections one at a time until other officers arrived to assist. The Monarch EMS responders said Grewe's physical conditioning and actions enabled the man to breathe and possibly saved his life.
- Dr. Toni Patterson and nurses Stacey Grube, Lorrie Rugge and Susan Kammerzell who were at work at Pepose Vision Institute last December when they learned a 50-year-old man had collapsed and was unconscious in the parking lot. The four went to the man's aid, found him to be without a pulse and began CPR on him. When the Monarch EMS arrived, they were able to shock the man once to regain a pulse. He began breathing on his own on the way to the hospital where he was treated and later released.
- Matt Rayckovan, a FedEx driver, and Tobi Keane, of Chesterfield, who saw a 78-year-old woman fall in her apartment's parking lot last May. She was carrying a glass tray that broke when it hit the ground and suffered a cut in her carotid artery when she fell on the shards. Rayckovan went to the victim and applied pressure on the wound to slow the heavy bleeding. Keane, a neighbor of the injured woman, called 911 and retrieved more towels to stanch the blood flow until paramedics arrived.
PINK T-SHIRTS CAUSE STIR IN MONARCH FIRE DISTRICT, BRING AWARENESS TO MORE THAN JUST BREAST CANCER
October 2, 2013 - Newsmagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - After first restricting firefighter-paramedics in the Monarch Fire Protection District from wearing pink T-shirts while on duty as part of a breast cancer awareness activity, the Monarch Board of Directors announced at its Oct. 1 Board meeting that Monarch personnel would be allowed to wear the apparel provided the person wearing it can be easily identified as a Monarch employee.
Robin Harris, Monarch Board president, explained the decision in a statement at the beginning of the Board meeting.
"Tonight, upon approval of the Pink Heals project allowing Monarch firefighters to wear pink T-shirts, I directed the Chief to protect the safety and security of the public by identifying our officers on the approved apparel," Harris said.
He noted that since the T-shirts are being sold to the general public, residents in the district need to be able to easily distinguish between a Monarch firefighter and someone who may be trying to impersonate them to gain entrance to a home.
Director Jane Cunningham emphasized that "had the union not circumvented the Board by taking their information and request to the media rather than to the Monarch Board, all this confusion would have been easily avoided."
The "confusion" began when Monarch Chief Tom Vineyard was informed by Cunningham in a publicly available email that there was Board "consensus" at a closed Board meeting during the week of Sept. 25 that the sale and display of pink T-shirts "will not be an official Monarch project." She added that what anyone wears or promotes on their personal time is their prerogative.
In its current rendition, this year's T-shirt features the message "Monarch Firefighters Wearing Pink for a Cure - Hope - Love - Support" on the back. The shirt also features the Monarch logo on the front and the logo for Local 2665 of the International Association of Firefighters on the right sleeve.
"Local 2665 and the Pink Heals organization will need to come to their own agreement outside of the Board process over the union logo violation of the Pink Heals brand design as specified on their website," Harris said at the Oct. 1 meeting. He was referring to guidelines of Pink Heals, the 501(c)(3) organization that supplies materials for the T-shirts, which state that other logos should not be used with its logo and that T-shirts the firefighters wear should comply with that requirement as well.
Specifically, Pink Heals emphasizes it "is not a Democrat, Republican or union movement" and therefore requires organizations to honor their brand with no alterations. On the Pink Heals website, it is stated, "Please don't change our brand or message! We believe in the eyes of the community it will look self-serving" rather than focusing on the cause.
Andy Stecko, an official with Local 2665 of the International Association of Firefighters, later disputed that interpretation, indicating that he believes Pink Heals is asking only that its logo not be altered.
Rick Gans, a Monarch resident and former member of the Board, opened the citizen comment period with a statement criticizing the union's approach. He said athletes in major professional sports support breast cancer programs but don't include their union logo on pink ribbons and other items they wear.
While two other residents supported the Board's action, six speakers expressed anger, dismay or embarrassment.
Marlyn Flauter lamented, "Once again, Monarch is in the news, but not in a positive way."
John Drouant said he was "absolutely disappointed" in Harris and Cunningham for "picking the wrong battles here."
Vineyard said there had been no formal Board presentation about the T-shirts in the four previous years that the program has operated. Had he realized the issue was going to cause problems, he said he would have followed up sooner.
Steve Swyers, the Board's third director, was not at the meeting but earlier had said he did not support the original opposition to wearing the shirts.
Locally, Monarch is not alone in its participation in the Pink Heals campaign. Personnel at West County EMS and Fire Protection District also wear pink T-shirts in October in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the apparel includes the union logo, a spokesman said.
"There aren't too many families that haven't been touched by cancer. So, in that light, it's important to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month," he added.
Metro-West Fire Protection District has participated in the past but the program is not on this year's agenda.
Pink Heals operates with the support of firefighters, police departments and others across the nation to assist those battling breast cancer and to generate more awareness. Pink Heals enables its participants to use its brand to raise funds and awareness while keeping 100 percent of the funds raised in each local community.
According to Stecko, the Monarch program in recent years has raised more than $6,000 donated to local entities including the Bridging the Gap Emergency Breast Cancer Fund, Camp Rainbow, and No Woman Left Behind.
This year's recipient will be the Life and Hope Fund at St. Luke's Hospital.
Dressed in pink T-shirts and accompanied by a pink fire truck from Wentzville, the firefighters held a rally outside the Monarch administration building on Olive Boulevard on Oct. 2. Later that day, Monarch issued a press statement indicating that "any on duty Monarch personnel wearing a Pink Heals shirt will have an official Monarch I.D. attached to their collar."
MONARCH FIREFIGHTERS WON'T BE WEARING PINK ON DUTY THIS MONTH
October 1 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - Firefighters here will raise money to promote breast cancer awareness again this month, but they wonâï¿½ï¿½t be doing it wearing pink.
T-shirts in the traditional color worn during October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month - were banned this year by board members in the Monarch Fire Protection District.
Two of the district's three board members say the shirts aren't professional and could lead to confusion among the public.
"Firefighters are selling these around the community to businesses and whatever," said board member Jane Cunningham. "If they get called to a home, how is the person to ID them as a Monarch emergency firefighter as opposed to a member of the public?"
Firefighters say theyâï¿½ï¿½ve worn the shirts for the past four years, and the board's decision has to do with politics, not any safety concerns.
An election in April changed the makeup of the board, and has led to chilly relations between the board and firefighters, who are members of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 2665.
"We seem to be going down a road that is pretty unproductive," said Fire Capt. Andy Stecko, shop steward for the Monarch firefighters. "I can understand a board and a union fighting over something like benefits, but this is something completely different."
Board member Steve Swyers said he opposes the T-shirt ban. "I think this decision will distinguish Monarch in a poor way, and I do not support it," he said in a statement.
Dozens of fire districts in the St. Louis area, like Monarch, participate in the Pink Heals Movement, a national campaign started by an Arizona firefighter to generate awareness and support for women battling cancer.
In recent years, Monarch firefighters and paramedics have raised more than $6,000 and have donated it to local charities, including Bridging the Gap Emergency Breast Cancer Fund, Camp Rainbow and No Woman Left Behind.
The money is raised through the sale of the pink T-shirts to the public. The shirts, which cost $20, are also purchased by the firefighters, who have worn them on duty during October to raise awareness of the project.
This year, firefighters plan to donate proceeds to the Life and Hope Fund at St. Luke's Hospital. The fund assists patients with cancer or malignant blood disorders who are in need of medical supplies and services not covered by insurance.
Cunningham said she and Board President Robin Harris were not given any information about the fundraiser, and they first found out about the plan to wear the T-shirts after a board meeting on Sept. 24.
"The chief kind of mentioned something in an offhand way," she said. "But we were never given a proper presentation about it; that's the way you handle things in a businesslike manner."
Cunningham said she is concerned firefighters in pink T-shirts won't have the same professional appearance they do in uniforms that were paid for by the taxpayers.
Stecko said that uniform choices for firefighters include T-shirts. When firefighters go on a call, they wear protective turnout gear, he said, so there is no question about who they are.
He said firefighters believe board members balked at the fact that the T-shirts carry the union logo. Last month, board members voted to remove union labels from all of the firetrucks.
In addition, Stecko said board members questioned whether the fundraiser discriminated against men.
Cunningham said she didn't realize the pink shirts had the union logo, and she thinks questioning who benefits from a districtwide fundraiser is legitimate.
"We're being judged for something we never were even asked about, but we'd be happy to hear a presentation on it and get answers to some of these concerns," she said.
The board meets at 6 tonight at the district headquarters, 13725 Olive Boulevard in Chesterfield. The district's website says the meeting is open to the public.
Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics Changing Uniform to Promote Cancer Awareness
August 10, 2013 -
CHESTERFIELD - October 2013 will mark the fifth year that Monarch firefighters, paramedics, officers and staff will join Fire Departments around the U.S. and trade their traditional fire department polo shirts for bright pink uniform T-shirts. Each year, members of Monarch Firefighters Local 2665 have worn and sold T-shirts throughout October to help raise awareness, support and charitable funds for local women battling cancer. Monarch fire trucks will display pink Cancer Awareness flags throughout the month-long campaign.
The Monarch campaign is modeled after the "Pink Heals Campaign" started by Firefighter Dave Graybill of Phoenix, Arizona. His organization, known as "The Pink Heals Tour," travels nationwide in pink fire trucks to visit cancer patients and survivors. His fire trucks are covered with signatures of survivors and family members honoring those who have battled all types of cancer. All money from The Pink Heals Tour fund-raising local campaigns stays in the fire departments communities the tour visits.
Following this model, Monarch Firefighters have raised more than $6,000 in recent years and donated to charities including Bridging the Gap Emergency Breast Cancer Fund; Camp Rainbow; and No Woman Left Behind. This year, the Monarch Firefighters' proceeds will be donated to The Life and Hope Fund at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield. Established in 2001, The Life and Hope Fund assists patients with cancer or malignant blood disorders who are in need of medical supplies and services not covered by insurance.
The Monarch Firefighters recently launched their own 501c3 organization called Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach and will manage Pink Heals T-shirt sales this year. Pre-orders are being taken thru August for the shirts, which are $20 each and can be ordered by emailing MFCOshirts@yahoo.com.
Monarch Firefighter Andrew Shoop says, "Our firefighters and paramedics have provided volunteer services, fundraising assistance, financial donations, disaster recovery assistance and other support to children, adults and senior citizens in our off-duty hours for many years. The Pink Heals Campaign is another way that we can help support worthwhile charitable activities in our own community."
More information is available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PinkHealsTour or visit the Monarch Firefighters on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MonarchFirefighters or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MonarchOutreach. Information about The Life and Hope Fund is available at www.stlukes-stl.com/development/life-hope.html.
Judge Rules in Favor of Monarch FPD in Violation of Due Process Suit
August 7, 2013 - NewsMagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - Less than a month before the scheduled start of a trial in a lawsuit filed almost two years ago by three command officers fired by the Monarch Fire Protection District, a federal court judge has ruled in favor of the district and two of its directors.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel was in favor of a motion for summary judgment filed by Monarch attorneys.
The suit was filed by Leslie Crews, Cary Spiegel and Michael Davis, who were fired by the Monarch board in November 2011 from their positions as assistant chief, deputy chief and battalion chief respectively. A fourth officer also fired by Monarch subsequently died in what was found to be a suicide.
The terminations came after a Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's finding in favor of two female firefighters who had charged the district with employment discrimination.
Not long after they were terminated, the officers sued the district, saying they were fired in violation of due process. Board directors Kim Evans and Steve Swyers also were named individually in the lawsuit for public statements they allegedly made suggesting that the firings were due to the officers' involvement in the discrimination.
A third director, Robin Harris, was out of town when the firing decisions were made and did not officially participate in those actions. Evans did not seek re-election this past April and no longer is on the Board. Swyers and Harris still are serving and have been joined by former Sen. Jane Cunningham.
In granting the motion for a summary judgment, Sippel found the officers had failed to exhaust administrative remedies before filing their lawsuit. He also said the plaintiffs had not requested a hearing to clear their names and had not asserted any policy, custom or practice followed by the district that led to the alleged violation of their due process rights.
Absent the judge's Aug. 6 ruling, a trial was set to begin Sept. 9. Barring an appeal, the summary judgment ruling in favor of Monarch ends the officers' lawsuit.
When reached for comment Aug. 6, Cunningham said she hadn't yet read the ruling. Harris and Swyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Current Monarch Chief Tom Vineyard said he did not want to comment until he had discussed the ruling and all of its ramifications with the district's legal counsel. Vineyard did not join the Monarch staff until early last year, after the discrimination lawsuit proceedings and after the officers were fired.
Chesterfield Residents Recognized for Saving Child from Drowning
From right, Robin Harris, chairman of the Monarch Fire Protection District Board, presents citizens awards to Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, Meghan Grass and Sydney Gephardt while Monarch directors Jane Cunningham and Steve Swyers and Chief Tom Vineyard look on. (Photo courtesy of Monarch FPD)
August 5, 2013 - NewsMagazine Network
CHESTERFIELD - Four Chesterfield residents and an out-of-town visitor were recognized by the Monarch Fire Protection District Board for their recent efforts in helping to save the life of a 3-year-old at the Chesterfield Municipal Pool.
In recounting the event, Brad Obertino, a Monarch firefighter-paramedic who served as spokesman for the crew that responded to the emergency call, said the toddler apparently found himself in water over his head without his life preserver during an outing at the pool July 20.
Alex Osten, a youngster visiting here from Baltimore, Md., noticed the child wasn't moving and called out to his friend, Sydney Gephardt, of Chesterfield, who summoned nearby lifeguards for help.
The lifeguards pulled the young boy from the pool and started administering CPR. About the time the Monarch emergency crew arrived, the child had started to breathe again. The paramedics continued treatment and took the boy to Mercy Hospital where he was kept overnight for observation before being released.
Two of the lifeguards, Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, a junior at Drury University in Springfield, and Meghan Grass, who will be a freshman at the University of Missouri, received recognition for their efforts from the Monarch Board at its Aug. 1 meeting. Both are Chesterfield residents. In addition, a third lifeguard, John Logan, was honored but was unable to attend the meeting.
Sydney and Alex also were recognized for their roles in getting help for the child.
"I never wanted to be in a position of having to use my training, but I was glad to use it to help save a life," Jurgensmeyer said.
WILDWOOD - The Monarch Fire Protection District and a number of other area public safety agencies spent Tuesday morning battling a fire that gutted a house in Wildwood.
A neighbor and someone driving by noticed the blaze at around 8 a.m. and by the time the first fire crews arrived it was "fully involved." The term means that the fire and smoke had spread throughout the entire two-story structure.
The extent of the flames meant firefighters had to begin with a defensive attack and were unable to actually enter the house, according to Fire Marshal Roger Herin.
Making the situation even more challenging, there were no fire hydrants located in the area, so tankers had to shuttle in water. Despite this, Herin said firefighters managed to wrestle the fire into submission in roughly the same time it would have taken had hydrants been present.
The origin of the fire was not immediately known, but Herin said the St. Louis County Bomb and Arson Squad has been called in to investigate, due to the magnitude of the blaze.
Monarch Firefighters Co-Sponsoring BackStopPalooza Charity Concert Saturday August 10 in Chesterfield
July 29, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - The Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics are joining other first responders in sponsoring the First Annual City of Chesterfield BackStopPalooza, a live music event set for Saturday, August 10, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Chesterfield Amphitheatre. Four popular music groups are among the entertainments planned for the event, which will raise money for BackStoppers, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps families of first responders who died in the line of duty.
Firefighter Andrew Shoop says, "The First Annual BackStopPalooza will be a great afternoon and evening of live music where Chesterfield residents and families can meet firefighters, paramedics, police officers and other first responders who serve our community. We promise an enjoyable event with great live music, all supporting a worthy cause."
BackStopPalooza will be at the Chesterfield Amphitheater at 631 Veteran's Place Drive in Central Parkfeaturing a large stage with fixed and lawn seating for up to 3.000 people, plus modern concession and rest room areas.
With a suggested entry donation of $10, BackStopPalooza will offer live music by "The Brothers" Allman Brothers Tribute Band;The Jeremiah Johnson Band; The Blues Plus Band; Big Daddy & The Pineapples, plus a performance by Tyler Lewis and special surprises. Food and drink will be available onsite from the Rotary Club of West St. Louis County, The Wildwood Pub & Grill and Windowsills Cafe & Marketplace. Tickets are available at entry and, also, in advance at locations shown on this website: http://www.chesterfield.mo.us/ticket-sales-2.html.
Within hours of the death of a police officer, firefighter, or publicly funded paramedic or EMT, the nonprofit BackStoppers organization steps in to help the family with support and financial assistance that helps pay the family's mortgage, taxes and insurance; helps cover the family's health and dental coverage; supports educational assistance for the children and provides extra cash for the surviving parent during the holiday season. For more information about the BackStoppers, see the website http://www.backstoppers.org/index.html.
Shoop says, "Our supportive relationship with the BackStoppers organization and families of first responders who have died in the line of duty is a very meaningful association that we value and nurture. Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics have offered volunteer services, fundraising support, financial donations, disaster recovery assistance and other assistance to children, adults, senior citizens and organizations in our off-duty hours for years. We are looking forward to a day of joy and remembrance at BackStopPalooza on August 10."
In addition to Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics, sponsoring organizations are the City of Chesterfield; the Chesterfield Police Department; the Rotary Club of West St. Louis County; and the Chesterfield Parks & Recreation Department. Additional sponsors are AEP River Operations; Beseda Flooring; Ascension; Commercial Bank; Emerson; Formax Printing Solutions; LP Business Products; Ameren; www.SusieoJohnson.com; Commerce Bank; and the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce.
Call 314 692 0200 for more information about BackStopPaloozaand available sponsorships. Visit the Monarch Firefighters on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MonarchFirefighters or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MonarchOutreach.
Local Construction Projects Spur Economy, Burden Fire District
July 12, 2013 - Newsmagazine Network.com
CHESTERFIELD - The pace of building activity in Chesterfield and other parts of the Monarch Fire Protection District is good news for the local economy. But the amount of construction work has put the district in a bind as far as keeping up with its inspections of the new projects, as well as its regular, periodic checks of business and industrial locations.
That issue and how best to address it were the subjects of a lengthy discussion at a Monarch Board meeting earlier this month.
Roger Herin, Monarch fire marshal, said the hectic pace of inspection work called for the addition of two full-time fire inspectors and replacing an administrative assistant who soon will retire.
Active, large-scale projects, such as the two outlet malls now being built in Chesterfield Valley, have been willing to pay the district for the extra overtime needed to keep their inspections current and construction on schedule, Herin said. In spite of that, the inspection workload is increasing.
Monarch Board Chairman Robin Harris said he is concerned about the additional funds needed for hiring multiple new people.
One alternative discussed was using current on-duty firefighters for routine inspection work on at least an interim basis. The district has done that in the past but more recently has centered that activity in Herin's department.
Turning over some of that work to firefighters raised the question of the quality of the resulting inspections. Countering that point was the fact that more firefighters would be more familiar with more buildings and other facilities in the district, an advantage if they later are called to those sites for any fire or other emergency.
After an hour of back-and-forth discussion, Harris' motion to move routine inspections to firefighters at the district's five fire stations was approved on a 2-0 vote. Director Jane Cunningham also supported the move. Director Steve Swyers was not at the meeting and was in a location where he couldn't join the deliberations by phone.
To facilitate the work, the Board also authorized the purchase of up to 10 iPads so that the firefighters' inspections can be recorded the same way as the district's regular inspections. Herin estimated it will take three or four weeks to acquire the handheld computers and bring the firefighters up to speed on them and the software used.
After further debate, the Board also approved seeking applications for the jobs of fire inspector and administrative assistant but without stating the number of inspectors to be hired. In addition, Harris asked for information on how job applications are handled, including how they are reviewed and other steps in evaluating job candidates.
Concerns Aired over Monarch Fire District Expenses
June 20, 2013 - KMOX
CHESTERFIELD - A group of concerned taxpayers claims worker compensation insurance costs have gotten out of hand in the Monarch Fire Protection District.
"Two years ago the premiums were $800,000 they are now close to 1.2 million." said Rick Gans with Monarch Concerned Taxpayers.
He claims the Monarch Board of Directors is doing very little to keep the insurance rates down.
For one, he says, they eliminated the position of Human Resources Director which has the job of investigating workers comp claims. He also says they haven't dealt with potential abuses, including multiple claims by the same person.
"A lot of tax dollars are going to workers comp premiums, about five percent of the total budget. That's way out of wack." said Gans.
Gans is a member of 'Monarch Concerned Taxpayers.' The group aired complaints at the district's regular meeting Thursday evening.
Efforts by KMOX to contact Monarch District board members were unsuccessful.
WEST COUNTY - The changing of the guard at the Monarch Fire Protection District has continued with the appointment of an attorney to handle legal matters and the naming of a newly elected director to serve on the board of the dispatch center of which Monarch is a part owner.
With the Monarch Board's earlier action to seek proposals from attorneys interested in serving as the district's legal counsel, the appointment of Michael Bakewell at the Board's May 2 meeting was not entirely unexpected. Bakewell's bid was one of seven received.
However, Bakewell had served as the district's legal counsel for some two decades before being replaced by Charles Billings in 2011. Billings was one of the other six who submitted proposals.
All proposals were opened during the Board's public meeting but were considered behind closed doors before the selection was announced when directors returned to open session.
Directors Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris both said the decision came down to experience and expense, with Bakewell winning their votes on both counts.
Director Steve Swyers opposed the selection, noting Billings' considerable experience in serving fire protection districts and the timing of the change.
The district is defending itself in a wrongful discharge lawsuit filed by three senior officers the Board fired in the wake of a court of appeals ruling upholding a lower court's decision that Monarch was guilty of discriminating against two female firefighters.
The officers' lawsuit is scheduled for trial in September. Bringing new legal counsel up to speed on the case will mean more expense even though an attorney hired by Monarch's insurance company has the lead role in defending the district, Swyers said.
Cunningham, the former state legislator elected to the Board last month, was named to represent Monarch on the Central County Emergency 911 Board. She replaces former Monarch Board President Kim Evans, who did not seek re-election when her six-year term ended this year.
Central County is in the midst of a major expansion program due to the upcoming closure of two other dispatch centers serving fire departments and fire protection districts in the South County and North County areas. Barring the unforeseen, the Central County operation in Ellisville will be handling the dispatching of fire and emergency medical personnel for the vast majority of St. Louis County and portions of adjoining counties by late this year.
Swyers will serve as Monarch's alternate on the Central County Board.
Cunningham ready to tackle Monarch Fire District issues
April 9, 2013 - Suburban Journal
CHESTERFIELD - Former state Sen. Jane Cunningham is ready to get to work once she's sworn in as the newest member of the Monarch Fire Protection District board of directors.
She defeated former state Rep. Cole McNary April 2 for a seat on the board by a vote of 5,698 to 3,762, getting about 60 percent of the vote. She will be sworn in April 17.
"What made a tremendous difference in this election was having two prominent names on the ballot that drew curiosity and attention, so that helped me be able to educate people on what the issue really was in this election," she said.
"That issue was whether a government employees union should be able to select, elect and control board members who then set their salaries so they control both sides of the table or should the residents be represented," she said.
Board members' ties to the firefighters union have long been a source of controversy in Monarch. Cunningham will change the makeup of the three-member board, which had two members supported by the firefighters union before she was elected. Now, only board member Steve Swyers has been supported by the union.
She has said the union selects candidates and pours so much money into their candidates' campaigns that independent candidates cannot compete.
The board of the 55-square-mile district oversees a $20 million budget, five fire houses and 125 employees.
During the last few years, board meetings in the district often have been contentious. Members have made charges and countercharges about finances, governance and affiliation with the firefighters union.
In February, State Auditor Tom Schweich released a state audit of the district's 2010 expenses, giving Monarch a "C" for its performance.
Cunningham also feels her supporters had an effect on the selection of the Rockwood School District Board of Education candidates and the failure of the Proposition S $38.4 million bond issue that were on that same ballot.
"I think we pulled out voters interested in good stewardship of tax dollars and putting people in office they could really trust," Cunningham said.
Now that she's been elected, Cunningham pledges to look at a trio of priorities.
"One of the things that has come out of this race is whether firefighter/paramedic salaries are fair and reasonable or not," she said.
In the past, union-backed board members have been willing to pay back firefighters with lush compensation packages paid for with taxpayer dollars, Cunningham has said. She ran on a pledge of not accepting campaign donations or volunteers from the firefighters' union, saying it would have been a conflict of interest.
"We need to get a thorough and fair analysis of similarly situated fire protection districts and their trained firefighter-paramedics so we're comparing apples to apples and so we know, when we go into future collective bargaining negotiations, what's fair," she said.
"We want to pay well but not be overpaying, and we need to rely on concrete evidence for those decisions."
Cunningham also wants to examine the level of firefighter/paramedic overtime usage.
"Studies show we cannot only give more firefighter/paramedics jobs by not overloading the ones we have with overtime, but also save money for the taxpayers," she said.
"I would also like to look at workers' compensation because Monarch has historically had huge problems with it being more expensive than it should be. Though some money has been saved recently, I think we can save a lot more and keep residents safe at the same time."
Cunningham said she's optimistic she can now work with those who opposed her in the election.
"For the last 15 years, I've been working in policy situations where I've entered a job after going through difficult campaigns, working with people who hadn't supported me," she said.
"And I look forward to sharing ideas. But I'm encouraged by the voter mandate I had, which showed the reality of how people feel. "
Cunningham wins unusual high-profile race for Monarch Fire board
April 3, 2013 - St. Louis Post Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD - Former state Sen. Jane Cunningham on Tuesday beat former state Rep. Cole McNary for a position that may be even more political than the Legislature they both came from: a seat on the board of the Monarch Fire Protection District.
In unofficial results from the west St. Louis County district, Cunningham beat fellow Republican McNary by a roughly 60-40 percent split.
Cunningham won a six-year seat on the three-member board, which controls tax, budget and other issues for the sprawling fire protection district in far west St. Louis County.
It is a position that often sits at the center of conflict between district taxpayers and some of the highest-paid firefighters in the region.
In an interview earlier this year with the Post-Dispatch, Cunningham made it clear which side she comes down on.
"I'm trying to protect my constituents and the taxpayers," she said.
The election drew widespread attention because of the stature of the two candidates. Cunningham is a 12-year veteran of Jefferson City politics. McNary was last year's Republican nominee for state treasurer.
Cunningham, as a state senator, helped lead public opposition that got the Monarch board to rescind a 6.6 percent tax increase a week after it approved the measure in 2011.
During this yearâï¿½ï¿½s campaign, she labeled McNary "the union candidate" and warned: "You don't want the union bosses picking who their boss will be."
McNary denied being the âï¿½ï¿½union candidate" but said earlier this year that he did view the boardâï¿½ï¿½s position as one of working with the firefighters to avoid what he warned would be wasteful strife under Cunningham.
The three board members get $200 for each meeting they attend, which is generally four meetings per month. They also have the option of participating in the district employees' health insurance plan.
The district board has struggled with controversy in recent years, including the rescinded tax increase. There was also a lawsuit for a gender-related hostile work environment that resulted in $1.5 million in judgments and fees. And the suicide of a battalion chief that some blamed on his firing by the board.
Monarch firefighters are among the best paid in the region, with privates making more than $80,000 a year and battalion chiefs making more than $100,000.
The district covers 55 square miles, encompassing parts of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Maryland Heights and Wildwood.
Monarch Fire District board squabbles over new position
March 13, 2013 - Suburban Journal
WEST COUNTY - The Monarch Fire Protection District is wasting taxpayer money by hiring a full-time public education officer, a fire board member said.
That was among claims made during a March 7 board meeting by Monarch board treasurer Robin Harris.
The claim is one of several Harris made that touched off bickering on the board. Harris's claim comes about a month before the April 2 elections that will replace Kim Evans as board president and could change the balance of power on the three-person board.
Evans and board secretary Steve Swyers suggested Harris was simply electioneering. However, they didn't explain who he was electioneering for. None of the present board members are running for reelection.
Former State Sen. Jane Cunningham is running against former State Rep. Cole McNary, son of former County Executive Gene McNary.
At the March 7 fire board meeting, Harris said the hiring in February of retired Monarch firefighter/paramedic Ray Antonicci as the district's full-time public education officer was a duplication of services and a poor expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Firefighters now attend community events and, until July of last year, fire marshal personnel handled public education duties. In July, public education was shifted to a full-time person over Harris's objections.
"We don't need someone we're paying almost $90,000 a year in pay and benefits, and we can provide this same service for less money," Harris said.
Evans said Antonicci's pay is $54,000 a year; he has retained his firefighter/paramedic certification; and that other local fire protection districts, such has Metro West, have a public education officer.
Harris also claimed Evans and board secretary Steve Swyers discussed district business in email exchanges that excluded him. Harris said the emails were a violation of the Missouri Sunshine law.
"Why conduct board business in private, excluding me and the public?" Harris asked.
Harris later obtained the emails from another person. He said he wouldn't release the contents until getting approval from the district's attorney, Chuck Billings.
Swyers countered by asking Harris, "What office are you running for?" And Evans said she felt she "walked into the middle of a campaign, and it's disgusting."