Nevada County Consolidated fire board critical of grand jury report |

Nevada County Consolidated fire board critical of grand jury report

A recent Nevada County Civil Grand Jury report used outdated information when it blasted Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, board members said Thursday.

“They were far behind on their information flow,” said board member David Hanson. “So many things that they mentioned have already been accomplished.”

Hanson’s comment was one of several Thursday indicating strong opposition to the report, which was highly critical of Consolidated’s financial management and transparency.

“This flow chart is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen,” said Director Keith Grueneberg, holding up a graphic that was included in the grand jury report.

Chairman Warren Knox said he is preparing a draft of an official reply, which is due Sept. 26. He said he wanted to get the response back even sooner than that.

But Richard Ulery, chairman of the fire district’s Citizens Oversight Committee, asked the board members to hold off on the official reply until the oversight committee had a chance to discuss the report.

“We understand your desire to respond with speed,” Ulery said. “But the Citizens Oversight Committee would like to provide input in the reply, since a lot of the information (in the grand jury report) was taken directly from the COC’s final report.”

Ulery said the oversight committee, which is down one member due to a recent resignation, would be meeting next week and would discuss their contribution to the board’s official response.

Knox added that Jeff Van Groningen, temporary finance manager, would be preparing a new five-year budget projection to replace the former projection cited by the grand jury because it showed a major deficit looming. Van Groningen said he has already run new numbers based on changes made by the board in the 2014-15 preliminary budget.

In other business, the board:

— Approved hiring Michael Lewis as a human resource consultant to handle firefighters union contract negotiations and to oversee the filling of at least three vacant positions: human resources director, finance manager and board secretary. Lewis will earn $150 per hour, up to a maximum of $8,000.

— Approved the addition of audio recordings of board meetings to be added on the district website to enhance public transparency. Resident Linda Chaplin complained that she had not received board meeting packets for five months, even though she had requested them. She added that the minutes of those meetings she had missed were inadequate to understand what had occurred. She said the board should follow Nevada County board of supervisors’ lead in having full and informative minutes.

— Announced that progress was being made in working toward the shared services model under a single chief. Hanson suggested setting a firm deadline for all parties to make clear their intentions. Knox, who is leading the group of elected officials and city managers, said he expects to have five possible scenarios sketched out within two weeks.

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email or call 530-477-4239.

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