I received an anonymous letter several months ago asking me to do some research on an issue at the Buckeye Lake Fire Department. It seems our tax dollars paid for seven individuals to take a EMT Basic class in Thornville conducted by Mid-East Career and Technology Centers of Zanesville. The $6,790 invoice is for a EMT Basic class from October 25, 2011 to February 11, 2012, and the students are listed as Cline, Dempsey, Garner, Leindecker, Miller, Ramsey and Scott at $970 each. According to the instructor, only one student passed the course and two students were removed from the class for cheating. Garner passed the course. Dempsey moved out of the area and so far is the only student reimbursing the village for the tuition and books ($200 for each student).
The original bill dated Feb. 21 was apparently held at the fire department and never taken to the village office. Therefore, it remained unpaid as did the second billing since the fiscal officer didn’t know anything about it. Only after The Beacon asked about the bill did the fiscal officer learn that an invoice should be forthcoming. In the meantime, the fire department did submit a March 7, 2012, C-Tec invoice to the fiscal officer for payment. That $1,172 invoice was for an EMT Basic class, running from January 23 to April 28, 2012, for the fire chief’s son, Corey Leindecker. He was one of the unsuccessful Mid-East students.
On April 11, 2012, Mid-East wrote the fire department asking for payment within ten days or a reason why payment could not be made. Attached was the original invoice stamped “THIRD INVOICE.” Finally, the invoice made it to the village hall and has been paid. It seems very strange that a March 7th invoice got to the village office long before a February 21 made it there. Maybe someone wanted the C-Tec bill to be paid before taxpayers found out that only one student out of six successfully completed an earlier EMT Basic class.
A few days ago, I asked four council members (including the Safety Committee Chair) if they had any knowledge of this and they did not. The village has established rules for the repayment of tuition costs in the event a student fails to complete a class, fails a class or fails to fulfill their volunteer commitment to the village in exchange for the training. I believe that at least in the past a student had to sign a contract. It appears that our fire chief is not accountable for our tax dollars. He has authorized payment TWICE for his son’s tuition without council approval or even notification.
Did the mayor know about this? If not, shame on him! Maybe he needs to spend more time doing his job. If he does know about it and failed to inform council, shame on him! Article 5 of the village charter says that the mayor shall exercise control over all departments and that he shall keep the council fully advised concerning the present condition and future needs of the village.
Here are some critical questions that demand answers! Why is only one student reimbursing the village for tuition and books? Why is the chief’s son immediately rewarded with another taxpayer-paid class? Why haven’t the two cheaters been removed from the department? Do you want someone caring for you in an emergency that cheated in an EMT Basic class? I don’t think so.
It’s time for the fire chief and mayor to answer these questions. It’s more than just the nearly $8,000 spent without council’s knowledge or approval. It goes directly to the integrity and competence of the fire department. Buckeye Lake residents and visitors deserve better.