Western Iowa Council Suspends Volunteer Firefighters Over Fund Dispute

January 30, 2015

The City Council in western Iowa’s Shelby has suspended the town’s volunteer firefighters in a dispute over fundraising money.

The council decided Monday to suspend all but one member of the 12-person department. The town of about 640 people will be relying on departments in Minden and Avoca to respond to any emergencies.

Fire Chief Eric Wendt, who wasn’t among those ousted, said the council decided the department’s fundraising proceeds should be under council control, something the volunteers don’t want.

“The council thinks they control our pancake money,” Wendt told the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil. “It’s about if these funds generated from pancake feeds and the like should be labeled as public funds or fire department funds.”

Wendt said he didn’t know why he wasn’t suspended.

City attorney Clint Fichter said there were a number of issues that led to the suspension, but he noted that all department revenue, including money from fundraising, are public funds, subject to the same rules as tax money.

The separate fire department fund held about $40,000, Fichter said.

Robert Hall, who has been a volunteer firefighter for seven years, said he received an email saying he was suspended due to “insubordination,” but he believes it’s tied to the fundraising.

“Now I own a farm with no fire protection unless a truck from Minden shows up,” Hall said.

Fichter said he couldn’t comment on the email.

The city is accepting applications for the fire department, and Fichter said those suspended can reapply as long as they stipulate they will follow council directives and state laws.

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