At yet another special meeting, fire district commissioners Bill Meursing and Stan Riffle appointed Jeff Wilmot to fill the seat vacated by David Gellatly following his resignation last month. About 15 residents who have been avidly following recent events at the fire district attended the meeting.
Commissioner Meursing opened the meeting by declaring that the fire district was committed to being “transparent” in its dealings with the public. “Commissioner Riffle and I are committed to transparency,” he said, adding “We have made mistakes and we’ll make mistakes in the future.” Turning his gaze to the press table, Meursing said, “It is important that those who report on us be transparent as well. We all play a ball game that we can play together … I’m expecting a little bit better accountability from the newspaper here, I’m expecting an unbiased view, a no-slant reporting style” from the All Point Bulletin. His remarks were met by applause from the audience. “I’m asking the All Point Bulletin to help us out,” he said.
Along with Wilmot, the commissioners interviewed Paul Gott, who also had thrown his hat into the commissioner ring. Gott, who has previously questioned the commissioners on lack of transparency, related his work and life experiences and how he believed it would be positive for the fire district. Stressing his entrepreneurial roots, Gott said, “I have a wealth of business experience. I’ve owned my own business since the age of four. I think I can apply the fiscal side of things in a measured way.”
Wilmot told commissioners he was retired and looking for an outlet to contribute his experience and his personal goals. “I saw in the last few weeks a disconnect between the commissioners and their responsibilities and the community,” Wilmot said, adding, “I don’t think the commissioners controlled the message. If I can help do that, I think that would be a remarkable achievement.” Wilmot too possessed extensive business experience.
Following Wilmot’s remarks, Riffle commented that both candidates were equally impressive. “It’s been a tough decision but I’m ready to make a motion to appoint Jeff Wilmot,” he said. With that, the motion was passed and Wilmot was appointed to the third commission seat.
Meursing then opened the meeting to questions and comments from the audience. First up was Arthur Reber, who asked why the commissioners were unable to discuss the firing of former fire chief Nick Kiniski. Meursing told Reber the district’s attorney had advised the board against making any comments in light of potential litigation by Kiniski. He added that he was unaware of any lawsuit currently being filed.
Judy Ross pointed out that Meursing had made a general accusation accusing the All Point Bulletin of bias without elaboration. “Unless you have some fact that you would like to present to me about where you see that happening, then I don’t have to pay much attention to what you say and I don’t think the newspaper has to either. I think as a mark of transparency and good manners, it ill-behooves the commissioners to accuse others of broad failings … without presenting some facts about it.”
Meursing replied, “I will not go into specifics, they’re well-known in the newspaper, especially Meg Olson and I’ll leave it at that.” Ross was followed by Pat Grubb, publisher of the All Point Bulletin, who told Meursing “If you are going to make accusations about our coverage then you should really back it up with incidences, examples of where we have gone wrong, where we have misstated facts, where we have been in error and we would be happy to print that.”
Meursing replied that he had tried to talk to Meg Olson “and it was a total disaster. We tried to correct two items in the last story and got nowhere.”
Grubb responded by pointing out that having a private conversation with Meg Olson didn’t do Meursing any good and it didn’t do the community any good. “If you think we have gone wrong, then because we are writing for the general population, you should be sure that the general population knows where you think we have gone wrong,” he concluded.
Another in a long series of special meetings has been scheduled for 4 p.m., Tuesday, September 25 to approve minutes of the September 12 and September 19 meetings.