Thread: Can we turn down new applicants?
09-08-1999, 08:53 AM #1ericnhFirehouse.com Guest
Can we turn down new applicants?
My Volunteer fire department is comprised of 5 seperate engine company's and a ladder company. All have there own line officer's, Engineer through Captain. My fire company is faced with a small problem. We have an application from a friend of ours that we know from past experiences that the person will not conribute anythig to the company. Also this person has been a lot of trouble for us, and has gotten our fire company in trouble with the town. We would like to give this person a chance, but we have tried really hard to boost our reputation with the townspeople, and many of us would would not like to see that hard work go to waste.
One of the older members in the company stated last night that we cannot turn down the application because of certain laws that affect membership of Volunteer Fire Departments. My question is that is there anything in NJ state laws or federal laws that regulate the acceptence or denial of new members? Please advise.
09-08-1999, 11:22 AM #2iwood51Firehouse.com Guest
I can't speak legally, and I can't speak on the specifics of New Jersey, however, I do consider myself well versed in bylaws and the governing body of them (Roberts Rules of Order). What do your bylaws say about applicants? I would strongly suggest that you post your exact question on the Robert's Rules of Order Q&A Forum.
IMHO of your situation, you would not be able to refuse the application (with the exception of arson conviction (NYS Law), however, as a volunteer organization, you surely vote on accepting a member into your organization, this is where you can reject the applicant, short of that you are getting into discriminationary behaviour. The url for the RONR website is http://www.robertsrules.com
I will take the liberty and post you question for you, however, I think you will find the response to be along the lines that I have indicated.
09-08-1999, 01:18 PM #3e33Firehouse.com Guest
If you know he is a dirtbird..then you can surely deny his application. As long as there is substantiative proof to back that.
I'm a Jerseyan as well...and I do not know of any particular rules or regs that pertain to such.
[This message has been edited by e33 (edited September 08, 1999).]
09-08-1999, 04:22 PM #4iwood51Firehouse.com Guest
One reply so far from the RONR site:
"My advice would have been to consult an attorney or at least get some information from the NJ secretary of state about state statutes governing volunteer fireman BEFORE advising the application be accepted and the membership vote. Any federal or state statutes will take precedence over bylaws
Mary D. Smith"
As I indicated to you before, New York only allows exception for an arson conviction, I will check again when I get home, however, I can only give you my interpretation of the New York law, which won't help you in NJ but might point you in the direction that you need to look.
09-09-1999, 08:54 AM #5Bob SnyderFirehouse.com Guest
I can't tell you what the exact legal issues are, but I can tell you our situation and you can judge the extent to which it applies to you...
We are organized as a private, non-profit corporation (in PA). According to our corporate by-laws, any application for membership must be brought before a monthly business meeting, turned over to the investigating committee for one month, and then be brought back before a second monthly business meeting along with a report from the investigating committee (favorable or unfavorable & why). At that point, each application must be voted on, and requires a majority of those present to be voted into membership (in other words, each application vote is its own motion on the floor).
If the investigating committee or the board of directors (officers) wish to exclude someone, they must show a specific reason why the individual is unfit (in terms of character...past problems at other fire companies, past acts, past expulsion from the company, criminal record, etc.). However, even without opposition to an application from the investigating committee or the board, any member may move that any application be denied, and a majority vote to deny the application will stand. This has happened periodically, although only to applications for social membership (we are a combination organization with about 25 officially active "engine crew" that are the firefighters and about 300 "social members," who only have access to the bar & banquet hall).
Our lawyers have always told us that the procedure is legal because we are a private entity, and there have never been any successful challenges to a rejection. The charter and by-laws have been accepted by the Commonwealth Department of State, and these procedures have been in place since the early 1900s, with some slight modifications. I would assume that we would be vulnerable if these votes showed a pattern of discrimination of some sort, but this has never been an issue.
In short, we can pretty much do what we want as an organization. Iwood is right, though, you should consult a lawyer to be safe. I hope this helps you somehow.
[This message has been edited by Bob Snyder (edited September 09, 1999).]
09-09-1999, 04:31 PM #6Scott ClarkFirehouse.com Guest
Eric, answer me one question, is this guy so out of control that he would tarnish your departments reparation? I'm getting a vibe that your organization has had its trouble in the past. You all are trying to repair things, whats to say this guy isn't? Find out what his motives are for joining, then lay down the law to what you all expect of him as a member. It is hard to forgive actions of the past, but people do change. Before you push this guy away talk to him first, you might be pleasantly surprised! On your question about whether or not you can vote someone out, yes if you are incorporated. Municipality fire departments can only do it if your convicted of arson or a felony. One last thought, don't jump on the band wagon because everyone else is. Seek your own answer and decide from there. I never put much trust in an investigation committee, there kind of like movie critics, you need to see the movie yourself. Get my point? Good luck Brother.
If we stand united.... We will never fall.
09-09-1999, 06:33 PM #7TRUCK 110Firehouse.com Guest
Hi Eric, and of course Scott:
I have an opinion, and you know what they say about those.
I myself see your Plight, and I concur with your problem, but here is a real question that you also need to answer..It's the Shingle outside your Station. Now it most probably says VOLUNTEER, and if you have any openings for membership,and you refuse this person, then you might be discriminating against that person.
Now if you are a Private Corporation Fire Dept, and not affiliated with a Local Government,Village,Town, City, then you may be able to use the same thing as a Hiring policy, but still this is a Touchy subject.
I also feel that if you have 2 areas in your respective Dept., Corporate and Fire Line,and if your By Laws State that you must be a Member of the Corporate Structure to be a Member of the Fire Line, you maybe able to skate this Sticky Situation. But this is only a "BLIND GUESS"..
One thing we all need to remember..We are using Public Funds, paid to us to provide a Service, and there would be nothing worse to give us a BLACK EYE, then if this went to the Public through the Media.
Thanks for the Post..Be Safe
09-09-1999, 10:40 PM #8ericnhFirehouse.com Guest
Scott, This persons motive is strictly to have a place to hang out. I am all for giving chances believe me when I say there all used up.
We have been trying to change our image because it isn't a very good one. We have our own problems with the members we have, and we do not want anymore. Yes, we are under a municipality, but I was told that our charter was formed privately 127 years ago and has never changed. So we are a privete organization but, we are funded by the town as far as the equipment and 3 of the 6 firehouses. I don't know I am at a loss.
It is unfortunate that the people in my company have to spend time worrying about keeping trouble makers out when we all know we could be doing a lot better things.
Thanks everyone for your input. Apparently the town's attorney was notified of our situation and it is being looked into, but I am still looking into it.
[This message has been edited by ericnh (edited September 09, 1999).]
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