I'm President of one Company of a 3 Company Department, each Company being in a different house and housing a number of trucks (Engine, Tanker, Utility). We were established in 1941 as a Volunteer Department in a very rural area, but we aren't so rural anymore. About 15 years ago, the Commissioners hired 3 paid staff, their number is 19 now. When I joined in 1978, we had about 150 members in the Department, we number about 60 now. I blame this on overregulation of the Department. Our Volunteers are now required to meet the same training levels as the career staff and this has resulted in a lot of drop outs.
For the past 60 years, our membership applications have been handled at the Company level and voted on by the Company membership to which the applicant has applied. (With me so far?) This is spelled out very clearly in both our Department and individual Company by-laws. The Department by-laws direct all matters concerning membership applications to the Company by-laws.
This past month, the Fire Commissioners assumed all handling of the membership applications against the will of my Company. They will investigate the applicant and upon clearing a background check assign him/her to a Company with no vote. This has been done with no change to the existing by-laws, a clear violation in my opinion. They have also stated that the Company has no right under State law to deny any applicant membership if he/she passes the background check. I find this hard to believe.
Over the past ten years, the Commissioners have taken more and more power away from the membership. The Newbies don't know the difference, but us old timers are concerned they are phasing out the Volunteers through increasingly demanding training requirements and performance demands. It's almost a full time job to keep up.
Our Company is not in a position to hire a lawyer to resolve this, but I don't believe that it will be without action. Our Commissioners have been acting like dictators for a number of years and shoot me down every time I appear before them. I feel this issue is worth fighting for. Does anyone have any input on this matter or know where we might turn for legal advice? I'm sorry for the long winded nature of this post, but this is the "politics" forum. Thank you!
I would think that the most important issue in determining a Company's Rights would be funding. How is your Company funded, taxes or donations? Or other?
Thanks for the response. Our Department is funded through taxes which pays for the building, equipment, paid staff and training. The companies are funded through fundraising events such as dinners, carnivals, raffles, etc. which are run by the volunteer members and donations. These funds are used to provide furnishings and food for the houses. No money can be spent without the approval of a majority of each company's volunteer members. Since the members are voting on the expenditure of funds, shouldn't the Company have the right to determine who their members are through a vote? Especially since this procedure is spelled out in Company by-laws?