1. #51
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    Post Another Naples Fire Commission Story

    North Naples Fire District officials criticize GOP's Carr

    Monday, June 23, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    One North Naples fire commissioner says he's offended by remarks recently made by the head of the local Republican Party.

    IF YOU GO

    The Collier County Republican Party Executive Committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, in County Commission chambers on the third floor of the government complex.


    At a recent fire commission meeting, Chairman Christopher Lombardo criticized statements made by Collier GOP Chairman Mike Carr about the fire district.

    Carr recently formed a committee whose job will be to examine the long-standing controversies at the fire department and provide the public with explanations.

    The three-member committee is scheduled to meet this week, Carr said.

    Over the past month, Carr has expressed concern about North Naples residents, who, he says, should not have to worry about the quality of their fire service as a result of the mounting administrative troubles in the taxpayer-funded district.

    Lombardo stressed that even amid problems at the district, the service and dedication district firefighters provide should not be called into question.

    "I find it offensive to hear comments like that," Lombardo said. "I think we have great firefighters and a great fire department, and an incredible level of service despite the controversy."

    The three-member panel chosen by Carr is made up of Janet Vasey, a local government watchdog; Chuck McMahon, chairman of the Golden Gate Fire District; and Tom Cannon, chairman of the East Naples Fire District.

    Vasey is suing the North Naples fire department to stop the agency from paying a $300,000 severance to former Chief James Tobin. The majority of fire commissioners agreed on Aug. 29, 2002, to pay Tobin the lump sum. It was the same day he left his $94,000-a-year job.

    Lombardo also complained about not having been invited to a meeting earlier this month held by the Collier GOP, at which Carr introduced the newly formed committee to fellow Republicans.

    Lombardo joked about the Republican Party's sudden involvement in fire district matters.

    "I know we can breathe easy that the Republican Party executive committee is going to go out and determine with absolute certainty that we're all safe wow!" he said.

    While Lombardo complains about the GOP's involvement with the district, current North Naples Fire Chief James Webb recently said he applauds the efforts of the Republican Party.

    For more than two years, controversy at the district has taken center stage.

    Last month, Carr called for the ouster of four of the five North Naples fire commissioners. He suggested taxpayers replace Lombardo, along with fire commissioners Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan and Henry Hamel.

    Maguire, Milligan and Hamel are up for re-election next year. Lombardo began serving another four-year term in November.

    With the exception of Joyceanna "JA" Rautio, a new slate of commissioners should come on board, Carr noted.

    Rautio was appointed to the fire commission in mid-January 2002 and then was elected to serve for four years in November.

    Carr responded to criticism, stressing that his intention was never to disparage North Naples firefighters.

    "If folks are upset, they have only themselves to look at," Carr said. "The only one who stood up loud and clear and demanded accountability and honesty was JA Rautio. She demanded it early on. If we don't make an effort to solve this and if it's not solved by the people involved in the mess, the only solution is restructure the system."

    Bill Ryan, a retired firefighter from North Naples, and Michael Lissack, a former Collier County Commission candidate and North Naples taxpayer, both denounced Carr's reference to fire safety in the district.

    Rautio said the continuing problems at the district boil down to one issue.

    "In my opinion, current and former fire commissioners have failed to supervise the former chief," she said. "These problems should have been noticed long before I was appointed."

    But Carr isn't the only one keeping a close eye on issues relating to the North Naples Fire District.

    County commissioners Tom Henning, Jim Coletta, Donna Fiala and Fred Coyle have expressed concern about activity in the district. They said they support Carr's initiative.

    County Commissioner Frank Halas, who represent North Naples, was unavailable for comment.

    "I applaud the Republican Party looking into illegal expenses within all governments," Henning said.

    Coletta said, "I see no harm in what (the GOP) is doing."

    Fiala added, "I think it's a good idea to have a committee formed and to have some unbiased eyes looking at (the district) and probably from another point of view."

    Coyle concurred.

    "I think it's a great idea," he said. "There seems to be a lot of problems with the North Naples Fire District. I think it's essential for taxpayers' interest that somebody gets involved. It seems to me that more aggressive action is necessary."

    Collier County's Republican Party will meet to discuss the North Naples Fire District at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, in County Commission chambers.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #52
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    Post Looking to the Future???

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    North Naples Fire Commission Chairman focuses on the future

    Tuesday, June 24, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    North Naples Fire Commission Chairman Christopher Lombardo would rather focus his energy and attention toward moving the fire district into the future.

    But some residents are more interested in solving the problems of the past.

    Lombardo was the guest speaker at an informal gathering hosted by the Property Owners Association of North Collier County that drew about 25 people Monday night.

    The main topic dealt with what some of those in attendance consider the chaotic financial conditions lingering in the department nearly 10 months after James Tobin left his post as fire chief on Aug. 29, 2002, in exchange for a $300,000 severance package.

    Lombardo expressed his concern regarding the bad rap he feels district firefighters are getting in the wake of the continuing controversy in the aftermath of Tobin's departure.

    North Naples firefighters should be commended and appreciated for their professionalism and service during such trying times, Lombardo said.

    It's time to move on, he stressed.

    "We've had a tumultuous fire department," he added. "The storm has passed. We're in a cleanup phase."

    With an FBI investigation under way and investigative inquiries by officials from the Collier County Sheriff's Office's Economic Crimes Unit and State Attorney's Office, some residents expressed how the controversies of the past administration under Tobin's five-year tenure continue to affect public reaction.

    The investigating authorities launched a probe of the fire department last fall. During Tobin's last two years as chief, he quarreled with the firefighters' union, allegedly turned district credit and debit cards to his personal use and ordered his assistant to do his college course work.

    Nick Hale, a North Naples resident for 13 years, said he was concerned with the problems at the fire district and wanted answers.

    "I don't think we came here to learn how good the firefighters are. We know they're good," said Hale, 78. "I agree we have to look forward. We also have to look back in the fire commission and fire chief."

    Lombardo told Monday night's audience that for years he was the only fire commissioner on the sidelines questioning the activity and decisions made by the Tobin administration.

    "We had a fire chief (Tobin) who certainly was interesting. He was charismatic," Lombardo said. "But I noticed early on that we had a significant anger management problem. I raised these issues four years ago. I was the lonesome voice out there. We've spent ... almost a year in dealing with the aftermath."

    In fact, Lombardo was one of two commissioners who voted against Tobin's $300,000 compensation payout, now the subject of legal challenge by a taxpayer challenge. Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio also voted down the severance agreement.

    Lombardo pointed out that he was adamantly opposed to the way Tobin's departure was handled.

    "I didn't like the exit plan," he said. "I wanted an investigation done. I wanted to fire him for cause. That's not what happened."

    Some residents at the meeting urged Lombardo to share what he knew about the status of the FBI investigation. Lombardo declined to divulge any information.

    Janet Vasey, a North Naples government watchdog, filed a lawsuit against the fire district and Tobin to bar the department from paying the ex-chief the promised $300,000. She attended Monday night's meeting.

    Vasey raised concerns about the questions pertaining to the district's impact fee fund, which, fire district officials have concluded, was improperly used to purchase replacement items for the department.

    Money from impact fees is collected from charges imposed on new commercial or residential property. Florida law requires for those taxes to be used strictly by special districts and municipalities to purchase capital assets out of need for growth not to replace equipment, such as a fire engine.

    "It's the lack of accountability," said Vasey, an outspoken Tobin critic. "Tobin did what he did, but three of fire commissioners allowed him to do this. The commissioners and chief knew what they were doing with impact fee money."

    Fire commissioners Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan and Henry Hamel voted to award Tobin the $300,000 severance.

    Lombardo concurred with Vasey.

    "The chief certainly knew the rules," he said.

    Vasey added, "The chief knew the rules; I fought him constantly."

    Lombardo tried to assure residents that the district has made progress.

    "We've already made certain adjustments," he said. "All we can do at this juncture is correct the problem."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  3. #53
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    Post More Improper Spending

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    Audit shows NNFD spent more than $200,000 improperly

    Wednesday, July 2, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    During a five-year period, more than $200,000 in expenditures were paid for with taxpayer money from the North Naples Fire District's impact fee fund that were either improper, questionable or lacked proper documentation, fire commissioners discovered Tuesday.

    The findings by an independent auditor and district staff were made during a special fire commission meeting to discuss the district's impact fee account, the subject of much criticism by some local community watchdogs.

    Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio called for a formal investigation by the State Attorney's Office into the dozens of missing receipts and invoices that could not be located within the district's administrative offices.

    Rautio said she plans to contact State Attorney Steve Russell for guidance.

    "I have every intention of contacting Steve Russell to discuss what action should be taken about the apparent destruction and/or theft of numerous missing accounting records," Rautio said after the meeting. "I've been concerned since I've been a commissioner about the lack of records and the lack of organization of the records."

    Rautio warned commissioners that the missing documents in question could have grave implications for the department.

    "After looking at what I've looked at, I want to disclose right up front: I see a large issue here it's called destruction and theft of public records," Rautio said Tuesday. "Now, do I just go (and say), 'I'm going to ignore this?' I think I'm duty-bound to report this to the State Attorney's Office about the theft or destruction of public records."

    The missing documents would provide the Fire District with an entire breakdown of purchases made that are now classified as "unidentified" items, district records reveal.

    Dozens of purchases made during the fiscal years starting in 1997 through 2001 were improper expenses charged to the impact fee fund, records show.

    The district's independent auditors, the Fort Myers accounting firm of Markham Norton Stroemer & Co., came across the findings as part of its annual review of the district's impact fee fund.

    Some of the improper or questionable expenses include a $1,400 computer purchased for ex-Fire Chief James Tobin, more than $19,000 in physical fitness equipment for two fire stations and a magazine subscription of $1,800, according to the findings.

    Commissioners agreed Tuesday to reimburse the impact fee fund by $210,823.94 with money from the department's general operating account.

    Rautio said she'd been contacted by a citizen who assured her that public documents within the district had "disappeared within a period of time." Rautio did not elaborate.

    Fire Commission Vice Chairman Ed Maguire, who presided over the meeting, said he was unaware of the records Rautio referred to.

    Maguire argued that although supporting documents were not available for the questionable items, it was customary, in the past, for fire commissioners to always have the material attached to checks before commissioners would sign off on payments, he said.

    "The only checks we sign with nothing attached are payroll checks," Maguire said.

    Commission Chairman Christopher Lombardo was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

    Purchases for which district staff could not locate backup documentation include receipts to support more than $550 in medical equipment, a $670 purchase made at an auto parts store and a $387 check made payable to Home Depot.

    More than a dozen purchases, including some to Ten-8 Fire Equipment, a Bradenton company that sells fire engines, were classified as "unidentified."

    Orly Stolts, the district's deputy fire chief, said though receipts and invoices were missing, he could easily provide commissioners with the information because he knew what most of the unidentified purchases were for.

    Rautio questioned Stolts' contention.

    "So you are lobbying for those things that are unidentified?" Rautio asked Stolts.

    Stolts was the point man during the transaction of a used North Naples fire engine that was sold to the fire department in Alma, Neb., for $40,000 in 1999. The truck was sold to Chris Becker, who was sheriff and fire chief of Alma at the time and an acquaintance of Stolts from his hometown. Stolts has maintained there was nothing wrong or illegal about the sale of the fire truck.

    Stolts said the engine had too much mileage, so North Naples sold it to the Alma Fire Department, a volunteer agency in a town of about 1,200 people.

    There was improper documentation on more than $30,000 in emergency radios. However, commissioners determined those purchases likely would have been impact-fund related because the radios came about after the county changed its network system, and the district had to get new radios.

    The missing documents raised the interest of at least one community leader.

    David Ellis, executive vice president of the Collier Building Industry Association, attended Tuesday's meeting to learn how the department planned to fix its financial mess, more than 10 months after James Tobin left his post as chief. The association is a watchdog group from the construction business that monitors how money from impact fees is spent.

    "We will be doing an independent examination of this to see if there's an alternative finding that we make," Ellis said during a meeting break.

    Impact fees are one-time taxes assessed and collected on new residential or commercial property. Per Florida law, impact fee money is solely to be used to purchase capital assets, such as a fire truck, as a result of growth within an agency or district.

    For example, purchasing replacement items such as firefighter uniforms do not qualify as a legitimate expense under the impact fee fund.

    But while Rautio said she wanted clear cut answers about documents and questionable purchases, Commissioner Henry Hamel urged the board to focus on fixing the district's financial problems.

    "We can't change what happened in the past," he said. "No amount of investigation is going to change what happened."

    Most of the purchases from Tuesday's review of the impact fee fund occurred under Tobin's five-year tenure.

    Tobin at one time kept the district's impact fee fund checkbook at his residence, records show. Checks from that account covered the time period from 1998-99 or the fiscal year ending 1999.

    Records reveal that checks for large expenditures were handwritten from the impact fee checkbook during October 1998 through September 1999 at least a portion of the period of time Tobin is believed to have kept the checkbook at his home. Tobin's attorney has denied his client ever kept the district checkbook at his home.

    Commissioners agreed Tuesday to deposit the $200,000-plus back into the district's impact fee account using money from the general account. Impact fees bring in about $1 million on average in revenues to the Fire District each year
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  4. #54
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    Post Ex-Chief's Former Secretary receives Severance

    Naples Daily News

    North Naples Fire District severs ties with former chief's assistant
    Employee will receive $58,000 severance package after claiming she did ex-Fire Chief James Tobin's college coursework

    Wednesday, July 2, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    A North Naples Fire District employee, who claimed she did ex-Fire Chief James Tobin's college coursework, will collect more than $58,000 from the district as part of a settlement agreement approved Tuesday.

    Fire commissioners voted 3-1 to sever ties with Lisa Stefani, rejecting Fire Chief James Webb's recommendation to fire the 12-year employee.



    Lisa Stefani

    Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio cast the dissenting vote. Board Chairman Christopher Lombardo did not attend the meeting.

    As part of her severance package, Stefani, a former Tobin ally, will receive a hefty payday of $58,022.06, including accumulated sick leave and one-year salary within 30 days.

    But the $58,000-plus settlement is just part of what Stefani is entitled to under the agreement, which includes her educational expenses.

    Stefani did not attend the meeting. She was represented at the meeting by her Marco Island attorney, Eric Vasquez.

    Stefani, who worked under Tobin since he began his tenure as chief in 1997, accused Tobin last year of ordering her to do his college coursework while he pursued a bachelor's degree at International College, a private university with campuses in Naples and Fort Myers.

    Tobin has consistently denied that Stefani ever performed any coursework on his behalf.

    Stefani was paid an annual salary of $55,462.70, or the equivalent of more than $26 per hour.

    Stefani also attended International and recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in executive management, the same degree she claims she helped Tobin obtain. North Naples taxpayers picked up the entire tab of $11,126.64 for Stefani's educational expenses, records show.

    And taxpayers will likely never recoup that money.

    Under the terms of Stefani's settlement agreement, commissioners agreed to forgive Stefani for the entire sum of the educational expenses, meaning she won't have to pay back one penny.

    Webb, who became the district chief earlier this year, was represented by Tampa attorney Reynolds Allen, who told fire commissioners the chief had sufficient reason to fire Stefani for cause.

    Commissioners Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan and Henry Hamel didn't seem to share that sentiment. They cited concern for exorbitant attorney fees from Stefani's lawyer and from the district's legal counsel as the reason they preferred to award Stefani the money.

    Allen cautioned that if the board fired Stefani and she appealed, legal fees for the fire district could exceed $50,000.

    ". . . From what I see and have heard, we'd be financially better to make the settlement," Milligan said.

    Hamel added, "Everything that we're faced with tells us that the lawyers' fees will be higher than the settlement."

    Rautio, a longtime critic of Tobin and the most outspoken member of the fire commission, said she could not agree to pay more than $58,000 to Stefani.

    "It's the taxpayers' money," she said. "I think we had enough here to fire her for cause. I can't support that concept on behalf of the taxpayers."

    Webb said there were a number of sufficient reasons to terminate Stefani's employment.

    Among them, he said, was an instance when Stefani inappropriately removed original records from the district and gave them to a person not employed by the department. Other reasons, he cited, included Stefani failing to follow instructions and provide copies of board meeting agendas, and not returning to work after being released early from jury duty and getting paid for an eight-hour day. Stefani also failed to remove former district employees from the district's group medical insurance plan, he said.

    Webb proposed firing Stefani by offering her a four months' severance payment of $18,500 in addition to $1,089 in sick leave. Of the $18,500, Stefani would have had to reimburse the district $1,912 in educational expenses for one class she was enrolled in at International College during the past year.

    Webb contended that because it wasn't until this year the fire district adopted educational policies, the fair thing to do would be to have Stefani reimburse the department for the courses the district paid for within the last year.

    Under Webb's proposal, Stefani would have walked away with $17,677, in lieu of the more than $58,000 she was awarded Tuesday.

    Under the agreement approved by commissioners, the district is obliged to pay Stefani her hourly rate of about $26 in the event she is called back in to the district to assist department staff with any unfinished business. Furthermore, the district agrees to pay Stefani's legal bills if she's called in to testify on any current or future district-related matters.

    Also under the agreement, Stefani vows to fully cooperate with the district. She will return all equipment, records, books, compact discs, supplies and books belonging to the district. Stefani also will not criticize the fire board or refuse to cooperate fully with attorneys or representatives of the fire department.

    Tuesday was not the first time commissioners agreed to use taxpayer money to pay Stefani's expenses.

    Last fall, commissioners agreed to reimburse Stefani for up to $2,000 in legal fees because Stefani told commissioners she was forced to hire Vasquez, her attorney, as a result of an active FBI investigation of the district.

    Stefani was questioned by the FBI and other state law enforcement probing district finances.

    Law enforcement investigated the fire department just a couple of months after Tobin's controversial exit on Aug. 29, 2002, with an approved $300,000 severance payout.

    A taxpayer lawsuit filed by Janet Vasey, a local government watchdog, is blocking the district from paying Tobin and the matter is tied up in the courts. Attorneys for the district, Vasey and Tobin have agreed to mediate the case sometime this summer.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  5. #55
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    Post Mediation

    Tobin severance agreement lawsuit going to mediation

    Saturday, August 16, 2003
    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com

    There is no need to continue the legal squabble over the $300,000 severance agreement awarded to former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin.

    That's the contention behind a motion recently filed by Fred Hardt, the Naples attorney representing a local government watchdog in a legal battle about the $300,000.

    Hardt filed a motion for summary judgment, asking a Collier Circuit judge to rule in favor of Janet Vasey, the North Naples taxpayer suing the North Naples fire district and Tobin.

    The legal maneuver is a way to persuade the judge to side with Vasey without the case going to trial, Hardt said.
    government watchdog Janet Vasey

    Vasey's complaint alleges that Tobin's $300,000 severance package, struck Aug. 29, 2002, behind closed doors, was a violation of the Sunshine Law. On that day, Tobin agreed to leave his $94,000-a-year job in exchange for the $300,000.

    Hardt and attorneys for the fire district and Tobin have agreed to enter into mediation Aug. 29, in an attempt to settle the case.

    Tobin was due the first $150,000 installment Oct. 1, 2002, but after Vasey filed suit, a judge placed an injunction on the lump sum, preventing the fire department from disbursing the money. The former chief is supposed to receive the second $150,000 payment on Oct. 1.

    The five-member fire commission agreed to send fire Commissioner Ed Maguire, Tobin and attorneys for both sides into a closed-door session to discuss Tobin's contract buyout. Because the Aug. 29, 2002, meeting occurred behind closed doors away from the public eye, it violates Florida's open meeting laws, Hardt contends.

    "The commission filed a resolution to send in a negotiating team that's an official act," said Hardt, who filed the motion Aug. 11. "You can't have a negotiation in private. It has to be a duly noticed meeting and it has to be open to the public. A record has to be made like any other public meeting."

    John Cardillo, the East Naples lawyer representing the fire district, recently advised fire commissioners to enter into a non-binding mediation proceeding with Hardt and Bass. Commissioners agreed, saying mediation was the best option for the fire department at this point.

    Tobin left the fire district under a cloud of controversy last year. The former chief was accused of, among other things, harassing and retaliating against firefighters and ordering an employee to do his college course work.

    Attorney Ray Bass, who represents Tobin in the fight for the $300,000 severance, assured this week that he is confident the judge will side with his client.

    Hardt's legal strategy "has no merit whatsoever," Bass said.

    Because only one fire commissioner attended the closed-door meeting with Tobin and lawyers for both sides, there was no violation of the Sunshine Law, Bass maintains.

    "I have very high confidence" in this case, Bass said. "One of us isn't right here. It's like saying the sky is green. Is it green or is it blue? We're both looking at the same sky but we just don't agree on the color. So, the judge will have to tell us what color it is."

    The North Naples fire commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at fire station No. 45 at Veterans Park off Immokalee Road.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    Post It just goes on and on and on!!!!

    Mediation hearing nears for Tobin-fire district dispute, but may not resolve the issue

    Monday, August 18, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    The attorney representing ex-North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin says he is less than optimistic about an upcoming mediation hearing intended to resolve a dispute over $300,000 severance he says his client is owed.

    Attorney Ray Bass contends neither he nor Tobin are willing to budge on the $300,000 severance deal that the majority of North Naples fire commissioners agreed to grant Tobin nearly one year ago.

    "That's what was agreed upon," Bass said. "The district has no legal excuse for not paying it."

    If Bass and Tobin maintain their tough stance, then mediation may not work, said attorney Fred Hardt, who represents the taxpayer who is suing the department and Tobin to stop payment of the $300,000.

    "If Mr. Bass is going to take that position, we're wasting our time," Hardt said.

    Bass has agreed to participate in a nonbinding mediation hearing starting Wednesday, Aug. 20, along with Hardt and John Cardillo, the attorney representing the fire district.

    Bass said he's not sure mediation will settle or resolve the issue.

    "The nature of mediation is to consider offers on both sides," Bass said. "The problem with that is it doesn't mean a whole lot until it's voted on by the (fire) board."

    Hardt said he intends to offer an alternative resolution to the dispute.

    "I'm going to propose that the parties agree to submit the matter to the Attorney General for opinion," Hardt said. "A governmental body such as the North Naples fire district can request an opinion from the Attorney General. It's free. I'd be willing to abide by that opinion."

    Hardt also indicated that should there be a breakdown in communication during the mediation hearing, he is prepared for further legal wrangling.

    "Let's assume there's an impasse in the mediation. We can go ahead and have the motions heard and go to trial if need be," he said.

    In June, at the urging of Cardillo, the five-member fire board agreed to enter into mediation as a step toward resolving the yearlong controversy.

    The session will be held in private, without a court reporter or other official record, Cardillo said.

    Hardt said that, under Florida law, mediation proceedings are confidential.

    Bass recently said he and Tobin would walk out of mediation proceedings should the fire district have a court reporter in the room.

    Janet Vasey is the North Naples taxpayer who filed suit last year to block the fire district from paying Tobin the first $150,000 lump sum originally due Oct. 1, 2002. The second $150,000 is supposed to go to Tobin this Oct. 1.

    Bass maintains that Tobin should have already received a check for the first $150,000, less the $31,160.72 check that Tobin was cut last fall for four months' severance pay, as per his contract with the fire department.

    Vasey's suit alleges that the fire department violated the state's Sunshine Law when one fire commissioner, Tobin and attorneys for both sides entered into a closed-door negotiation of Tobin's contract buyout. The Sunshine Law requires public entities to hold meetings in the presence of the public.

    Tobin left his post as chief Aug. 29, 2002, following the decision to grant him $300,000 in exchange for his resignation from his $94,000-a-year job.

    Bass recently blasted Vasey's attempt to stop Tobin from getting paid while not protesting the recent actions of the fire board, whose members recently gave Tobin's former assistant a $58,000 severance package.

    The majority of fire commissioners in July awarded Lisa Stefani, who worked under Tobin for five years, the $58,000-plus severance.

    "Mrs. Vasey has taken a position by suing (Tobin) that this is tax money for a public employee's work and is not taking that position with Lisa Stefani," Bass said. "(Vasey's) position is spiteful to Tobin rather than being principled."

    Bass said Vasey has no legal standing in her lawsuit.

    "That's not even a colorable claim of a Sunshine Law violation," Bass said. "There was only one commissioner in the room. There was no negotiation."

    He added, "(The commissioner) came back out in a public meeting and the commission voted on it. They heard lots of public discussion about it and they voted."

    Fire Commissioners Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan and Henry Hamel voted in favor of Tobin's $300,000 severance. Commissioners Joyceanna "JA" Rautio and Christopher Lombardo cast the dissenting votes.

    Tobin also is seeking reimbursement of legal fees from Vasey. Bass noted Tobin's legal bills will exceed $20,000.

    Rautio said she supported the mediation proceeding "only upon the advice of Cardillo."

    "I find it curious that this is not court-ordered but Cardillo-ordered," she said. "Perhaps Cardillo is being optimistic. My position is former Chief Tobin should have been fired for cause and had no payment."

    Hamel was optimistic about the upcoming hearing.

    "I think mediation is supposed to be a joining together of two sides," he said. "There has to be some give and take. I suspect our side will ask for some give and take on the part of the recipient, which is the chief."

    Tobin left the fire department last year under a cloud of controversy. The scandals ranged from continued quarrels with the firefighters' union to his misuse of credit cards from the taxpayer-funded district.

    Hardt said he intends to file an amendment to Vasey's lawsuit alleging that members of the fire commission used a go-between to communicate prior to the $300,000 deal.

    The Sunshine Law also makes it illegal for elected officials to use a third party or go-between to communicate among each other.

    Sometime after the mediation hearing, Hardt said he will begin taking depositions, or sworn witness statements. He expects the depositions to shed some light on whether commissioners used an intermediary to communicate, he said.

    Bass said he has vast experience with Sunshine Law cases and is confident the courts will side with Tobin if the matter isn't settled in mediation.

    "This wasn't a Sunshine Law violation. This is silliness," he said. "You can file a lawsuit and say anything but at some point in time you need to put up or shut up."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  7. #57
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    Post GOP Chairman Watches Fire Commission Closely

    GOP chairman to put North Naples fire commissioners on the hot seat

    Sunday, August 31, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    The Collier County Republican Party has put on notice the three North Naples fire commissioners who are up for re-election next year.

    "We're going to be replacing them," Carr said of the fire commissioners. "We're going to be replacing people who aren't doing a good job."

    The GOP's executive committee at a meeting Monday, Sept. 8, will consider a resolution demanding that the three fire commissioners not seek another term in public office. The resolution was recently passed by the GOP board. The executive committee has final say over local GOP decisions.

    The goal of the resolution, Carr said, is for the executive committee to approve finding and recruiting qualified Republican candidates for those offices.

    The North Naples Fire District has been involved in scandal for more than two years. Former Chief James Tobin was recently awarded a $215,000 severance package by the majority of the fire board, despite public outcry and stern criticism from local leaders.

    All five North Naples fire commissioners have been invited to attend the executive committee's meeting at which they'll be asked to take a pledge vowing to be accountable and to govern honestly in the future. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the Collier County Commission chambers.

    Carr said he continues to call for the ouster of fire Commissioners Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan and Henry Hamel. Maguire, Milligan and Hamel are past Tobin supporters who are up for re-election in 2004. The three also voted in favor of Tobin's initial $300,000 severance deal last year.

    Maguire, Milligan and Hamel have each said they have not decided whether they will campaign for another four-year term in office.

    Earlier this year, Carr created a three-member committee to look into what he termed were improprieties taking place within the North Naples Fire District. For the most part, most of the fire board "ignored the improprieties Tobin committed," Carr said.

    The panel is made up of Janet Vasey, a local government watchdog who sued the North Naples Fire District over Tobin's initial settlement; Tom Cannon, chairman of the East Naples Fire District; and Chuck McMahon, chairman of the Golden Gate Fire District.

    McMahon said the intent of the committee is to educate the public about their local fire districts.

    "This is to help the general public understand what is going on in the various districts," McMahon said. "You want the public to know that you want quality people in there because it's a life safety issue."

    The public should pay attention to who is running for office and vote for the best candidate, McMahon said.

    "Look at their backgrounds and pay attention," he said. "People should be interested in who the fire commissioners are on the ballot."

    Vasey sued Tobin and the fire district to prevent the fire department from paying Tobin a $300,000 severance agreement awarded to Tobin last year.

    The recent $215,000 settlement check for Tobin also meant that Vasey agreed to abandon her lawsuit against the fire district and Tobin. The fire department agreed to hand Vasey $15,000 for her legal fees incurred as a result of the lawsuit. Vasey recently expressed frustration about the settlement agreement.

    "I do regret we weren't more successful in recovering more money for the taxpayers. I did what I could," she said.

    During Tobin's five-year tenure with the fire department, he was accused of using debit/credit cards for personal use, ordering his assistant to do his college course work, and harassing and retaliating against firefighters.

    In the past, Carr has also criticized fire commission Chairman Christopher Lombardo, whose seat will not be up for re-election until 2006. The only fire commissioner to consistently demand accountability has been Joyceanna "J.A." Rautio, Carr has contended.

    Each of the five commissioners won their previous election without competition at the ballot box Lombardo and Rautio in 2002, and Maguire, Milligan and Hamel in 2000.

    Carr described his motives for insisting on holding local public servants accountable.

    "I'm tired of the corruption," Carr said. "People who have been elected to office have a responsibility to supervise officials under their control."

    He added, "If government is not honest, it's just a bunch of looters using government as a shield. I am going to keep fighting to have a local government we can be proud of. That's all I want out of them."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  8. #58
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    Post Tobin is a NO SHOW

    NNFD: Tobin absent from interview session with prosecutors

    Saturday, September 6, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    On the advice of his attorney, former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin did not attend a voluntary interview session with local prosecutors last week.

    Ray Bass, the lawyer representing Tobin, said his client was absent from a meeting with investigators from the State Attorney's Office who had asked Tobin, along with other fire officials, to provide statements.

    Bass said he had legitimate reasons to decline Tobin's attendance.

    "I had a discussion with the investigators on it," he said. "They were not willing to give me the information as to what this was about, so I told them that without the information, they could not interview him."

    Tobin was among at least seven North Naples fire officials whom local prosecutors invited for interviews as part of the continuing criminal investigation of the fire department.

    One fire commissioner who went in for questioning is calling the probe serious business.

    Fire Commissioners Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan, Henry Hamel, Christopher Lombardo and Joyceanna "JA" Rautio and district Finance Director Becky Pogan were called in for questioning by the Collier County Sheriff's Office's Economic Crimes Unit, a division of the State Attorney's Office.

    Sgt. David White is the unit's investigator assigned to the criminal probe.

    White confirmed this week that his office had conducted interviews but declined to disclose particulars of the case, saying that it was "an ongoing investigation."

    Assistant State Attorney Norman O'Rourke also would not discuss the case.

    "I don't comment on matters that have been referred to the office for investigation," he said.

    Recently, Tobin and a local taxpayer settled a lawsuit filed against Tobin and the fire department soon after Tobin left his chief's tenure last year. As part of the settlement, Tobin walked away with a $215,000 check, in addition to the $31,160.72 he had already received.

    Bass said he told investigators that they had the option of issuing a subpoena for Tobin to provide statements, meaning that any statements provided to prosecutors could later not be used against Tobin.

    Investigators declined Bass' request, according to Bass.

    "They said they weren't going to subpoena him or grant anybody use of immunity," Bass said. "I don't see (the interviews) as a very significant thing. It was an invitation to be questioned."

    Investigators conducted the interviews Aug. 27 and 28.

    Rautio described how last week's interview with investigators was nothing to be taken lightly.

    Rautio said she went in for questioning on the morning of Aug. 27 without an attorney by her side and against the recommendations of John Cardillo, the attorney representing the North Naples fire district.

    "I chose not to have an attorney present because I don't need one," said Rautio, adding that she was interviewed for more than three hours.

    Fire commissioners recently agreed to set aside up to $500 for each fire district official to have an attorney present during questioning.

    Rautio offered a brief account of her more than three hours of statements.

    "My impression is, as I've always known, that this is very serious business and that I cannot comment on any of the questions or issues discussed," she said.

    Rautio noted she could not elaborate about what questions were asked or what the investigation pertains to because she is bound by the law.

    Hamel, who has been in New Jersey for most of the summer, said he did not show up for questioning because he was out of town.

    "I told them I was up here (in New Jersey) and that I would be back later," Hamel said of his phone conversation with investigators. "They said, 'OK.' "

    Hamel said he plans to offer statements to the State Attorney's Office sometime next week, after Thursday's fire commission meeting. He also said he will probably seek legal representation.

    Lombardo said he had rescheduled his meeting with investigators for sometime next week and had no knowledge about what he would be asked.

    "I have no idea what this is about and I'm not going to speculate," he said.

    Lombardo also indicated he had hired Naples lawyer Nelson Faerber to represent him during questioning.

    Maguire and Milligan were unavailable for comment. Pogan, the district's finance director, confirmed that she went in for questioning with investigators last week and alongside Domenic Lucarelli, the Naples lawyer she retained.

    Last October, an FBI special agent and White, the Economic Crimes Unit investigator, interviewed several fire commissioners and seized fire district computers.

    The criminal probe of the district began nearly two months after Tobin left the fire department Aug. 29, 2002. Tobin, at the time, agreed to leave his post in exchange for a $300,000 severance package. The last two years of his five-year tenure with the North Naples Fire District were clouded in controversy.

    Bass, the attorney for Tobin, stressed that just because Tobin did not provide statements to prosecutors does not mean that Tobin has done anything wrong.

    "Chief Tobin has nothing to hide," Bass said. "But if I'm going to be representing him, this is the best professionally competent way of doing it."

    Although Tobin was concerned about public perception if he did not meet with investigators, Bass said he ultimately made a judgment call, advising the former chief not to attend the interview.

    "I'm not concerned about perception," Bass said. "It may not be very good public relations, but lawyers are not concerned about PR."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  9. #59
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    Post Letter to the Editor

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    Editorial: North Naples Fire Board
    Carr stopped one seat short

    Sunday, September 7, 2003

    The Naples Daily News



    Collier County Republican Party Chairman Mike Carr is drawing a line for positive change at the North Naples Fire Department. He is daring the three fire board incumbents whose terms are up next year to seek re-election, by issuing a rallying cry for the GOP to jump into the technically non-partisan fray and boot them out.

    By defending former fire chief Jim Tobin and then, after a private bargaining session, voting to pay him $300,000 to leave last August, the official conduct of Ed Maguire, Henry Hamel and Steve Milligan has not been in the public interest.

    With the firefighters union so in control of fire board politics, it is possible the elections will produce new faces who are policy clones. The GOP's involvement may offer an important check and balance.

    Still, for the clean sweep that Carr and many citizens hope for, a heftier broom is in order. If a fourth incumbent fire board member, Chris Lombardo, were to step aside as well and run anew for the seat he won by default after a challenger from Pelican Bay withdrew last fall the 2004 election season would be complete.

    Only the fifth member, Joyceanna Rautio, has consistently carried the cudgel in the public interest, day in and day out.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  10. #60
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    GOP seeks resignations of 3 on N. Naples Fire District commission
    Two others make pledge of honest goverment

    Tuesday, September 9, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    The same day two North Naples fire commissioners made a pledge of honest government before the Collier County Republican Party, the GOP called for the immediate resignations of three other fire commissioners.

    On Monday, members of the Republican Executive Committee agreed not only to recruit new fire commissioners to run for office in the North Naples taxpayer-funded fire district, but also adopted a resolution requesting the ouster of Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan and Henry Hamel from public office.

    "They turned their head the other way for years," said GOP Chairman Mike Carr, criticizing the lack of supervision by the three fire commissioners during James Tobin's five-year tenure as chief.

    Maguire, Milligan and Hamel did not attend Monday's GOP meeting, though they had been invited with sufficient notice, Carr noted.

    "They had plenty of time, plenty of knowledge and plenty of opportunity to come before this board," Carr said. "They all knew that failure to come would result in this."

    North Naples fire commissioners Joyceanna "JA" Rautio and Christopher Lombardo appeared before the GOP Executive Committee on Monday.

    Rautio and Lombardo took a pledge of honest government by swearing on a Bible, agreeing to uphold the laws and responsibility of their public offices for the remainder of their three years as fire commissioners.

    Chuck McMahon, the fire commission chairman for the Golden Gate Fire District, and Tom Cannon, who is chairman of the East Naples Fire District, also made the same pledge at the request of Lombardo, who spoke up and asked to have McMahon and Cannon participate.

    Maguire, Milligan and Hamel have been staunch Tobin supporters. Tobin left the North Naples Fire District last year in exchange for a $300,000 severance voted by on Maguire, Milligan and Hamel. Rautio and Lombardo cast the dissenting votes. Just recently, Tobin walked away with a $215,000 settlement in lieu of the $300,000, bringing to an end a yearlong legal battle over the money.

    The local GOP on Monday called for the official and immediate resignations of Maguire, Milligan and Hamel. The Republican Party also vowed to recruit future Republican candidates to enter fire commission races when those seats become vacant.

    "Our duty as a Republican body is to find and recruit fine candidates," Carr said.

    Fred Hardt, the GOP's state committeeman, said that if the three fire commissioners resign, state law would require for the two remaining fire commissioners to select replacements. North Naples fire commissioners are paid $500 per month or $6,000 a year. They also receive a lucrative medical benefits package.

    During the meeting, a three-member panel assembled by the GOP and consisting of McMahon, Cannon and local government watchdog Janet Vasey made a presentation of their findings pertaining to the North Naples Fire District.

    Earlier this year, Carr selected McMahon, Cannon and Vasey to look into the continuing problems of the North Naples Fire District.

    At the meeting, Cannon and McMahon discussed the function and responsibility of Florida fire districts, while Vasey rehashed the numerous controversies of Tobin's last two years in office.

    Some of the scandals involving Tobin included how he turned credit/debit cards to his personal use, instructed an assistant to do his college course work and admitted to retaliating against, discriminating against and harassing members of the firefighters' union, Vasey pointed out.

    Vasey stressed three problem areas within the district as the reason why the department's finances were left in shambles after Tobin left.

    "There was lack of knowledge of the rules. Charges were not investigated or if costs were against state statutes," Vasey said, adding that there was also a lack of knowledge of Sunshine Laws, the state open meeting laws.

    "We have that thanks to three of five fire commissioners," Vasey said. "There was a lack of accountability. As a group, the North Naples Fire District did not look into the problems until after Tobin was gone."

    Rautio, who was elected to her first term as fire commissioner in 2002, underscored the progress in the fire department one year after Tobin's exit. She also said the fire district was in good hands thanks to the leadership of current fire Chief James Webb and Finance Director Becky Pogan.

    Rautio stressed how the department's financial audits are improving.

    "We're making great progress," she said. "I'd like to get some new faces on the board to continue to help me with this."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  11. #61
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    Default Update

    NNFD: Prosecutors satisfied with progress of criminal investigation

    Saturday, September 20, 2003

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    Local prosecutors say they are satisfied with the progress they have made in the continuing criminal investigation of the North Naples Fire District.

    Investigators have asked two more fire officials to provide voluntary statements, bringing to at least 10 the number of people who have been questioned or are expected to be interviewed.

    Fire Chief James Webb said he is expected to provide voluntary statements to the State Attorney's Office next week. Deputy Chief Orly Stolts said he met for 45 minutes with investigators Tuesday and was accompanied by Naples lawyer Michael Schneider.

    Stolts declined to discuss the nature of the questioning, including whether investigators inquired about former Chief James Tobin, who left the department under a cloud of controversy last year.

    "I'm not going to comment," said Stolts, who is deputy chief of operations.

    Sgt. David White, an investigator with the Collier County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes Unit, a division of the State Attorney's Office, said Thursday he is pleased with the investigation. He declined to elaborate or to discuss details of the ongoing probe.

    Webb said he is looking forward to his meeting with investigators next week. He has retained attorney Robert Hines to represent him during questioning.

    "I'm eager to go there and give them a hand," Webb said. "If there's anything I can help them with, I'm happy to do it."

    Webb said he hired Hines upon the advice of John Cardillo, the lawyer who represents the fire district. This means the North Naples taxpayers are picking up the tab for hundreds of dollars in legal bills.

    Earlier this year, Stolts said he had negotiated the sale of a 1988 North Naples fire engine for $40,000 to Alma, Neb., a town of about 1,200 people.

    The sale of the fire truck prompted at least one fire commissioner and members of the public to question why the truck was sold to an agency in the Midwest.

    Stolts said he sold the engine Sept. 30, 1999, to Chris Becker, the Alma sheriff and fire chief because the fire truck in question had too much mileage.

    Stolts also said Becker was an acquaintance of his from his hometown.

    Details about the sale of the engine are ambiguous because the fire department has only a faxed copy of the receipt showing the sale. The truck's vehicle identification number was hand-written on the receipt, district records show.

    Stolts has maintained he did nothing wrong by selling the fire truck, known as Pumper 43, which Alma purchased as a reserve vehicle for its fire department.

    A Daily News investigation this year revealed that fire district audio cassettes recorded during an August 1999 fire commission meeting were blank during the portion of the meeting at which officials discussed the sale of the fire engine.

    Among the fire department officials who have provided interviews to law enforcement or are expected to be questioned by authorities are fire Commissioners Ed Maguire, Steve Milligan, Henry Hamel, Christopher Lombardo and Joyceanna "J.A." Rautio.

    This past week, Linda Johnson, the department's former bookkeeper, also provided voluntary statements to investigators. Lisa Stefani, a former Tobin assistant, said this week she is expected to meet with prosecutors next week. Tobin's attorney, Ray Bass, recently said he urged his client not to meet with investigators because prosecutors would not divulge specifics about the case to Bass beforehand.

    Rautio and Johnson said they chose not to have legal representation during their meeting with investigators.

    The taxpayer-funded district recently awarded Tobin a $215,000 severance check, bringing to an end a yearlong legal battle.

    Cardillo said this past week that he had not been contacted by investigators.

    "I have not been asked to talk to the prosecutors," he said. "Tomorrow, I might get a letter."

    District Finance Director Becky Pogan, who also has met with investigators, said the fire department had received the first legal bill Thursday for Milligan's session with prosecutors.

    Pogan said East Naples lawyer Gregory Mangone submitted a bill on behalf of Milligan for $337.50, the attorney's fees incurred for 1.5 hours of legal work. Mangone charges $225 per hour, the bill shows.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  12. #62
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    Post The Controversy Contiues

    Taxpayers picking up employees' legal tab in NNFD probe
    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com
    November 29, 2003

    North Naples Fire District taxpayers are beginning to foot the legal bills of individual employees.

    A handful of Collier County attorneys have submitted invoices to the Fire District for payment for their legal advice to and representation of current and past district employees.

    More than a year after Fire Chief James Tobin left the district, the agency continues to deal with what he left behind.

    While a criminal investigation of the district is ongoing, taxpayers are having to pay the bills for the legal battle that ensued after Tobin's five-year tenure ended.

    So far, more than $2,000 in legal bills have been paid by the taxpayer-funded district as a result of the continuing probe by investigators from the FBI and Collier Sheriff's Economic Crimes Unit, records show.

    District employees who were recently called in for voluntary interviews with investigators hired attorneys to represent them during those sessions.

    Fire commissioners had approved earlier this year reimbursing employees, who were called in for questioning. The cap was set at $500 per person.

    Among the people who have been paid back for legal fees incurred are Fire Chief James Webb, Finance Director Becky Pogan, Deputy Fire Chief Orly Stolts and former fire Commissioner Steve Milligan.

    The four bills submitted to the district and paid thus far total $2,100, records show.

    More legal bills are expected.

    Records show Webb retained East Naples attorney Robert Hines to represent him during the Sept. 30 meeting Webb had with authorities.

    Prior to that session, Hines had telephone conferences with John Cardillo, a local lawyer for the Fire District, and with attorney Jerry Berry, who represents Commissioner Ed Maguire, the Fire District's vice chairman.

    Hines' bill for $475 reflects 1.90 hours of work at his hourly rate of $250, according to the invoice.

    East Naples lawyer Michael Schneider represented Stolts during his Sept. 16 meeting with investigators, records show. That bill, which doesn't reflect the hours of legal work provided, was $500.

    Records indicate that Pogan, the finance director, met two separate times with investigators: on Aug. 27 and Sept. 11. Pogan was promoted in September 2002 to the post after Bill Hansell, the former finance director, took a job as a fire inspector in the district.

    Pogan's bill from East Naples attorney Domenic Lucarelli was for 5.25 hours of work and came to $787.50. She was initially reimbursed for $500 only because that had been the limit set by the Fire District. Recently, however, fire commissioners agreed to reimburse Pogan the remaining $287.50.

    Another paid legal bill was from Milligan's attorney, Gregory Mangone, who charged $337.50 for 1.5 hours of work.

    As of recently, the legal bills for fire commission Chairman Christopher Lombardo, Maguire and Commissioner Henry Hamel hadn't arrived at the Fire District.

    Commissioner Joyceanna "J.A." Rautio, who also met with investigators, chose not to retain a lawyer. The same is true for Linda Johnson, the Fire District's former bookkeeper, who waived her right to an attorney.

    Among those called in for questioning by authorities were Hansell; Lisa Stefani, the district's former executive assistant; and Tobin, who received a $215,000 severance package in August after a year-long legal dispute with the Fire District.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  13. #63
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    Default End of Year Update

    NAPLES NEWS

    Whatever Happened To: Former North Naples fire chief James Tobin
    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com
    December 24, 2003

    Editor's note: This is the one of a series of stories to be published through the end of the year, bringing readers up to date on topics and people who were in the news during the past year.

    Four months after James Tobin received more than $200,000 from the North Naples fire district, the former chief has moved on with this life.

    Ray Bass, the attorney for Tobin, said his client is "doing fine," though finding the job of his dreams has been arduous.

    More than a year after Tobin left the fire department, the district remains the focus of a law enforcement investigation led by the FBI and Collier County sheriff's Economic Crimes Unit.

    "As you can imagine, it's difficult to find the kind of employment one would want to find when people keep saying there's an investigation," Bass said of Tobin. "It creates a cloud of uncertainty for him."

    Bass said Tobin wants to return to fire service. Tobin continues to reside in North Naples. His attorney, who has been speaking publicly for the former chief, declined to discuss Tobin's current work status.

    "I'm sure he wants to work. You do what you know how to do," Bass said. "It's difficult for him to look for the kind of employment he wants as long as there's an aura of suspicion on him."

    The continuing law enforcement probe of the fire district is hindering Tobin, he said.

    "This investigation does nothing but makes people's lives miserable," Bass said. "How long will this go on? It's been more than a year."

    The investigating authorities have called in at least one dozen present and past district officials for questioning. Among them is Tobin, who declined the invitation to meet with law enforcement, Bass said.

    "The interview (with Tobin) has not occurred," he said.

    Bass previously had asked investigators to subpoena Tobin. Law enforcement declined. If subpoenaed to testify, Tobin could be granted immunity.

    Tobin resigned from the district on Aug. 29, 2002, after the majority of fire commissioners awarded him a $300,000 severance package.

    But it took a year before Tobin saw any of that money.

    Local government watchdog Janet Vasey filed a taxpayer lawsuit, contending Tobin's deal was invalid because it was negotiated by the district's then-Chairman Ed Maguire with attorneys on both sides and behind closed doors. She alleged it violated the state's open meetings law, known as the Sunshine Law.

    The yearlong legal saga came to an end in August.

    The fire district, Vasey and Tobin agreed to settle the case. Tobin received $215,000, in addition to the $31,160.72 that he had gotten for four months' severance. Vasey received a $15,000 check from the district for her legal expenses.

    Bass maintained the case had no merit. Months after the settlement, Bass said he is glad it was resolved.

    "In our view, it was an unfounded claim," he said. "The way the settlement occurred, it pointed that out."

    During Tobin's five-year tenure at the district, he generated one controversy after another.

    He was accused of using district credit and debit cards for personal purchases and of ordering his assistant to do his college course work. The firefighters' union won 22 unfair labor practices against Tobin, accusing him of discriminating, harassing and retaliating against union members.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
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    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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    going through this. Is this the same Jim Tobin that is now working in Rio Rancho New Mexico as the Fire Chief?

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    It could be nmfiredawg,
    I work in the city that Tobin left to go to Naples from. Last I heard from some sources was that he was in the southwest. I really didn't know Chief Tobin personally besides taking an ICS class he taught while he was up here still. One of the retired members from my FD has a house in Naples and was following the story very closly as it was happening because Tobin had worked up here as well.
    The comments made by me are my opinions only, not of the Fire and EMS services I am affiliated with.

    I have lost my mind..has anyone seen it? it's not worth much..but it's mine

  16. #66
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    9

    Default

    hey can you get in touch with him or have him pm me, got some questions for him about our cities new chief....

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