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  1. #61
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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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
    "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.


  2. #62
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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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.
    ------------------------------
    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. #63
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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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.
    ------------------------------
    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. #64
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    Default

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

  5. #65
    Forum Member LeuitEFDems's Avatar
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    Default

    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

  6. #66
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    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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