1. #1
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    Post Fire Chief in North Naples Florida Under Fire

    Fire Commissioners plan to ask for the resignation of Chief Tobin.

    http://www.naplesnews.com/02/08/naples/d818104a.htm
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    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.

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    Post

    The commission is planning on offering the Chief a severance package and asking for his resignation.

    http://www.news-press.com/news/today...s/d821108a.htm
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    BMI Investigator
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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.

  3. #3
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    Post Fire Chief Resigns--with severance package

    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    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.

  4. #4
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    Post Fair severance?

    Here is an editorial in today's Naples Daily News

    http://www.naplesnews.com/02/09/perspective/a2146a.htm
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    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.

  5. #5
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    Default

    Here is an Editorial Opinion that was published in the local Naples paper relating to this issue..

    http://www.naplesnews.com/02/09/pers...e/d828172a.htm
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    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.

  6. #6
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    Former North Naples fire chief faces another controversy

    Sunday, September 22, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    Controversy continues to mount for James Tobin, even though he's left his position as North Naples fire chief.

    North Naples fire commissioners will hold a special meeting to present the fire district's financial audit report for 2000-01 and to discuss the final wording on Tobin's compensation package. The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 26 at Station No. 45 at Veterans Park off Immokalee Road.


    With an investigation already under way into numerous accusations against the former chief, his critics are raising questions about yet another matter. This one involves his district-provided health insurance policy.

    Employee records show Tobin listed his then-girlfriend, Martha McMahon, as his wife in March 1997. That would make her eligible to receive medical coverage under the district's insurance plan.

    Three years later, Tobin and the woman married on March 17, 2000, in a civil ceremony in Collier County, state records show.

    Tobin's attorney said Tobin did as he was told by fire district staff when he filled out the 1997 form, date-stamped March 10, 1997.

    Attorney Ray Bass said the chief was told everyone in the household was eligible for coverage under the policy. A couple of weeks later, Tobin learned that wasn't the case and removed her as a dependent on the policy, said Bass, designated by Tobin to speak on his behalf.

    No insurance claims were submitted for her during that time period that she was listed as a dependent, Bass said, contending it's all part of a smear campaign against the former chief.

    There are two places on the March 10, 1997, document that Tobin listed the woman's relationship to him as "wife" once as a dependent; the other as beneficiary.

    Friday, Bass produced a copy of a second document showing Tobin's health insurance coverage extended to just two child dependents. The second document doesn't list the woman as a dependent. It doesn't list a beneficiary at all though it identifies his marital status as "married."

    That second document is date-stamped March 29, 1997 about three weeks after the first one. The date-stamp on the second document differs from the one on the document from three weeks earlier.

    At least two North Naples fire commissioners say they want this new information tagged on to a laundry list of other allegations that have plagued Tobin for the past two years and resulted in an investigation.

    "I had heard this rumor several years ago but I had no support whatsoever from the other fire commissioners to address this," Fire Commissioner J. Christopher Lombardo said. "If it turns out that we were lied to or that documents were altered, the cover-up becomes a whole another issue."

    Tobin stepped down as chief Aug. 29 in exchange for a two-year, $300,000 severance package from the district.

    On Sept. 12, fire commissioners unanimously voted to conduct an internal investigation into allegations surrounding Tobin.

    Commissioners say Tobin's severance deal is not set in stone and could be rescinded if the investigation reveals he engaged in wrongdoing. Half of the money is due Tobin on Oct. 1.


    What's 'the real story?'


    Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said she's extremely concerned about the ongoing tug-of-war between Tobin and the fire district and the legal wrangling taking place at taxpayers' expense.

    "We need to determine whether Tobin did things that are criminal," Rautio said. "I think we should clarify whether or not this is inappropriate and whether or not he gained by providing false information."

    Bass said the insurance issue is being instigated by Lombardo and Rautio, who he said have political agendas. He also said he blames the firefighters' union for wanting to wrest control of the district.

    "The mudraking is what the real story is," Bass said. "We feel this is one hell of a smear campaign to further some people's agendas . . . to control the fire department."

    Bass said Lombardo had asked about the insurance issue in 1999 and Tobin had explained the situation to him in a fax dated July 7, 1999.

    In Florida, the state Department of Insurance investigates allegations of insurance fraud, for which penalties range based on the amounts involved, said Nina Bottcher, an agency spokeswoman in Tallahassee.

    "The penalties are based on the dollar value involved," she said. "And there are other factors such as criminal intent. The biggest factor weighing in before any fine or penalty can come is the amount of the value based on the loss incurred by the specific insurance company."

    Anyone charged with insurance fraud could face from a $5,000 fine and five years in prison up to a $30,000 fine and 30 years in prison if convicted, she said.

    The North Naples fire district is self-insured, said Bass, who on Friday produced a copy of a July 1999 unsigned document concerning Martha Tobin that had the words "no claims" written on it.

    Fire commissioners, meanwhile, are trying to determine who they will appoint to investigate the lengthy allegations against Tobin.

    Lombardo said he is trying to track down an independent attorney and a certified public accountant who would be given the task to investigate.

    The allegations at stake include:


    Did Tobin instruct his administrative assistant, Lisa Stefani, to do his college work while he pursued a college degree?

    Questions surrounding more than $30,000 in missing district credit and debit card receipts to which Tobin is believed to have had access.

    Did Tobin violate terms of a settlement reached with the firefighters' union after an unfair labor practices hearing?

    Tobin's role in the fire district's mismanagement of funds and financial ledgers.

    Was Tobin's $300,000 compensation package discussed beforehand by fire commissioners and attorneys representing the district, and, if so, were there any Sunshine Law violations?

    Did Tobin instruct the district's law firm of Cardillo, Keith & Bonaquist to represent him during a state ethics commission probe of him and Milligan?

    Did Tobin's severance deal violate state law because his contract stated he would be entitled to four months' severance pay only?

    Whether firefighter shift changes made by Tobin, who admitted to retaliating, harassing and discriminating against union officials, resulted in $34,000 in overtime expenditures to the fire district.
    As a result of the internal investigation fire commissioners will be conducting, state Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, said he's in a wait-and-see mode with regard to a complaint he filed with the state in July requesting a full-scale audit of finances at the North Naples Fire District.

    "I don't want to duplicate at the state level what the fire commission is doing at the local level," Saunders said. "I'm going to wait and see before pushing for the state audit."

    However, Saunders said his state audit complaint remains on the agenda with the auditing committee, which is set to discuss the issue in November.


    The first payment due


    Rautio said there are a number of routes the district can pursue to either temporarily rescind Tobin's package, at least until the internal investigation is over.

    "I wouldn't hold my breath that (Tobin's) going to get the money yet," she said. "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."

    But Bass vows to file a lawsuit if on Oct. 1 his client doesn't receive the first $150,000. Fire commissioners can investigate Tobin all they want so long as he gets his money on time, Bass said.

    "(Tobin's) not the least bit concerned about this investigation," Bass said. "Most of this is sour grapes and old news. This is coming from vindictive people."

    Bass said it's too late for fire commissioners to back down from the settlement compensation package awarded to Tobin that was approved in a 3-2 vote.

    "There's no legal basis to rescind the agreement that was made," Bass said. "They can't rescind the agreement without making (Tobin) chief again.

    "If they don't make their first payment to (Tobin), that will constitute a breach of contract and we'll file suit immediately," Bass added.

    If Tobin's payment is late or delayed, Bass said he would ensure the money would start earning 9 percent interest until it reaches Tobin.


    Caught up in it all


    Lisa Stefani, Tobin's administrative assistant during his tenure, said she feels the district is using her to go after her former boss.

    Stefani has said she did Tobin's course work while he pursued a bachelor's degree at International College. She has declined to elaborate as to how much of his school work she actually did.

    "When the chief's settlement was done, I considered the issue was over," said Stefani, a district employee for 11 years. "Now they're prolonging the agony for me, for the chief and for the department."

    Stefani said she's currently attending International College to obtain a bachelor's degree in executive management, the same type of degree Tobin obtained in 2000. The fire district is paying for her classes as well.

    Fire district records obtained last week show Tobin used the district's credit card to charge more than $7,000 in courses he was enrolled in at International College. By doing so, Tobin didn't follow the fire district's policy that states employees are entitled to be reimbursed for class tuition only after they have earned a passing grade.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    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.

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    Default Local Group Fiels Suit Against Former Chief

    A government "Watchdog" group has filed suit in an attempt to stop the first payment.

    http://www.naplesnews.com/02/09/naples/d823873a.htm
    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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    Post City Commissioners Taking the Matter to Court

    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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    Post Judge Issues Stop Payment Order

    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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    Post Legal Questions Loom for former Chief

    North Naples News

    Legal questions stop check marked for former fire chief

    Tuesday, October 1, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com

    The North Naples Fire Control District wrote a $41,630 check to former Fire Chief James Tobin on Monday, only to void it hours later because of confusion about a judge's ruling last week barring a $300,000 severance payout to Tobin.

    A debate over the interpretation of what constitutes "severance pay'' prompted fire district officials to tear up the check Tobin would have received today, which included four months' pay and retirement money.

    Now it's up to attorneys and a Collier County circuit judge to decide what course the district should pursue, as the legal tug-of-war between the estranged chief and the district takes yet another turn.

    "We stopped the check ... everything is on hold," said Becky Pogan, the district's chief financial officer. "We are concerned, after looking at the information, because we don't know if we're allowed to pay the retirement. We need legal direction from our attorneys on whether we can include that in the check."

    Pogan said fire district spokesman Jerry Sanford had been instructed by interim Fire Chief James Webb to deliver the $41,630 check in person to Tobin today.

    But that plan was replaced late Monday when district officials reconsidered the issue at stake: Whether Tobin should be entitled only to the four months' severance pay or receive a sum reflecting his accrued vacation time, sick time and holiday pay.

    This discussion came one day before Tobin had originally been due $150,000, the first of two payments he had been awarded by the district when both sides reached a settlement Aug. 29. The other half of the money is due Tobin on Oct. 1, 2003.

    Pogan assured that, at the very least, Tobin will be handed a check today representing gross pay of $31,482.31, less a 401(k) loan repayment of $18,560.12 and federal taxes on the remainder, leaving a net amount of $12,148.78 based on his annual salary of approximately $94,000.

    At a court hearing last week, Circuit Judge Ted Brousseau stopped payment on the $150,000 payout, which had been opposed formally in a lawsuit filed by Janet Vasey, a government watchdog and North Naples taxpayer.

    Friday, Brousseau granted Vasey's request to bar Tobin from receiving payment of any money more than his four months' severance pay, or $31,666.

    Ray Bass, Tobin's attorney, said now that Tobin won't be getting the first $150,000 installment, he plans to file a cross-claim, or counter-lawsuit, either today or sometime this week, against the fire district and Vasey, a longtime critic of the fire district.

    Bass said the district is in breach of contract. Vasey, he said, should be forced to reimburse Tobin for his attorney fees because she instigated the suit.

    "Any amount received by Chief Tobin will be used as an offset against the whole amount of $300,000," Bass said. "It's crystal clear that the district agreed to pay $150,000 (today) and now they're not going to pay him."

    Fire commission Chairman Edward Maguire said the decision to void the $41,630 check Monday was based upon the district's need for further clarification and direction from Judge Brousseau. Maguire plans to ask the fire district's attorney, John Cardillo, to seek a clearer definition of the term "severance pay'' from the judge.

    "We have to know what the judge had in mind when he said 'severance,'" Maguire said. "Does that mean just severance (pay) or does that mean severance with vacation, sick and the other?"

    Maguire, along with commissioners Henry Hamel and Steve Milligan, approved Tobin's $300,000 compensation deal Aug. 29 when Tobin stepped down as chief. Commissioners J. Christopher Lombardo and Joyceanna "JA" Rautio cast the dissenting votes.

    Lombardo, who is an attorney, said it would be unlikely that the judge will discuss the case with the district's legal counsel.

    "The problem is that they don't understand protocol," Lombardo said, referring to Maguire, Hamel and Milligan. "One side just can't talk to the judge."

    He offered an alternative.

    "We need to face our problems and deal with this head-on," Lombardo said. "We need to ask all the parties to enter into an immediate mediation to resolve this; we need a strong mediator."

    According to Pogan, the district's financial officer, Tobin, whose hourly pay rate is $42.92, has accumulated the following:

    n 96 hours of sick time

    n 432 hours of vacation time

    n 88 hours of holiday pay

    Just because the fire district has offered to pay Tobin his four months' severance pay as stated in his contract with the district, that doesn't mean the $300,000 severance payoff is null and void, Lombardo said.

    "That problem is still there," he said. "The end to this is still months away. The chairman (Maguire) needs to say, 'We need to sit down and resolve the problem.'"

    Cardillo agreed that in no way does the four months' severance payout replace the $300,000 settlement reached in August.

    "The severance deal is still there," he said. "We've already obtained (Tobin's) resignation and he's got no money. He resigned in exchange for a $300,000 package. Whether the commission likes it or not, he's out of a job and out of income."

    Meanwhile, Bass said, Tobin is trying to move on with his life and find a new job but "vindictive people" are doing everything in their power to prevent it.

    Tobin told Judge Brousseau last week that he is the sole provider for his family and has monthly expenses of $5,000.

    This past weekend, Tobin was dropped from contention for a fire chief job in a small town in Vermont after officials from the firefighters' union phoned the department there, Bass said. Bass said he did not know the name of the town. Tobin didn't show up for work at the North Naples Fire District on Monday, as he had promised following Friday's court hearing, district officials said.

    This is at least the second time this year that Tobin has been eliminated as a candidate for a fire chief job. In July, he was dropped from consideration from a post in Foxboro, Mass., near Boston, when officials learned of Tobin's troubles in Collier County.

    "(Tobin) is hoping to get work. He wants to work," Bass said. "Those who have spite in their hearts are doing all they can to make sure that he doesn't get a new job."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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    BMI Investigator
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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.

  11. #11
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    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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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.

  12. #12
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    Post New information surfaces surrounding Commissioner

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    [b[New information surfaces in Tobin case [/b]

    Saturday, October 5, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    New information regarding former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin has raised questions about whether the chairman of the fire commission concealed information from fellow commissioners prior to their approving a hefty severance package for Tobin.

    A letter signed by Tobin and addressed to Fire Commission Chairman Ed Maguire reveals that Maguire may have known in advance that Tobin resigned from his post and later rescinded the decision at least six weeks prior to Tobin being offered the settlement deal but that Maguire did not tell the board.

    The Daily News obtained a copy of a July 17, 2002, letter that shows Tobin told Maguire he wanted to "rescind my letter of resignation," which he had given Maguire just two days earlier.

    Maguire denied knowledge of the letter Friday.

    The letter also states that Tobin's original intention was to leave the district as of January 2, 2003, and cited "other opportunities for employment."

    In his letter, Tobin said he was rescinding his resignation because "the possibility of me finding other employment is slim to none. Therefore, I have no other choice but to rescind my letter of resignation." He blamed extensive media coverage of the controversies surrounding his tenure by the Daily News and remarks by Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio and the firefighters' union.

    Tobin was awarded a $300,000 compensation package Aug. 29 in exchange for his resignation. The fire board met twice from the time Tobin wrote Maguire the letters but at no time did Maguire raise the matter at either a July 23 meeting or Aug. 29, when Maguire and Tobin, accompanied by attorneys, went into a closed-door session and agreed on the $300,000 payout.

    At least two fire commissioners are questioning whether Maguire purposely concealed information from the board.

    "It does concern me as to why Commissioner Maguire would not bring it up," Rautio said. "I believe that Tobin gave our Chairman Maguire a letter of resignation two days prior to this letter and I'd like an explanation from Chairman Maguire and from Mr. Tobin's attorney."

    The letter was addressed to Maguire's business on Taylor Road in North Naples.

    Maguire said Friday that he normally doesn't accept mail from the fire district at his business. He denied ever receiving the letter or knowing about it.

    "I am not aware of the letter," Maguire said. "At this point I cannot recall" whether he and Tobin ever discussed Tobin resigning, he said.

    "I do not recall that happening at all. I'm not familiar with that occurrence," he added.

    Interim Fire Chief James Webb said Friday the district could not produce a copy of the original letter Tobin sent to Maguire informing him he would step down as fire chief next year.

    "I can't say whether such a letter exists because I don't know," Webb said. "What I'm saying is that there is no such (first) letter in our files . . . nothing that I'm aware of."

    Attorney Ray Bass, who is representing Tobin, said the letters are irrelevant because Tobin and the district are in litigation over the $300,000 compensation package.

    "Mr. Tobin told me he gave Mr. Maguire the resignation letter in a sealed envelope," Bass said. "Whether Mr. Maguire opened it, I don't know. The bottom line is that (Tobin) didn't resign (in July) so this letter means nothing."

    Bass said the reason Tobin rescinded his resignation was because Tobin had been assured by officials from Foxboro, Mass., near Boston, that he would be hired as fire chief. Tobin was dropped from consideration in July for the Foxboro position after officials there learned of Tobin's controversies in Collier County. Last weekend, Tobin was eliminated as a contender for a fire chief job in Vermont, Bass said.

    "So (Tobin) tells the chairman 'I'm not retiring' two days later because the (Foxboro) job gets yanked from him," Bass said. "Who does think this is relevant? There would be no reason for anyone to have discussions because there was no action taken."

    Fire Commissioners Steve Milligan and J. Christopher Lombardo could not be reached for comment.

    "I don't know what to think," Commissioner Henry Hamel said after a reporter read the letter to him over the telephone.

    Hamel added: "Perhaps Mr. Maguire can explain but I can't. If it looks like both letters were between meetings, it was never put on the agenda for us to discuss."


    Hamel, Maguire and Milligan voted in favor of Tobin's $300,000 payout, while Rautio and Lombardo cast the dissenting votes.

    Hamel said that given the new information about these letters, he is not sure whether he would have voted favorably on the settlement deal.

    He and Rautio both said the matter of the letters will likely be discussed at the next fire board meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at Fire Station No. 45 at Veterans Park off Immokalee Road. Commissioners are also expected to discuss the status of an internal investigation of Tobin.

    Since Tobin resigned as fire chief and was awarded a $300,000 two-year settlement deal, the district and Tobin have been sued by a North Naples resident.

    A Collier County circuit judge recently barred payment on the first installment of $150,000 based on a suit filed by local government watchdog Janet Vasey. Vasey in her suit claims the $300,000 payout violates state laws because it does not follow Tobin's contract with the district.

    Circuit Judge Ted Brousseau ruled last week that Tobin is temporarily entitled to no more than four months' severance pay, as per the former chief's contract.

    Earlier this week, Tobin received a check for $31,160.72, which reflects four months' severance pay. Wednesday, his attorney filed a counter-claim asking Brousseau to honor the $300,000 severance deal the fire board approved.
    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 The FBI is Now Involved

    [NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    NNFD: FBI, sheriff's investigators interview commissioners, seize computers

    Board to hire auditor to investigate district's finances

    Friday, October 11, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    The North Naples Fire District commission meeting was abruptly interrupted Thursday when an FBI agent and a Collier County Sheriff's Office investigator entered the premises and requested to speak with two commissioners shortly after the officers had confiscated at least one fire district computer.

    FBI Special Agent Keith Hicks and Sgt. David White of Collier's Economic Crimes Unit interviewed commission Chairman Ed Maguire and Commissioner Steve Milligan separately and behind closed doors for about 20 minutes each.

    Interim Fire Chief James Webb said the investigators also seized the hard drives of computers one of which is believed to have been used by former Chief James Tobin as part of an active federal investigation that is under way by a grand jury.

    "The FBI called me (Wednesday) and requested that I give them access to the hard drives of the computers," Webb said. "They made those requests of me and I accommodated them."

    Neither Hicks nor White would release information or specifics about the case and why they did not interview the other fire commissioners, saying they do not comment on investigations in progress.

    Following the meeting with law enforcement officers, Milligan said he had been instructed not to discuss the matter. Maguire said he, too, could not answer questions.

    Webb declined to say which or how many computers the investigators seized.

    Wednesday, Webb had given a Daily News reporter access to the computer stationed at the now empty office that Tobin once occupied. The reporter had planned to return next week and continue searching the system for data, but because the FBI has now confiscated the computer, Webb said that would not be possible.

    Attorney Ray Bass, who represents Tobin, said the public should not rush to judgment and assume that the federal investigation is focused on Tobin.

    Thursday's latest controversy in the North Naples Fire District comes in the wake of continuing litigation between Tobin and the district over a $300,000 compensation package Tobin was awarded Aug. 29, the day he stepped down as chief. It also comes at a time when the fire district has launched an internal investigation of Tobin.


    After a citizen filed a lawsuit to stop payment on the money, a Collier circuit judge barred payout of the $300,000 and ruled Tobin was only entitled to four months' severance pay, or $31,160.72, as outlined in his contract. Tobin received a check Oct. 1 reflecting that amount.

    Thursday, the fire commission, with the exception of Henry Hamel, who was absent, voted to set aside $14,500 and hire a forensic auditor to investigate the district's financial ledgers.

    Stephen Cohen, a Naples certified public accountant and forensic auditor, was selected to begin a full-scale investigation of fire district bookkeeping records and to report the findings to fire commissioners. Cohen said he would begin work in 10 days and take two or three weeks to complete it.

    The commission had assigned J. Christopher Lombardo, one of its members, to search for a CPA and an attorney.

    But Lombardo said he suggested that the district hire only a CPA because if Cohen's findings reveal criminal wrongdoing, it would become a matter for the State Attorney's Office to investigate. Among the issues Cohen will investigate are questions surrounding the thousands of dollars in missing district debit and credit card receipts and recent information about Tobin's medical insurance records that show he listed his then-girlfriend as his wife on insurance coverage forms.

    North Naples Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio, asked commission Chairman Edward Maguire if he ever received a letter addressed to him and written by former Chief James Tobin. The letter rescinded Tobin's resignation dated two days earlier. The scene unfolded during a commission meeting Thursday at North Naples Fire Station #45.

    A few hours before the two law enforcement officers showed up at the fire district, Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio and Lombardo confronted Maguire about a July 17, 2002, letter, recently made public, from Tobin to Maguire.

    In the letter, Tobin said he wished to rescind his decision of two days earlier when he told Maguire, in another letter, that he wanted to resign from the district.

    Lombardo blasted Maguire for not telling the fire commission about Tobin's intention to leave the district nearly six weeks before the former chief was offered, in a closed-door session, the $300,000 payout to leave his post.

    "As a commissioner, I expect to be told about every decision," Lombardo said. "It has come to my attention that (Tobin) tendered his resignation on July 15 . . . I've become aware of a letter. Had I been aware of this, I would have asked to hold an emergency meeting and accepted (Tobin's) resignation."

    Maguire denied ever receiving either letter, which was mailed to his business address on Taylor Road in North Naples. He did, however, say Tobin had gone to see him at his office July 15, carrying an envelope and appearing "very distraught."

    "I never received a letter of resignation or retirement or anything like that," Maguire said.

    He said he tried to lift Tobin's spirits because the former chief was considering whether to resign and was worried about continual conflict with firefighter union officials. The union charged that Tobin had mistreated them. During an August hearing, Tobin admitted to 22 unfair labor practices, acknowledging that he had discriminated against, threatened and harassed firefighters.

    "I said 'Jim, I don't want to see you leave,' "Maguire said. "But I never received any letter or an envelope. I never received a letter rescinding that."

    Rautio was not satisfied with the explanation and is calling for the State Attorney to step in and investigate the letters. The first letter, to which Tobin refers in the July 17 letter, has not been located.


    "My issue about public records is clear and has been clear," Rautio said. "I want to know where (Tobin's) resignation letters are because that's obstruction of public records ... and I want an investigation by the State Attorney's Office."

    Lisa Stefani, who worked as Tobin's executive assistant, told fire commissioners she had typed numerous resignation letters for Tobin, at his request, but that she did not have those letters in her possession because she never saved them in her computer.

    Rautio also said she recently learned that in mid-July around the time Tobin wrote the letters Maguire called a meeting in his office with the fire district's command staff to discuss the district's future.

    "It frustrates me to know there was a meeting about this," Rautio said.

    Maguire said a meeting had taken place at which Webb and district spokesman Jerry Sanford were among those present. Webb said Maguire did not address the issue of Tobin's resignation.

    "It was my impression that the commissioner asked us for direction, because more trouble was brewing (for the fire district) and (Maguire) got us together to get our thoughts on where the district should go," Webb said.
    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.

  14. #14
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    Post The latest

    North Naples News


    NNFD: Meeting on Tobin's hiring may have violated Sunshine Law

    Sunday, October 20, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    The three North Naples fire commissioners met inside outgoing Fire Chief James Jones' tiny office to discuss who would be Jones' successor.

    When they emerged, James Tobin had a negotiated contract with benefits. All Tobin needed was the commissioners' formal OK.
    Within a couple weeks Tobin was officially hired.

    Nearly six years later, questions are being raised about whether the closed-door meeting in the chief's office Dec. 18, 1996, violated Florida's open meetings laws.

    The questions come at a time when Tobin is fighting with the fire district to keep his $300,000 severance package he was awarded Aug. 29, the day he walked away from his $94,000-a-year fire chief post under a cloud of controversy. An active federal probe of Tobin and the fire district by a grand jury is also under way.

    Written and audio meeting minutes from Dec. 17 and Dec. 18, 1996, obtained by the Daily News, show the fire board met both days behind closed doors in Jones' office to discuss hiring a new chief. The meetings were billed as workshops open to the public. But no members of the public were present, the minutes show.

    Fire district officials who served at the time say it was not unusual for the board, then made up of three commissioners, to hold public meetings in Jones's office without members of the public in attendance. A state First Amendment watchdog said such closed-door meetings may have violated the state's Government in the Sunshine Law.

    "I have real concerns about how Mr. Tobin was hired in the first place," Fire Commissioner J. Christopher Lombardo said at a recent fire board meeting. "It appears to me there was a gap in the process where they interviewed candidates and in the workshop venue with how the contract was negotiated."

    The meeting minutes from 1996 reflect a gap between the Dec. 17 workshop and the Dec. 18 workshop.

    In the first workshop, which was supposed to be open to the public, commissioners Ed Maguire, Ed Messer and Walt Kissel along with Jones interviewed the five fire chief candidates including Tobin and closed the meeting by saying they would discuss the position the following day. On the second day, Tobin along with Jones, Maguire, Messer and Kissel continued the meeting, behind closed doors. The meeting was called to "negotiate a contract" for Tobin, according to the minutes.


    Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said she too is puzzled by the protocol used by former fire commissioners to hire Tobin.

    "It is odd to me that you would interview five applicants in a workshop where no votes could be taken and then continue till the next day in Chief Jones' office to negotiate the contract (for Tobin)," Rautio said. "Both public comments and internal comments have led me to wonder just how he got hired."

    Rautio and Lombardo have been outspoken critics of Tobin while he was chief. Both voted against awarding him a hefty severance package.

    The way Tobin appeared to have been hired "looks suspicious," said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a private organization dedicated to ensuring public access in the areas of free speech, free press and open government.

    "If it was a closed-door session, it would be a violation of the law," Petersen said. "The question is whether the fire commission violated the Sunshine for focusing on one candidate. Unless they had an epiphany ... it's very suspicious."

    Jones, a 19-year veteran of the North Naples Fire District, contends that holding such meetings in his office was customary. Messer, Maguire and Kissel would regularly cram into Jones' office and discuss the district's business, Jones said.

    "It was my understanding that they could have a private meeting on personnel matters," Jones said. "I had numerous meetings in regard to union negotiations with the three commissioners in my office in private because it was related to personnel matters."

    At the time, Jones's office was located at the former Pine Ridge Road fire station, which at the time was utilized as the district's administrative offices. When Tobin was hired, Jones said, the meeting was done in his small office and with the door closed.

    "There was five of us there and we were crowded," Jones recalled. "The office wasn't that big."

    District records show Messer, Maguire and Kissel, along with Tobin and Jones, were at the meeting at which Tobin was given a contract that included vacation time, severance pay, pension, and moving expenses.


    Messer is Tobin's childhood chum from New England. Messer said it was not out of the ordinary for he and fellow fire commissioners to "discuss pay and contract issues" without the public's presence.

    "There are times during contract issues that we held these meetings in the office," Messer said. "I'm not sure if the office was excluded from the public."

    Maguire, the fire commission chairman, said he did not recall the process by which Tobin was selected.

    "I'm not sure what the gap is here," said Maguire, as he looked through meeting minutes from 1996.

    "I could not explain this ... we didn't do things verbatim back then," he added.

    Any workshop or gathering at which two or more members of the same board or commission are present is a public meeting, under the Sunshine Law. Individuals who are found to have violated the law could face criminal penalties ranging from 60 days in jail and a $500 fine to removal from office.

    Jones said it was his understanding that James Linn, the attorney who represented the fire district in 1996, had indicated it was OK for fire commissioners to meet in private.

    "That was my understanding of the Sunshine Law," Jones said. "We were told by James Linn. Sometimes we would use the Board of Realtors office for meetings; sometimes we would meet in my office."

    Linn, who now works for a Tallahassee legal firm, said he never advised commissioners to meet in the chief's office.

    "I have no knowledge of this," Linn said. "Obviously if two or more elected officials meet in an office ... this is out of the Sunshine and I would never advise a public body to do that."

    Linn also said fire commissioners at the time never consulted him about whether they could meet in an office without the public's knowledge.


    According to the Dec. 17, 1996, workshop minutes, Kissel, Maguire and Messer, along with Jones and now-retired Assistant Chief Ken Rodgers, interviewed the five contenders, including Tobin, vying for the fire chief position.

    The Dec. 18, 1996, workshop minutes also reveal that fire commissioners addressed Tobin's retirement, vacation, life insurance, severance pay, salary and moving expenses.

    The board met again on Jan. 2, 1997, at the Naples area Board of Realtors, at which Messer Tobin's longtime friend made a motion to "go ahead and select Chief Tobin as fire chief," records show. Maguire seconded the motion, which was followed by a unanimous 3-0 vote. Tobin was the new chief.

    Tobin is now fighting to keep the $300,000 compensation package that the majority of the current board of fire commissioners awarded him Aug. 29 when he resigned. A Collier circuit court judge recently barred payment of the money, after a North Naples taxpayer filed a lawsuit claiming the hefty payout was in violation of state statutes and Florida's constitution. James Webb, who served as assistant chief during Tobin's tenure, is now interim fire chief.

    Last week, the FBI and Collier County Sheriff's Office interviewed Maguire and current Fire Commissioner Steve Milligan. Investigators have declined to divulge details about the investigation.

    Messer contends he and his fellow fire commissioners at the time did nothing wrong when they hired Tobin.

    "How we got there, I believe, wasn't tainted," he said. "I do believe that in my heart."
    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.

  15. #15
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    Post Judge Rules in Favor of Ex-Chief--Partially

    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.

  16. #16
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    Post Chief Wants His Money

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    NNFD: Tobin wants check for accrued sick, holiday and vacation time

    Friday, October 25, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    With monthly household expenses of more than $5,000, former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin needs money fast and he needs it now, his attorney says.

    Attorney Ray Bass, who is representing Tobin, drafted a letter Thursday saying his client should immediately receive a check for more than $36,000, reflecting Tobin's accrued sick and vacation time, holiday pay and retirement from the fire district.

    A Collier County circuit judge signed an order Oct. 9 saying Tobin is entitled to $36,908.72, in addition to the $31,160.72 he received Oct. 1 for four months' severance pay.


    Tobin resigned as fire chief Aug. 29, in exchange for a $300,000 compensation payoff, now in litigation, which has drawn harsh criticism from the public. Circuit Judge Ted Brousseau barred payment of the first $150,000 Tobin would have received Oct. 1, after a local government watchdog filed a lawsuit to stop payment on the money.

    Interim North Naples Fire Chief James Webb said this week that he had contacted Fire Commission Chairman Ed Maguire for direction on whether an emergency meeting should be called to discuss possible payout of Tobin's accrued sick and vacation time, holiday pay and retirement. Webb said Maguire determined there wasn't a need for an emergency meeting and to place the item on the agenda for the Nov. 14 fire commission board session.

    Bass said Tobin should receive the money now.

    "This doesn't have to come up before the board," Bass said. "This is what everyone gets, so why does it have to come before the board? Why anybody would think that it has to come up before the board would only be for spiteful reasons."

    "I don't know why it's not an emergency," Bass added. "(Tobin) needs his money to live on."

    Bass said Tobin is the sole provider for this homemaker wife, their three children and his elderly mother. He also said Tobin, who has yet to find a new job, doesn't have a source of income. Tobin's total monthly expenses of about $5,000 to $6,000 are for a mortgage payment, an insurance premium of $1,200 for coverage of him and his family, in addition to household utilities, Bass said.

    Earlier this week, news of the judge's decision reached the North Naples fire commissioners after an audit meeting of the district's finances. John Cardillo, the district's attorney, did not alert the board at the time of the judge's Oct. 9 ruling.

    Reached Thursday, Maguire declined comment on when or whether Tobin would receive the check. He said he has hired attorney Jerry Berry to represent him personally.

    Maguire and Fire Commissioner Steve Milligan were interviewed earlier this month by the FBI as part of an active probe by a federal grand jury of the fire district. Investigators also seized hard drives from district computers.

    Bass faxed Thursday's letter to Cardillo.

    "The purpose of this is to request that the district just go ahead and follow its long-standing policy of automatically paying accrued vacation, sick leave and other benefits upon an employee's separation without review by the board as a whole," the letter states. "My client needs these funds to live on. Any delay is an unnecessary hardship on him."

    Cardillo said no one from the fire district had consulted him about Bass' request, but offered insight into the case.

    "I think it's up to the district," Cardillo said. "There's no time frame here (for Tobin to get his check). What I think (the district) should do is do what they would normally do with a terminated employee."

    Webb, the interim fire chief, said the district had not received the Bass letter Thursday.

    Bass said Tobin is living on what is left of his paycheck from the fire district and from $12,148.78, the net amount he received from the check Tobin was cut for four months' severance pay.

    "I would imagine that the intention from the minority of the (five-member) board is to try to starve (Tobin) out," Bass said.

    Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio, a longtime critic of Tobin, said she was surprised that Cardillo did not advise fire commissioners of the existence of the Oct. 9 document of the judge's ruling that spells out Tobin is entitled to some additional money.

    "I was willing to attend an emergency meeting to determine what we should do about paying the additional possible sums," Rautio said. "I wasn't given that opportunity."

    "Upon learning that Chairman Maguire placed it on the agenda, that was satisfactory to me. It would give the district's accounting staff time to verify all the dollar amounts," she said. "So what's the big deal?"
    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.

  17. #17
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    Post Interim Chief Speaks Out

    Naples Daily News

    Interim North Naples Fire District chief: 'We're here to fight fires'

    Sunday, October 27, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com

    Interim North Naples Fire Chief James Webb took the reins of the fire district the same day then-Fire Chief James Tobin agreed to step down in exchange for a $300,000 compensation payout. Webb hopes to establish solid policies and procedures within the district and ultimately become the permanent chief.

    Atop a ladder next to an old building during a firefighters training exercise, John German noticed some air conditioning units were sinking in.

    He also noticed that the building's concrete wall was cracking.

    German realized that the structure was about to collapse and that three fellow firefighters remained inside.

    He rushed to tell his North Naples Fire District lieutenant that three men were in danger. The lieutenant, James Webb, rushed into the building and ordered his firefighters to immediately abandon the premises.

    A few minutes later, the building collapsed.

    Everyone was safe.

    More than a decade later, German recalled the tale as one of many in his 22 years with the district during which time he has worked with Webb. Now the interim chief, Webb has stood in the line of duty and served as an example for other firefighters to follow, German said.

    "He had no concern for his safety," German said of Webb. "He could have told us to call the firefighters on the radio to tell them to come out but he didn't. That shows his character and the type of person he is."

    Thrust into the spotlight of public scrutiny, Webb took over the reins of the North Naples Fire District two months ago amid controversy surrounding his predecessor, former Fire Chief James Tobin.

    Even while the district's finances are a mess and the FBI is investigating the district, Webb is focused and determined to improve the fire district's reputation in the public eye without losing perspective on what really matters.

    "We're here to fight fires," said Webb, 50. "That's what we do . . . that's what we're here for."

    Webb, a firefighter for the past 26 years, said he is determined to improve morale and implement policies and procedures in the district.

    Webb was appointed interim fire chief Aug. 29, the day Tobin resigned from his $94,000-a-year job in exchange for a $300,000 two-year compensation package.

    Amid the controversy, Webb remains optimistic and not the least bit discouraged about becoming the district's next fire chief.

    He requested in writing to the five-member fire commission on Aug. 29 that the panel appoint him as permanent chief. Commissioners could decide at any point when or if Webb should be hired. No date has been set for when that will happen.

    "I have the hope to be chief," Webb said. "I do feel it's a job I can do. I think I'm the person for the job. But I know the chief is hired by the board and when they ask me, I'll be ready to serve."

    In the time he's commanded the fire district, Webb has managed to gain the trust of the firefighters' union, fire commissioners and the public, based on feedback he's received.

    "We're all in favor of him becoming the chief," said Scott Palmateer, president of the firefighters' union. "He worked his way up through the ranks as a firefighter. He's a good employee and I think he can run the place like it should."

    During Tobin's five-year tenure with the fire district, Tobin and firefighter union officials were at odds from time to time. In August, Tobin admitted to 22 unfair labor practices, saying he had retaliated against, harassed and discriminated against firefighters.

    For the past few years while Tobin was in charge, morale in the district was extremely low, Palmateer said.

    In the two months since Webb took over as chief that has changed.

    "The morale is very good right now," Palmateer said. "(Webb) deserves the money and the respect that comes with being chief."

    Webb now makes $87,611.62 a year, which is what he earned as assistant fire chief. If promoted to fire chief, his annual salary could range between $85,000 and 96,000.

    And residents are taking notice of Webb's dedication.

    North Naples residents have sent commendation letters to fire commissioners, urging them to appoint Webb as the district's permanent chief.

    The reviews so far are clear cut: Webb is the man for the job.

    "I find him so genuine and down to earth," said Juliette Shaheen, a volunteer with the district's Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, a program aimed at teaching the basics in emergency care and procedures following a disaster.

    "(Webb) is such a team player. He's given us such good training and he knows how to exceed our abilities and talents so we can learn from each other. The way he has built our CERT team and interacts with all of us, he deserves to be chief."

    At a recent 40-minute CERT training exercise at North Naples fire station No. 45 in Veterans Park off Immokalee Road, Webb stood on the sidelines outside yellow tape marked "Fire Line Do Not Cross," while he coached 10 new CERT volunteers. The volunteers trained outdoors in a staged disaster area that was surrounded by debris, weeds and pieces of wood. Equipped with first aid bags and prepared with flashlights, goggles and hard hats, volunteers huddled around Webb as they listened intently to pointers from the veteran firefighter.

    As a CERT member, Al Newman of Naples Park has witnessed Webb's leadership for the past four years since Newman joined the CERT team. Both have traveled to Orlando to participate in mock disaster situations.

    "The man (Webb) knows what he's talking about and he's well-liked within the department, which the last fire chief (Tobin) wasn't," Newman said. "He's a good person. He's honest. He'll sit with you and listen. If you ask a question, if he can answer it, he will."

    Webb lives in Golden Gate Estates with his wife, Amy, and their two sons, Jamie, 15, and Ben, 12.

    Webb moved to Collier County in 1976 from his Gadsden, Ala., hometown after graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in education. He came looking for a job in the teaching field but came across a job at the North Naples fire district instead.

    Webb originally was supposed to leave the North Naples Fire District in 1976 after completing a three-month stint as a firefighters' apprentice.

    "Teaching is a great job," Webb said. "But how can you have a better job than being a fireman?"

    Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said she has received nothing but positive feedback from North Naples residents who say Webb should become the district's chief.

    "A lot of CERT volunteers and a number of people from the public have told me Webb should be made chief," Rautio said. "He's an outstanding leader, the type of person people follow and listen to and I've been very impressed with him. The morale in the office and on the line has improved dramatically."

    David Beswick, town manager for VillageWalk Homeowners Association, sent Rautio a letter stating that the 850-member homeowners association wants Webb as the district's permanent fire chief.

    Commissioner Henry Hamel said he, too, has received numerous letters from CERT volunteers who say Webb should be appointed to the post. Hamel said he suggests that the board wait a few months before a final decision is made, in order for Webb to go through a break-in period on the job and become familiar with the day-to-day operations of the fire district.

    "He's absolutely made a very good impression on (citizens) as head of CERT," Hamel said of Webb. "There's no question that he certainly has the years and grade."

    Becky Pogan, the district's new chief financial officer, said Webb has taken a different approach to the district's finances. Webb promoted Pogan, the former district controller, to the job Sept. 5.

    Pogan indicated that Webb's goal is to implement long-term policies and procedures.

    "Chief Webb is concerned and wants everything we do to be open for public inspection," Pogan said. "His philosophy is that we do everything right."

    Pogan said she and Webb are working on an entire book that would spell out specific guidelines for purchasing, budgetary policies, travel, payroll and cash management.

    For the past two years, the fire district has been under intense public criticism following a Daily News investigation that revealed thousands of dollars in missing district debit and credit card receipts.

    Tobin's $300,000 payout is in litigation in Collier circuit court. A North Naples taxpayer filed a lawsuit against Tobin and the district, calling the payoff illegal and unconstitutional.

    Collier Circuit Judge Ted Brousseau ruled last month that Tobin was entitled to four months' severance pay as outlined in his contract. Tobin received a check for $31,160.72 on Oct. 1. Brousseau also recently said Tobin is entitled to receive $36,908.72, reflecting holiday pay, sick time and vacation pay, in addition to retirement money.

    However, before Tobin can receive the money, the board of fire commissioners must approve it at a meeting next month. Two weeks ago, an FBI agent and a Collier County Sheriff's Office investigator seized the hard drives of fire district computers, including the one in the office formerly occupied by Tobin.

    Both investigators also interviewed Fire Commission Chairman Ed Maguire and Commissioner Steve Milligan separately. Investigators and fire commissioners have declined to discuss the case. Webb said the FBI probe is part of an active federal grand jury investigation.

    For Webb, the job of fire chief is also about regaining something lost during Tobin's tenure: public trust.

    "We're trying so hard to do everything right," Pogan said. "It's important to Chief Webb to try to restore public confidence in the financial integrity of the district."
    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.

  18. #18
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    Post Department left in financial shambles

    Naples Daily News

    Deputy chief describes North Naples Fire District's financial disorder

    Monday, November 4, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    The financial disorder plaguing the North Naples Fire District is five years in the making and should be blamed on the former chief, the department's former boss in charge of finance says.

    Deputy Fire Chief Bill Hansell, who served as the district's financial officer for nearly two years, said working under former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin was "chaotic" and "intimidating" because Tobin would routinely order him to perform tasks even if they were wrong or unethical no questions asked.

    Tobin also would purposely report discrepancies pertaining to the financial stability of the district to fire commissioners, Hansell said.

    "Tobin liked to overstate things . . . even if it wasn't much," said Hansell, 44. "He tried to make things look better than they actually were. For example, he was telling everybody that we had $1 million in carryover (money from the previous year) when we only had $900,000."

    Controversy surrounding Tobin has reached federal levels. The FBI is actively probing the district, as part of a grand jury investigation.

    Independent Auditor Jeff Tuscan recently told fire commissioners that the audit report from the period Oct. 1, 2000, through Sept. 30, 2001, showed the district's finances were in "potentially deteriorating condition." He said the district spent more money than it had originally budgeted.

    Tuscan, of the Cape Coral accounting firm Markham, Norton, Stroemer & Co., said the district must take swift measures to fix its finances. Among Tuscan's recommendations, the district should cut down on cell phone usage, reconcile petty cash accounts including its 17 checking and money market accounts as well as develop an effective protocol for doing inventory as well as a five-year capital plan.

    In September, Interim North Naples Fire Chief James Webb gave Hansell the task of preparing the five-year plan, which is scheduled for review by fire commissioners at the Nov. 14 meeting.

    Hansell said that along with he termed "cooking the books," Tobin would order him to perform other duties that were not in his job description.

    In one instance, Hansell said, Tobin ordered him to spy on a member of the firefighters' union. Other times, Tobin had Hansell monitor district computers to check if firefighters were accessing pornography on the Internet.

    Hansell said this was part of Tobin's ongoing feud with firefighters and of a "personal vendetta" Tobin had against union members.

    "It was awful working for (Tobin)," he said. "I've worked under stress for years answering (fire) calls and I never had these types of problems."

    If Hansell was to question Tobin on a matter, Hansell said, the former chief would go into a yelling frenzy inside the district's administrative offices at fire station 45 at Veterans Park, off Immokalee Road.

    Tobin was not to be questioned because after all "he was the chief and he made sure you knew he was top dog," Hansell said.

    "One time I got yelled at so bad that I asked him point blank 'Do you want me to leave now?' He (Tobin) said, 'No.' "

    Attorney Ray Bass, who represents Tobin, said he wasn't surprised Hansell was making negative remarks against his client.

    "Hansell is job scared," Bass said. "He's afraid for his position and only God knows what he would say."

    "It is apparent to Tobin that the (firefighters) union is now in charge of the fire department and that people are scared for their jobs as a result."

    Hansell's account of Tobin's behavior first came to light earlier this year when Linda Johnson, the district's fired bookkeeper, told the Daily News about her working environment under Tobin's five-year tenure. Johnson, 48, of North Naples has said she became the district's "scapegoat" for the extensive financial mismanagement that Tobin created.

    At the last fire commissioners meeting, Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio criticized Hansell's work performance, saying Hansell was responsible for much of the financial disorder in the district.

    "I believe that former chief Tobin and Deputy Chief Hansell share an incredible amount of the fault and that Tobin being his immediate supervisor is responsible for a certain amount of the financial mismanagement," Rautio said. "However, it appalls me that Hansell in his role as a chief financial officer did not stand up to Tobin and jump up and down and say 'This is not right.' Where were the fire commissioners in this whole episode?"

    Tobin resigned from the district Aug. 29, after the majority of North Naples fire commissioners agreed to hand him a $300,000 compensation package that is now in litigation in Collier County circuit courts. After a North Naples taxpayer filed a lawsuit to stop payout of the money, a circuit judge agreed to bar the district from paying Tobin. Instead, Tobin was allowed to receive a check reflecting four months' severance pay as outlined in his contract. He is awaiting additional money from the district for his accrued sick time, vacation and holiday pay and retirement money.

    In September, Hansell was made the district's chief of administration. Becky Pogan, the former controller, was promoted to chief financial officer.

    Tim Higgins, former president of the firefighters' union, said Tobin ordered Hansell and fire district spokesman Jerry Sanford to spy on him while Higgins worked at his part-time job as assistant chief at Upper Captiva Fire and Rescue District in Lee County.

    "This is just another example of Tobin retaliating," Higgins said. "The reason he retaliated against me is because at one point, when I was the union president, I asked him to resign."

    Over the summer, Tobin admitted to 22 unfair labor practices against the firefighters' union. He said he had retaliated against, harassed and discriminated against firefighters.

    Hansell said he felt he didn't have any choice when Tobin sent him to Captiva to "dig up dirt" on Higgins. According to Hansell, Tobin was interested in learning if Higgins was calling in sick to the North Naples Fire District but was showing up for work to Captiva.

    "I felt terrible," Hansell said. "I didn't want to do it. I'm ashamed of the things he had me do."

    Sanford said he, too, wasn't happy about driving to Captiva with Hansell.

    "I just went along for the ride," Sanford said. "I didn't enjoy it. I'm a member of a union and I would never hurt a firefighter."

    At one point, Hansell said, Tobin ordered him to show Tobin how to perform computer searches to determine whether firefighters had been accessing Internet porn sites. Initially, Hansell said, Tobin used false pretenses to get him to show him how to use the computer.

    "(Tobin) told me he suspected that his kids were accessing porn on the Web," Hansell said. "He asked me to show him (how to work the computer) but then we walked into the (firefighters') training area and we looked in the computer."

    Reflecting on the time he worked for Tobin, Hansell said he wants to make clear that he was never a friend to Tobin nor does he have contact with his former boss.

    Of the tumultuous relationship he had with Tobin, Hansell said:

    "I wish Tobin would have done something else for a living."
    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.

  19. #19
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    Post Updated Stories

    Here are some links to updated stories as they have appeared over the past several days.

    http://www.naplesnews.com/02/11/naples/d855960a.htm

    http://www.naplesnews.com/02/11/naples/d852074a.htm
    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.

  20. #20
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    Post

    NNFD: Taxpayers to foot bill for employees' legal fees

    Friday, November 15, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    North Naples fire commissioners will dish out more of taxpayers' money this time not for former Fire Chief James Tobin but as a result of the tangled web Tobin left behind.

    Tobin's legacy with the fire district has extended beyond his personal controversy.

    Two department employees have hired attorneys in the wake of an FBI investigation of Tobin and the district fearing legal repercussions as a result of duties Tobin had ordered them to perform during his five-year tenure.

    Commissioners approved setting aside $4,000 to pay legal bills for Lisa Stefani, ex-assistant to Tobin, and for Bill Hansell, the former chief financial officer.

    One fire commissioner said she was perturbed that additional money must now be paid out as part of the continuing saga of Tobin's actions.

    "I'm not pleased that we have to spend the taxpayers' dollars to defend potential criminal investigations," Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said. "It's sad that this is part of Tobin's legacy that taxpayers dollars are being wasted in more than one way."

    Thursday, during the fire commissioners' meeting, the board decided not to award Tobin any more money and discussed the findings of an internal investigation that revealed how Tobin abused his power as the district's leader, engaging in and allowing out-of-control spending.

    "Tobin would go to New York for business and stay at a five-star hotel," Fire Commissioner Christopher Lombardo said. "He would rent cars in New York. You don't rent cars in New York City you take a cab."


    Lombardo blasted Tobin's behavior based on the preliminary report of an internal probe submitted by Stephen Cohen, a Naples certified public accountant, who was hired last month by the district to examine the district's finances.

    "This (fire district) was a public entity," he said. "This was not a Chief Tobin fire department."

    Lombardo's comments came halfway through Thursday's meeting, which Tobin's wife, Martha, and Tobin's son, Christian, attended and sat alongside Ray Bass, the attorney representing Tobin.

    Tobin left his chief's post Aug. 29 after the majority of fire commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, awarded him a $300,000 payout, now in litigation in Collier County circuit courts.

    Since Tobin's departure, a string of controversy has continued to follow him.

    Legal wrangling among fire district attorneys, Tobin's attorney and legal counsel representing a local government watchdog have been at the center of the controversy.


    Martha Tobin, the wife of former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin, and his son, Christian Tobin, talk with Tobin's attorney, Ray Bass, after the fire commissioners discussed whether to cut the former chief a check for vacation, sick time, holiday pay and retirement money to which he claims he is entitled. James Tobin did not attend the meeting. Lisa Krantz/Staff

    Amid the legal circus, the FBI is actively probing the fire district. Investigators recently interviewed commissioners Steve Milligan and Ed Maguire, who is chairman, and seized computer hard drives from the district.

    Stefani, an 11-year employee, has been interviewed by federal authorities.

    Eric Vasquez, the Naples attorney representing Stefani, told commissioners he had spoken with authorities about his client and there was no reason to believe that "she has anything to worry about."

    "When law enforcement grants (Stefani) immunity, my involvement would be little to none," Vasquez said.

    Stefani told fire commissioners earlier this year that Tobin had ordered her to do his college course work while he pursued a bachelor's degree at International College.

    Hansell, who began his career with the district 19 years ago, said he, too, needed his legal fees paid because of his role in the "amendment of public records performed at the direction of my supervisor, Chief Tobin," read a letter from Hansell addressed to Maguire.

    Hansell said he has retained Naples attorney Lee Hollander.

    Stefani and Hansell will each get up to $2,000 in reimbursement of legal fees. Fire Commissioner Christopher Lombardo said that would be the limit. In the event either Stefani or Hansell are charged with a crime, they would be required to pay back the district, Lombardo, a civil trial attorney, said.

    Commissioners unanimously approved reimbursing Stefani for $2,000. Rautio had left the meeting when commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of doing the same for Hansell.

    Tobin, who had planned on receiving at least $36,908.72 based on his $42.92 hourly pay for accrued sick time, vacation and holiday pay and retirement, will get zero, commissioners said.

    "We'll let the courts decide that," said Maguire during a meeting recess. "The issue is dead."

    Bass, who is Tobin's attorney, said that any money Tobin receives will go toward the $150,000 lump sum or half of the $300,000 that Tobin was due Oct. 1. So far, Tobin has received $31,160.72 for four months' severance pay.

    "I would like to see (Tobin) get paid as much as he can toward that $150,000," Bass said. "As far as we're concerned, it's payment on account."

    Lombardo said he could not agree to additional payout of district money for Tobin because it was his understanding that Tobin's $300,000 agreement, negotiated earlier this year, covered everything.

    "I understood it was a package that included everything," Lombardo said. "To pay this now ... we're going to wind up in a situation that we would double pay. I have heard and read in the newspaper that there were problems with the way time sheets were kept."

    Lombardo was referring to information that has emerged from Tobin's time sheets, which show a discrepancy in work hours and vacation hours.

    Earlier this week, Hansell, the former chief financial officer, said he had crossed out information in Tobin's time sheets at Tobin's orders and marked Tobin down as though he were working when, in reality, the former chief was on vacation.

    Hansell said Thursday he has "not yet" been interviewed by the FBI but wants to prepare for when that occurs.

    Rautio, a critic of Tobin, said although Tobin is no longer chief, his presence continues to hover over a lot of people.

    "Mr. Tobin and his management style will affect many employees for years," she said. "We now know that at least two key employees are being interviewed or will be interviewed as a direct result of actions and behavior by the former chief."




    Preliminary internal investigation report

    Following are 14 examples cited in a preliminary internal investigation report submitted by Stephen Cohen, a Naples certified forensic accountant, on how former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin operated the fire department as a private business:


    Using a fire district bank credit card for personal expenses;
    Using a department bank debit card for personal expenses. The debit card was originally intended for use in emergency disaster situations such as a hurricane;
    Misusing of both the district's credit and debit cards by failing to provide the department with adequate documentation of expenses;
    Misusing the district's employment conditions related to reimbursement of education expenses. Courses were paid for in advance rather than after completion of classes with a passing grade;
    Misusing of department personnel and equipment to fulfill the requirements of certain course work related to Tobin's continuing education;
    Hiring firefighters in excess of the number authorized by the five-member board of fire commissioners;
    Authorizing nondepartment-related employee travel;
    Staying at five-star hotels for district-related business, rather than less costly facilities, without proper explanation of the reasons for such use;
    Renting cars while on out-of-town business when alternative means of transportation, such as taxi cabs and airport/hotel vans would have been less costly;
    Possessing and maintaining district banking and business records at his residence;
    Allowing senior employees use of the district's bank credit and debit cards who at times failed to adequately document their use;
    Permitting senior employees to have educational courses paid for in advance;
    Approving $2,300 in district funds to pay travel expenses of a senior employee on nondepartment-related business;
    Failing to set a cap as per state rules and not correctly supervising employees on per diem rules or travel expenses.
    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.

  21. #21
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    Post The search for a new Fire Chief Begins

    North Naples Fire District moving forward in search for permanent chief

    Monday, November 25, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    To move the search along, fire commissioners recently created a committee that would lay the guidelines and set the qualifications for a new chief.

    Fire Commissioner Henry Hamel will serve on the committee along with interim Fire Chief James Webb, Firefighters' Union President Scott Palmateer and business consultant Sid Jackson.

    The committee is scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3; Wednesday, Dec. 4; and Wednesday, Jan. 15, at station No. 45 at Veterans Park off Immokalee Road.

    At a fire commissioners meeting earlier this month, the five-member board of commissioners praised Webb's leadership and skills and offered the interim chief extra compensation in the form of a 10 percent pay increase retroactive to Aug. 29, the day he replaced former chief James Tobin.

    Tobin left his post in exchange for a $300,000 payout, now in litigation. At that time, Webb served as assistant chief.

    Webb, whose annual salary is $87,611.62, rejected the salary boost, saying he'd rather wait until other employees from his administrative staff receive salary increases before he is awarded more money.

    "I was surprised," Webb told the Daily News. "I thought it was a nice thing for them to do."

    During the fire meeting, Webb told commissioners why a pay increase isn't a priority for him at this point.

    "I appreciate the sentiments that the board has, " he said. "But let me tell you that I took this job not for a 10 percent raise, not for the glory of the job, but so that we could get to business and we could take care of things that need to be taken care of. I don't care about being the chief. I have never aspired to be the top dog."

    While Webb said he wants the fire chief job, he said he'd be happy with whatever decision fire commissioners make.

    Webb, a 26-year firefighter with the district, said he plans to work four more years before retiring. He told commissioners of his desire for the district, a $15 million business, to function as such in the future even after he's long gone.

    "It is not a little fire department like it was when I came," Webb said. "I am on my way out. I want this business to be run like a business."

    Hamel set a February 2003 deadline for the district to select and appoint a new chief. He suggested for Webb to be given a series of tasks to perform during the six-month period. Upon satisfactory completion of those duties, Webb would become the district's next fire chief.

    The new committee would come up with a selection process as it pertains to a chief's educational background, work experience and goals for the district.

    When Tobin was hired in 1996 by the former board of fire commissioners, there weren't any guidelines in place to follow a set of criteria for hiring a new chief, commissioners said.

    Webb took over Tobin's job three months ago. Some, such as Palmateer, have said Webb has worked out well for the fire district. Palmateer, the firefighters' union president, repeatedly called for Tobin's ouster during the former chief's five-year tenure with the district.

    Tobin is at the center of an FBI probe of the fire district and is fighting a legal battle to receive payment on the $300,000 compensation package he was awarded by the majority of fire commissioners.

    Palmateer told commissioners that firefighters are behind Webb all the way.

    "The employees here at the district have really had a great morale boost by Chief Webb coming in here," Palmateer said. "And for a guy to work his way up to chief is a great feat, I think."

    The salary for a new fire chief could range from $85,000 to $96,000 a 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.

  22. #22
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    Post Another Twist

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    Ex-deputy North Naples fire chief takes job as fire inspector

    Thursday, November 28, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    A high-ranking employee of the North Naples Fire District and former ally to ex-fire Chief James Tobin has voluntarily agreed to a pay cut and accepted a new job with the fire department.

    Bill Hansell, the district's onetime deputy fire chief and chief financial officer, began his job as a fire inspector last week, just days after fire commissioners granted Hansell's request to pay for his legal fees.


    "I just wanted something different," said Hansell, a 19-year firefighter with the district. "I wanted to get out into the buildings and into the public more."

    Hansell's annual salary has dropped from $72,349.60 to $54,778.87 a difference of more than $ 17,500 a year.

    "I don't mind the pay cut," he said. "It's an opportunity."

    Interim Fire Chief James Webb said it was Hansell's decision to apply for the fire inspector position on Nov. 6, the day the job opening was posted. Hansell wrote an e-mail to Karl Reynolds, the district's fire marshal, informing him he was interested in the slot.

    "No one else applied for the job," Webb said.

    The fire district and Tobin are at the center of an FBI probe. Hansell told fire commissioners earlier this month that he had retained Naples attorney Lee Hollander because of his role in the "amendment of public records" per Tobin's request.

    In a letter to Fire Commission Chairman Ed Maguire, Hansell requested for the district to reimburse him for his legal fees. Commissioners unanimously agreed to pay up to $2,000 for Hansell's attorney fees and awarded the same amount to Lisa Stefani, the ex-assistant to Tobin.

    Stefani has been interviewed by the FBI pertaining to duties Tobin ordered her to perform during his five-year tenure with the district. Stefani has said she did some of Tobin's course work while he pursued a bachelor's degree at International College. Hansell has said he has yet to be questioned by federal or local authorities.

    For Hansell, the fire inspector job is the second time he has accepted a new position within the department in two months.

    On Sept. 5, Webb, the interim fire chief, reassigned Hansell's duties. Hansell, who spent nearly two years as chief financial officer, was transferred to work as deputy chief of administration. In that position, Hansell came up with a five-year capital plan for the district and assisted staff in the implementation of a cell phone policy, Webb said.

    Webb named Becky Pogan, the district's former controller, as the new chief financial officer. Pogan is in charge of all financial matters within the district, including requests for purchase orders and special pay.

    A recent audit report released by Jeff Tuscan, the district's independent auditor, revealed that the district's finances from Oct. 1, 2000, through Sept. 30, 2001 during the time Hansell oversaw the finances were in shambles. Tuscan advised fire commissioners and the district's administrative staff to find ways to cut back on expenses. He advised that the district's 17 checking/debit and money market accounts had not been properly reconciled.

    Recently, Hansell told the Daily News and in the letter to Maguire that he had crossed out information on Tobin's payroll time sheets per Tobin's orders. Hansell said he changed data in time sheets and misreported information showing Tobin was working a regular 40-hour work week when, in reality, Tobin was vacationing in his Massachusetts hometown.

    Tobin resigned from the district Aug. 29 under a cloud of controversy. Fire commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, agreed to hand Tobin a $300,000 payoff, which is in litigation in Collier County circuit court, after a local government watchdog filed a suit against Tobin and the district, saying the payout was unconstitutional and violated Florida statutes.

    Hansell said this week that he's on vacation until mid-December.

    Upon his return, he will report to Reynolds, his new supervisor in the Fire Prevention Bureau at station 45 at Veterans Park.
    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.

  23. #23
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    Post A related story......

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    NNFD: Fire commissioner accused of using influence to help out developer

    Sunday, December 1, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com


    Questions are being raised about whether a North Naples fire commissioner used his influence at the fire district to help out the developer of a ritzy high-rise in Pelican Bay because the builder was a client of the commissioner's business partner.

    Two years ago, Gulf Bay Construction was building St. Raphael, 7117 Pelican Bay Blvd., 22 floors of luxury condominiums comprising 178 units in Pelican Bay.

    Officials from the North Naples Fire District say Gulf Bay was behind schedule and needed fire inspectors to sign off on a certificate of occupancy, which certifies that a structure has met all fire code requirements and is safe and ready to be occupied.

    A North Naples retired assistant fire chief says Fire Commissioner Christopher Lombardo, a civil trial attorney, asked then-Fire Chief James Tobin to intervene in the inspection process of St. Raphael because Lombardo's law firm was representing the developer.

    Lombardo, who ran an uncontested race this year to stay on as fire commissioner for another four years, isn't denying his involvement with St. Raphael. He contends that Gulf Bay, the developer, is a client of Mark Woodward, his business partner at Woodward & Lombardo law offices in North Naples.

    Lombardo denies he ever asked Tobin or anyone else at the fire district for favors or special treatment.

    Lombardo said he did some minimal legal work for Gulf Bay in the early 1990s. He said he didn't represent the developer in 2000 when St. Raphael was going up nor does he represent Gulf Bay now.

    The fire district's current fire marshal says Tobin put pressure on him to sign off on the certificate of occupancy for St. Raphael, even while the building was still under construction, had not passed fire inspections and was not safe to occupy.

    Former Assistant Fire Chief Ken Rodgers said when inspectors refused to sign off on the certificate, Tobin ordered for firefighters to perform fire watches at St. Raphael for long periods of time.

    "I don't know if Lombardo ordered (Tobin) to do this, but the chief (Tobin) said Lombardo wanted someone to do that," said Rodgers from his home in Homossassa Springs in Central Florida.



    St. Raphael in Pelican Bay, a new high-rise development that went up in 2000 in Naples, is now part of the burgeoning North Naples Fire Department controversy, in which district employees allege that Fire Commissioner Christopher Lombardo asked then-Chief James Tobin to assign personnel from the Fire Prevention Bureau to work 24-hour fire watch drills at St. Raphael for a two-month period in 2000. One employee says that St. Raphael paid for the firefighters' overtime, but that it is an unusual practice to send firefighters for fire watches for two months. Erik Kellar/Staff

    Fire code on new construction requires that buildings must either have a fire alarm in place or a sprinkler system working before a building can be occupied. Because St. Raphael had neither, two firefighters, in rotating shifts, were assigned to 24-hour fire watch drills at St. Raphael, fire officials said.

    Rodgers said it was "pretty unusual" for firefighters to perform extended fire watches such as all of the overtime work they performed at St. Raphael. He said he believes the project was given special consideration because of the Lombardo connection.

    He said Tobin was putting pressure on fire inspectors.

    "It had a little extra weight because (the request) came from Lombardo," said Rodgers, who retired from the district earlier this year. "We would do (fire watches) for a week for (other developers) . . . for eight hours a day, but this went on at St. Raphael for a long time."

    Fire district records show Gulf Bay Construction paid the district $40,300 for overtime incurred by firefighters who performed fire watches from July 3-July 20 of 2000. The average hourly pay for firefighters working overtime is $39.57, according to district records.

    Karl Reynolds, the district's fire marshal, said Tobin had a keen interest in making sure that inspectors would issue St. Raphael a certificate of occupancy in 2000, when the building was being erected.

    During the 17-day period, Reynolds said, firefighters worked at St. Raphael's construction site because the builder, Gulf Bay, had not yet installed fire alarms or a sprinkler system.

    "(Tobin) came and asked about St. Raphael," Reynolds said. "He said, 'We want to get that building up and passed,' (referring to inspection)." I wouldn't sign off on it and Ken Rodgers wouldn't sign off on it for the occupancy certificate. (Tobin) wanted to get that done but I said no until life safety (in the building) is met."

    Reynolds said the high-rise had not passed inspection. Fire inspectors require new structures to abide by a life safety code, requiring such fire precautions as generators, fire alarms, sprinklers, proper entry and exit to stairways and elevators.

    Gulf Bay needed the fire watches in order for contractors and subcontractors to be allowed on the premises, fire officials said.

    Rodgers and Reynolds said Gulf Bay was behind on construction and was incurring steep fines.

    Bill Ford, vice president of Gulf Bay, could not be reached for comment.

    Rodgers also said he recalled an encounter he had with Lombardo at St. Raphael's construction site once in 2000.

    Reynolds said Tobin, who began his post as fire chief in 1997, would mainly steer clear of the Fire Prevention Bureau, where fire inspectors and other fire code officials work.

    But it was different with St. Raphael.

    When the St. Raphael project came about, Reynolds recalled Tobin being actively involved and wanting updates on when the certificate of occupancy would be issued to the new building.

    "St. Raphael was the only (project) he came to me about and wanted to have this done," Reynolds said. "(Tobin) would say, 'I have broad shoulders and I can do what I want.'"

    Reynolds said he did not recall Tobin ever mentioning anything about the request coming from Lombardo.

    Ray Bass, the attorney representing Tobin, said his client is unfairly being blamed for anything and everything that went wrong at the fire district.

    "Anything can happen around there now and that would be Chief Tobin's fault," Bass said. "He is the designated fall guy for everything now. Tobin is being vilified for everything. Everybody there is scared for their jobs."



    Former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin

    Bass said Tobin told him that Lombardo was "quite involved" with the St. Raphael project. He said Lombardo took it upon himself to meet directly with fire inspectors, Reynolds and firefighters and set up fire watches without going through Tobin first.

    "Tobin had a problem with Lombardo dealing directly with (Tobin's) subordinates instead of going through Tobin," Bass said. "(Tobin) looked into why Lombardo was so concerned about this and he found out that Lombardo or his firm were representing the people (Gulf Bay) on the receiving end."

    Lombardo said his relationship with Gulf Bay and interest in moving the project along was strictly out of concern for a constituent not for personal gain. He also said that if Tobin chose to "interject himself" in the project, it certainly wasn't at the request of Lombardo.

    "Gulf Bay was frustrated and they wanted to close on the building," Lombardo said. "They had complaints about the fire inspector who would find something wrong with the building and say, 'We'll come back when you've fixed it.' When I listened to this tale, I thought this wasn't good. It's not good for any developer."

    Lombardo said his conversations about St. Raphael were with Ford, vice president of Gulf Bay. Ford, according to Lombardo, was frustrated about how inspectors were doing their job.

    Lombardo said he contacted Reynolds, the fire marshal, and asked him for help with the project. He said he also talked to Tobin, then the fire chief, about it.

    "I called Karl (Reynolds) and I said, 'Can you look at this for me?' I asked Karl to look at this and for us to figure out a way to run these (inspections) a little smoother," Lombardo said. "Karl said he would go out and take a look at this. He said one alternative was a fire watch."

    Lombardo said he doesn't consider his role with St. Raphael and the fire district a conflict of interest.

    "This isn't a situation where anyone is asking anyone for favors," Lombardo said. "We have a high-growth district here and there's a lot of construction going on. This was about a constituent who was upset with the department about problems they were having with the department."

    Reynolds, the fire marshal, said St. Raphael was awarded a certificate of occupancy on July 21, 2000.

    Lombardo has been and continues to be a critic of Tobin.

    Earlier this year, Lombardo was one of two fire commissioners who voted against a $300,000 payout negotiated for Tobin by Fire Commission Chairman Ed Maguire on Aug. 29, when Tobin resigned from the district. Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio opposed the payoff. Maguire and commissioners Henry Hamel and Steve Milligan voted in favor of the $300,000 compensation agreement, now in litigation in Collier circuit courts.

    According to Lombardo, he never had a conversation with fire inspectors or other district employees about having a certificate of occupancy issued to St. Raphael before building inspections were complete.

    "I just wanted to make sure that we were doing our job," he said. "I don't recall Gulf Bay ever wanting a certificate of occupancy before the building was ready. They wanted to have everything in order to be compliant."
    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.

  24. #24
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    Post The Chief is Gone...but Controversies Continue to Plague Department

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    NNFD: Rautio, Lombardo oppose ceding authority to fire chief

    Friday, December 6, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com

    Vowing not to surrender their public duty to any one chief, two North Naples fire commissioners stood their ground Thursday and shot down a proposal that would have made the district's next chief the sole supervisor of the district without oversight.

    Fire commissioners engaged in a heated debate when they considered whether they should be allowed to meddle in day-to-day operations of the fire district.

    Commissioners Joyceanna "JA" Rautio and Christopher Lombardo opposed the wording of a policies and procedures document that would require commissioners to inform the fire chief every time they wish to address district staff.

    Rautio said she was convinced that the original request for rules on policies and procedures first discussed in April came from former Chief James Tobin, who left the district Aug. 29 under a cloud of controversy.

    "I respect the chain of command and all rules and procedures," Rautio said. "This was, in my opinion, an attempt to stop Commissioner Lombardo and I from getting any information or asking questions. I will not surrender my job to a chief."

    "This was, in my opinion, an attempt to stop Commissioner Lombardo and I from getting any information or asking questions. I will not surrender my job to a chief," Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said.

    James Webb, former assistant chief, has been interim fire chief since Aug. 29, when his predecessor, Tobin, resigned in exchange for a $300,000 compensation agreement, negotiated behind closed doors and away from the public by fire commission Chairman Ed Maguire. A local government watchdog filed a lawsuit to bar payout of the $300,000, now in litigation in Collier County circuit court.

    During Thursday's fire district meeting, Rautio and Lombardo blasted commissioners Henry Hamel, Steve Milligan and Maguire for their support of wording of a proposed policies and procedures proposal that would prohibit commissioners from exercising their right to supervise the district's business.

    Hamel, Milligan and Maguire, who all voted in favor of Tobin's $300,000 payout, said any business that commissioners wished to discuss with district personnel would first have to be cleared with the fire chief. Rautio and Lombardo, longtime critics of Tobin, cast the dissenting votes against Tobin's payout.

    "You have to go through a protocol," Maguire said. "We're not saying you're being denied the ability to talk to people. We're saying let the man in charge know."

    But Lombardo didn't see it that way.

    "If I want to talk to a firefighter or find out how the morale is in the department, then I think I have that prerogative," he said. "What makes the system work is that there's a checks and balances. It's not that I have a problem with Chief Webb. But 50 years from now, I don't want a commissioner to surrender a job to a chief."

    Rautio added, "This is ludicrous. The chief understands what's happening. I'm going to continue to do my job."

    With the exception of Lombardo, who left the meeting early, commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of adopting the policies and procedures rule, after amending the document and deleting the paragraph in question.

    "You have to go through a protocol," Fire Commission Chairman Ed Maguire said. "We're not saying you're being denied the ability to talk to people. We're saying let the man in charge know."

    At the meeting, commissioners discussed a fluke with the coding system used by state officials to disburse money to fire district pensions from tax revenues across the state.

    Fire commissioners also chose new officers for the commission. Effective in January, Lombardo will be the new chairman. Maguire, the current chairman, will start to serve as vice chairman and Rautio, the board's newest commissioner, was selected secretary/treasurer.

    Bill Ryan, chairman of the Firefighters' Pension Trust Fund, told commissioners that the district is due "millions of dollars'' in tax revenues from property insurance premiums collected on policies covering property within the district. Confusion over boundaries and ZIP codes in Collier County has funds from the district's Chapter 175 pension plan going to the city of Naples instead, he said.

    "The district hasn't received the revenues it's entitled to," Ryan told the Daily News. "The pension has tried different avenues of making the public aware of the discrepancy."

    Tallahassee-based attorney James Linn, who represents the district, filed a lawsuit in 2000 on behalf of the pension board, naming seven insurance companies and three government entities as defendants, but the suit was dismissed and nothing ever came of it.

    Attempts to settle the pension plan ordeal through the Legislature also has proved fruitless, said Ryan, who urged commissioners to take action.

    Lombardo called the discrepancy "ripe for a citizens' complaint."

    Michael Lissack, who lost his bid to represent North Naples on the Collier County Commission in the September primary election, said that he as a taxpayer would pledge $2,500 to refile the suit.

    "This is to subsidize the legal lawsuit to sue the insurance companies and insurance agencies to get that money back," said Lissack, a semiretired entrepreneur and former Wall Street investment banker who became an FBI undercover informant and noted whistle-blower.

    Ryan said he would consult with the pension board's attorney, Bob Sugarman in Miami, to determine further action.
    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.

  25. #25
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    Post Controversy contines

    NAPLES DAILY NEWS

    Naples man raises questions over Tobin's ethics hearing

    Monday, December 23, 2002

    By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com



    Two days before former North Naples Fire Chief James Tobin was exonerated on charges that he and a fire commissioner violated state ethics rules, the ex-chief publicly announced that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

    Tobin's announcement this past summer prompted North Naples resident Jack Pointer, who filed an ethics complaint, to be suspicious.

    "I have all the reports from the investigators for the Ethics Commission and all of the charges are being dropped as a recommendation from the Ethics Commission that there was nothing ever done wrong," said Tobin during a July 23 fire commission meeting, transcripts show.

    Pointer, a member of the fire district's five-member pension board, filed the complaint in July 2001 with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The complaint alleged that Tobin and Fire Commissioner Steve Milligan had transferred $85,600 from a firefighters' pension plan on Sept. 22, 1999, into the district's general reserve account without permission from the pension board.

    On July 25, the Ethics panel held a hearing which Pointer attended in Tallahassee, where it was determined that there was "no probable cause" to charge Tobin or Milligan with an ethics violation.

    "It was a three-minute hearing and it was over," said Pointer of North Naples. "They had already made up their minds and exonerated Tobin and Milligan. There was no point to me being there."

    Pointer is raising questions about the hearing. He believes Tobin ordered attorney John Cardillo, who works for the fire district, to serve as the former chief's attorney.

    "Cardillo was acting as Tobin's personal attorney but was paid by the district," Pointer said. "Tobin signed the checks on Cardillo's retainer and told him to say whatever (Tobin) wanted him to."

    Tobin has called the transfer of the $85,600 a bookkeeping error.

    Milligan said he and Tobin spoke with Cardillo about the ethics charges shortly after they were filed. The issue, Milligan said, was also brought to the attention of James Linn, a Tallahassee-based attorney who is also retained by the fire district.

    "(Cardillo) was the one we gave our information to," Milligan said. "We contacted John (Cardillo) to see what we needed to do. We gave written information to John Cardillo of our facts of the case. He said he would take care of it from there."

    Cardillo contends that he wrote a letter to the Ethics board on behalf of Tobin and Milligan, notifying the panel that he thought Pointer's allegations were baseless.

    He said he doesn't recall who asked him to write the letter but denied that he ever did legal work for Tobin or Milligan on a personal level.

    "I initially wrote a letter to the Ethics Board when the issue first came up but after that I was not involved in it at all," Cardillo said. "After that, I did not represent Tobin or Milligan in any way. I wasn't arguing somebody's case."

    Cardillo went on to say:

    "I sent my opinion up (to the Ethics Commission) on whether there was any wrongdoing. Mr. Pointer had no proof that Mr. Tobin and Mr. Milligan had benefited in this," he added.

    Linn, of the legal firm Lewis, Longman & Walker based in Tallahassee, said Tobin sent him documents pertaining to the Ethics Commission probe, but that he was never involved in the matter.

    "I did not represent him (or Milligan) in that," Linn said. "I explained to them that I could not represent them and I could not get any other information because I wasn't representing them."

    Tobin, who spent five years as fire chief, left his post amid controversy Aug. 29, when the majority of fire commissioners, in a 3-2 vote, awarded him a $300,000 compensation payout. A Collier County circuit judge barred the district from paying Tobin anything more than four months' severance pay, after a local government watchdog filed a lawsuit against Tobin and the district to stop payment of the money.

    Helen Jones is a spokeswoman with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

    She said Tobin's file with the Ethics board shows that neither Tobin or Milligan had an attorney of record representing them during the ethics probe.

    She said that's not uncommon.

    Jones noted that when Tobin announced he had been cleared by the Ethics panel, he may have been referring to the Ethics Commission's recommendation not the final decision.

    "Mr. Tobin wasn't speaking of exoneration," Jones said. "He was talking of a recommendation made by the (Ethics) Commission advocate, who made the recommendation to the board of no probable cause. The commission can either accept it or reject it."

    But Fire Commissioner Joyceanna "JA" Rautio said Tobin knew of the Ethics Commission's decision one week prior to his public announcement of July 23 during the fire commission meeting.

    Rautio contends that on July 18, she, Tobin and other fire district personnel were in a preliminary budget hearing when Tobin announced that "the day was full of good news" because the Ethics Commission had exonerated him.

    "(Tobin) kept saying it's all good news and he repeated it," Rautio said. "That was a huge red flag for me. I was actually dumbfounded because I knew the (Ethics hearing) wasn't going to be until the following week."

    Rautio said there was a reason why Tobin at the time called the ruling by the Ethics panel "more good news."

    Becky Pogan, the district's chief financial officer, said Tobin ordered her to walk in during that July 18 budget meeting and announce that Tobin had been cleared by the district's independent auditor on another matter.

    Members of the district's pension board had alleged Tobin belonged to a general pension plan that he had inappropriately received money from. Pogan, who at the time was the district's controller, said she had informed Tobin that he had been cleared of wrongdoing.

    Tobin wanted other people to hear the news, so he instructed Pogan to make the announcement in front of the district's top brass, Pogan said.

    "He directed me to come into the meeting and to say this," Pogan said. "I believe he wanted the information repeated so perhaps other chiefs and the commissioner in attendance could hear it."

    When Tobin and Milligan were cleared by the Ethics panel earlier this year, Rautio said, she contacted the Ethics Commission.

    "I wanted to know why the Ethics Commission gave Tobin the decision in advance," she said. "That just seemed incredibly odd."
    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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