Thread: Legal Question

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    Default Legal Question

    I have a legal question about the application process for the volunteer service. I have noticed a considerable amount of rejected applications to volunteer fire departments recently. A local volunteer fire dept in a neighboring town of mine with 10 active members has rejected numerous people just because the chief or one of the line officers dislikes them. I know that in are department we vote on all new applicants but Iím unsure if this is legal?

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    Legally I don't think he's allowed to just not put someone on the dept just because he doesn't like that person...Now i know here you have 2 interviews one with Public Relations committee and another with Chief,One or both Deputys,1 Capt and 1 Lt....If you don't make it past the first interview you do not go to the second interview...The only way you don't get on here is if the PR committee feels you have a bad attitude or aren't suited for the fire service or your background check comes back and isn't good...Otherwise final Decision is up to Chief and Officers....The same can go in this interview if we feel you aren't gonna be a good person to have around its a simple Sorry Thanks For Coming..

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    Exactly what do you think an interview is for?

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    Thumbs down Good Ole Boyz Club...................

    One of the biggest PR problems that we face in this business is the "Good old boy club". This type of attitude is one of the things that helps kill the volunteer system. The reason that they have 10 members is because THEY DON'T WANT ANYONE ELSE. If a department here only had 10 people, they would be in serious trouble, we require a lot more than that to get the job done. If I were the person responsible for the fundingfor the 10 man dept, they wouldn't be getting any, until I was satisfied that they had plenty of help, and that the help was treated fairly.
    As far as what is legal, there is no "Standard" that I know of, other than anti-discrimination laws. Our procedure is, you express an interest in joining, you have an interview with the membership chair, then your info is sent in for a background check, At the next monthly meeting, you are voted onto 6 mos. probation. during that 6 mos, your background check is done, you get a physical, If all is OK after that, you start training. At the end of 6 mos. you are voted into regular membership or voted out the door. Stay Safe....
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    In Connecticut about 8 years ago an EMT for a volunteer ambulance co applied to be a volunteer firefighter in that same town. His application was denied on a vote. He sued and won. Just something to think about.

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    We are a vollie department. When someone applies, we check the app for anything that would automatically keep him from being a member, like being under age, no drivers license, etc. The applicant is then required to attend three trainings in a row without missing one. After that the membership votes to recommend or reject the person, and that info is sent to the township board. Also during that period, the officers interview the applicant and forward their recommendation or rejection to the board.

    The final decision is made by the township board members after reviewing all recommendations and the application.

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    I noticed that too especially here in small comunities .
    A lot is based on here say rumors and coffee shop talk but for some reason they dont seem to base stuff upon the facts .
    I also disagree with the whole voting thing . If someone wants to help out their community I say let them if they have no criminal record ,no drug use and what not so what if a few people dont like that person , maybe if that person was given a chance to prove themselves it might change the others view of that person .

    We also have a good ol boys club here which about half the dept is members of . I just go my own way and do my own thing try not to **** any of them off, but when it comes to an emergency we all seem to work together somehow.

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    I also disagree with the whole voting thing . If someone wants to help out their community I say let them if they have no criminal record ,no drug use and what not so what if a few people dont like that person , maybe if that person was given a chance to prove themselves it might change the others view of that person .





    In the last ten years I have been involved with the dept. there has only been one person out of many that has been refused to join the department. That was because he lied on his app about having a valid drivers license. An out and out lie.

    The reason for the three consecutive trainings is for the members to get to know the person and see what common sense they posess and what kind of work ethics they have. Never had one fail this part of the process yet.

    As far as a few people not liking that individual, majority rules. It does not have to be unanamous.

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    Whoops...tried to do that cool looking quote thing on the last post. Not sure how to do that yet.....

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    In today's fire service, especially volunteer, we cant deny people the right to volunteer. These people need to look in the mirror and realize, who's going to continue to do this stuff. Everyone has their own level of ability. But to deny someone because of personality conflict or that old good old boyz club, is ridiculous.

    We vote on every membership application to take usual course which is, it then gets investigated, and then thier is an interview and then the application is voted on again by the general membership in a secret ballot.

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    You'll never get anywhere if your "Good Ol' Boys Club" controls who gets in. However, with that said, the fire service is NOT for everyone. Some people are not cut out for this. Some people are not joining for the right reasons. Just because a person can physically walk in the door under his own power does not mean he's right for the job, no matter how badly he wants to "help his community". You have an obligation to have a department of quality people. You don't have an obligation to take everybody. If you make becoming a member so easy that even a monkey could do it, you'll wind up with a department full of monkeys.

    Be thorough in your evaluations of prospective members.
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    When we were an independant non-profit organization, the whole membereship voted to accept an app, then a committee interviewed and recommended up or down and the membership voted to place the applicant on probation or reject them. After six months there was a recommendation by the chief to reject, accept or extend probation if he felt more training and maturity were needed. The members voted on the recommendation.

    Now we are a tax district. The application is voted on by the 7 member board to accept it and refer it to a committee. After background and interview, the committee recomends rejection or probation. After six months and a written test, the Chief makes a recommendation to the board who again votes to accept, reject, or extend probation.

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    You probably should check with your local city or county attorney. The fire chief of a volunteer department may have the power to refuse or not let any one who applies to be a volunteer on the department. Even if they were voted in, you must be able to attain any and all training requirements and certifications as required by the department and or state fire commission board. If the person does attain the proper certifications and maintain them they should be dismissed.

    I still think the chief or who ever has the final decision has the right and authority to appoint OR not appoint any one to the department.

    My thoughts on this. I may be wrong, I have been before. :-)


    Stay Safe & Well out there....

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    Before we jump too far, maybe they aren't accepting these people for good reasons. We don't know, let's just keep that in mind.

    Everyone has the right to apply, not everyone gets the privilege to serve.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Even if they were voted in, you must be able to attain any and all training requirements and certifications as required by the department and or state fire commission board. If the person does[n't] attain the proper certifications and maintain them they should be dismissed.
    And who foots the bill for all that wasted training and testing??

    Another reason to "Just say no".

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    Our process is quite simple, an active member of our company must bring the applicant and the application before the company at company meetings. We then make a motion to accept the application. All in favor will signify by saying I, all oppose must must say nay. Its basically up to the majority of the members present to accept or deny the application. At the next mmeting we vote on the membership. Again its up to the majority of the membership present. Whatever the company by-laws state that is the policy, the company must abide by their own bylaws, any thing other is in direct violation the company's policy.
    If we don't do it nobody else will!!!!

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    About this department with 10 members: I think the applicants could successfully sue them. If they are currently accepting applications - and with only 10 members right now, there is no reason why they shouldn't be - and these people are being turned away for no valid reason, they can be sued and forced to accept them. I think these officers are asses and probably giving that little department a bad name.

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    Default legal question

    I agree with the idea that if somebody wants to help out with the cause, let them. When I joined my department back in 1996 most people at the station really would have rathered I not be there. Luckly for me the chief was willing to take a chance and it turned out for the good. I joined the department when I was 16 when I left a few years later to sail the high seas in the navy the men at my station were a little sad to see me go. Let people come in those that can't handle it or are not worth the space they take up will decide on their own to leave in time on their own. If they don't decide on their own ask them. Its hard enough to keep the volunteer muster full as it is we dont need to make it hard on those who want to try.

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    Default Bump- Legal Rules of Membership

    This original thread was from 2004 and after doing a search I found it somewhat applied to our situation but wondering if others have any more ideas/experience...

    Does anyone have experience in the legal aspects behind whether or not a volunteer organization can deny membership of an applicant?

    We have a person wanting to join who used to be a member. He was convicted of a misdemeanor simple assault (on a police officer) that occurred approx. 2 years ago around our FD. He recently submitted a new application wanting to get back on the FD.

    In the current SOGs (which are in the process of being revised) there is no specific criteria stating what leads to a denial of membership. However, there is a statement of "Applicants, following investigation of past history and acceptance by the Chief, will be required to be on a probationary period of three (3) months."

    So, based on past history at the FD and the criminal record, the officers and Chief decided it was not in our best interest to allow him back on the FD.

    Of course, now he has hinted at legal action and we will be talking to our solicitor, but can anyone think of reasons why we would legally have to allow him membership?

    Thanks
    (BTW- I am an Assistant Chief at this department)

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    I don't think there is anything he can do. Reguardless, if he trys to take you to court, there is no way he is going to win a court battle against a Fire Dept, especially when the reason he wasn't hired was because he struck a police officer.

    My .02

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    Our process is application accepted by membership, committee reviews application and interviews applicant, gives recommendation to membership which then votes to accept or not accept applicant. This vote is only a recommendation to the trustess who have the final say. If approved by membership and trustees, they have a 2 year probationary period in which to obtain their EMT-B license. A person may be dismissed at any time while under probation by the trustees (usually only if they do something like steal, lie, get into trouble, etc.). When the person's probation is up, the membership then re-votes on retaining and this recommendation is sent to the trustess for final decision.

    Some notes to this: If a person completes his EMT-B within the first year then the probation can be shortened to 1 year. We have been told by legal counsel that you are subject to litigation if you do not accept a person's application (as long as it passes the state statutes for firefighters). This doesn't mean you have to put them on, but they have a legal right to apply.
    Our EMT license requirement usually weeds out the problems. If they don't get it they're gone. If they are serious they'll work to get their license, if they aren't, it's adios so the system kind of takes care of those that want on for the wrong reasons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    One of the biggest PR problems that we face in this business is the "Good old boy club". This type of attitude is one of the things that helps kill the volunteer system. The reason that they have 10 members is because THEY DON'T WANT ANYONE ELSE. If a department here only had 10 people, they would be in serious trouble, we require a lot more than that to get the job done. If I were the person responsible for the fundingfor the 10 man dept, they wouldn't be getting any, until I was satisfied that they had plenty of help, and that the help was treated fairly.
    As far as what is legal, there is no "Standard" that I know of, other than anti-discrimination laws. Our procedure is, you express an interest in joining, you have an interview with the membership chair, then your info is sent in for a background check, At the next monthly meeting, you are voted onto 6 mos. probation. during that 6 mos, your background check is done, you get a physical, If all is OK after that, you start training. At the end of 6 mos. you are voted into regular membership or voted out the door. Stay Safe....
    Harve nailed this one cold... some treat the FD as their own private club.. you have to know the password and secret handshake to get it.

    A few years ao, a good friend of mine in Vermont saw that his town's VFD had a sign in front of the station seeking new members. He went to the station to inquire and fill out an application. The first question he was asked was "were you born in Vermont". When he said no, he was born in Massachusetts, he was told told "flatlanders need not apply". The last time I spoke with him.. the sign is still in front of the station. He and his wife have since moved back to Massachusetts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    The first question he was asked was "were you born in Vermont". When he said no, he was born in Massachusetts, he was told told "flatlanders need not apply". The last time I spoke with him.. the sign is still in front of the station.
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    Hey Gonz, where abouts was this out of curiosity....

    I'm going through the same thing here in Central VT. Seems you have to "know someone" to get anywhere.
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    What if the fd is private? They could pretty much do what they want I think. I don't know to much about if it's run by the township or what not. And hwoods is right about the good old boy thing. Little bs cliques like that can run any type of fd into the ground. I think if most depts these days would worry about being fire departments, instead of who they can screw over things would be alot better off.

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    WHY CAN'T I START A NEW THREAD???
    Last edited by dday05; 12-21-2006 at 10:44 PM.

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