The Shelby City Council has suspended all but one member of the Shelby Volunteer Fire Department because of a dispute over fundraiser proceeds. According to the Daily NonPareil, Fire Chief Eric Wendt said he was the only member of the 12-person department who was not suspended Monday. Without any active firefighters, the city will rely on Minden and Avoca to respond to emergencies by way of a mutual aid agreement.
Wendt said the dismissals stem from a disagreement over a separate bank account that the department uses to hold its fundraiser money. Wendt said the council thinks they control their pancake money, and the dispute is over whether monies generated from pancake feeds and events should be labeled as public funds or fire department funds. Wendt said he does not know why he was not suspended.
Shelby City Attorney Clint Fichter said multiple issues led to the suspensions. Asked if the separate funds were an issue, Fichter said state code requires fire departments to be subject to the same regulations as the rest of the city. All monies, including those raised by fundraising, are public funds, subject to the same rules as tax money. Fichter said in the last two years, audit notes were made to make sure the money was accounted for.
He said also the separate account held about $40,000. The city is accepting applications to re-staff the fire department as quickly as possible. Fichter said all suspended members were notified that they could reapply under a stipulation that they would follow council directives and state code.
Robert Hall, a volunteer firefighter for seven years, said he received an email that said insubordination was the reason for the suspensions. Asked about the email, Fichter said he could not comment for legal reasons. The firefighters have obtained legal counsel, Hall said, and hope to return to their duties as soon as possible.