Just when you thought there wasn’t anybody left in Filer who hadn’t turned on the city’s mayor and city council, now comes the Filer Fire Department.
Earlier this month, the department issued a letter to Mayor Rick Dunn and the council, blasting the city leaders’ decision to fire Police Chief Tim Reeves. Reeves is also a volunteer firefighter.
The letter didn’t pull any punches:
“As a direct result of your decisions regarding City direction and personnel issues, some department members associated with our volunteer city emergency organizations are contemplating resignation,” the two-page letter reads. The firing of Reeves has “diminished morale, made our fire scenes less safe and have taken from us a trained and valuable member of our department.”
Officially, city leaders have hinted the firing – and a surprise decision by the mayor earlier this summer to consider folding the entire police department – are tied to budget problems. But Dunn and most members of the council have done little to prove their case to the public. At least one council member isn’t even convinced the city actually has a problem with its budget.
“We just want them to show us what they are doing,” fire department Capt. Steven Mullen said Monday. “They should be able to explain their actions.”
No kidding. Government doesn’t exist to keep the public in the dark. It’s there to do the public’s business. And right now, the public in Filer isn’t sure what its government is up to.
That amounts to a catastrophic failure in leadership, which we’ll place directly at the feet of Dunn. Rather than attempt to make his case over the firings or explain why they’re needed to protect the city’s finances, he’s been dismissive to residents who have plenty of questions but almost no answers.
Not surprisingly, Filer residents are outraged. Citizens are out gathering signatures to recall the city’s top leaders. Anecdotally, it doesn’t appear the mayor or council have many supporters left.
Meanwhile, the council is slashing police salaries by 15 percent and office worker salaries by 1.5 percent while increasing funding for administration in its new budget. Total expenses for administrative costs, including such expenses as supplies, building maintenance and attorney fees, are increasing from $275,850 to $327,257.
While it’s true the city’s overall budget has skyrocketed – from $2.4 million in 2014 to more than $8 million this year, mostly because of rising water and sewer expenses – many residents say trimming life-saving city workers like police is absolutely the wrong move.
They’re seeking to recall all but one member of the council, Russell “Bud” Sheridan, who cast the lone no vote in a July 18 meeting to fire the police chief. (Sheridan, a long-serving councilman and a former mayor, is the one with doubts the city has a budget problem. That alone should tell you something.) The council held its deliberations in secret before the vote.
Petitioners have until Aug. 26 to gather the required signatures to trigger a recall.
Recalls aren’t to be taken lightly. They’re the most extreme form of recourse for the public – even more serious than an impeachment would be at the federal level.
In this case, however, we’re finding it hard to defend Dunn and the council against the backlash. Unless he and the council quickly become much more transparent and actively work to regain the public trust, their days are numbered.
Residents in Filer have lost faith in their government. It’s time to form a new one.