There have been at least two significant San Mateo County Grand Jury reports about the fire departments on the Coastside. While many, perhaps most government documents look like they were written by and for lawyers, the Grand Jury reports are very easy to read and understand. If you are remotely interested in this topic, the full reports are worth a few minutes of your time.
Here is a link to the full April 25, 2012 report. For a complete de-bunking of every single argument Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh have made to get rid of CAL FIRE, please see pages 6-12.
The Grand Jury heard and investigated many issues that were raised by CFPD Board members as rationale for considering reestablishment of a standalone fire department and termination of the CAL FIRE contract. The Grand Jury could not find any substantive issues that justified terminating the CAL FIRE contract. The Grand Jury concluded: that the residents of the CFPD are being well served by CAL FIRE; that it is unlikely the Coastside residents would benefit from the reestablishment of a standalone fire department; and that the CFPD should continue to improve, rather than undermine, the Coastside-CAL FIRE relationship. The Grand Jury is recommending to the CFPD Board that it:
1. Discontinue its investigation of the process necessary to reestablish a standalone fire department
2. Complete negotiations with CAL FIRE to extend the current contract
3. Hire a professional administrator to manage the CAL FIRE contract
4. In the future, conduct targeted performance audits (e.g. every three years) to ensure that CAL FIRE price and service is competitive.
5. Refrain from formally considering whether to reestablish a stand-alone fire department, unless substantial and material deficiencies in CAL FIRE performance surface.
Here is a link to the full 2006 report, along with a few highlights:
A culture of strife has existed in the HMBFPD for at least the past six years. During this time HMBFPD has been involved in five lawsuits with current or former employees; has so far paid $707,595 in settlements and has spent $516,280 on legal expenses. In addition, twenty-eight firefighters have retired or left HMBFPD to seek employment elsewhere, the fire chief has retired, and both a division chief and the fire inspector have quit.
The Grand Jury recommends that the HMBFPD fire services be contracted to another fire protection agency by December 31, 2006. The Grand Jury believes that the lowest-risk solution to the Districts’ problems is for the Board of Directors to subcontract fire protection services to another organization and that by subcontracting, the District would acquire the operating procedures necessary to provide reliable, consistent fire services.
Opinions expressed by interviewees during discussion of Alternative 2, “Internally rebuild the Fire Department”:
• To rebuild the department will demand a heroic leader, a supportive board, sufficient funding, and a lot of time.
• All interviewees thought it would be difficult to find a suitable fulltime permanent fire chief who was capable of rebuilding the Department.
• The District must rebuild the District’s culture and eliminate the entrenched culture of strife that exists between unionized firefighters and management
• Rebuilding is more likely to fail than succeed in any reasonable time.