Originally Published: July 15, 2018 5:59 a.m.
Three Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD) board directors have decided they’ll no longer stand silent as the other two directors continue to run an aggressive campaign to discredit the agency and its operational arm, the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA).
“We condemn their behavior as well as their ongoing malicious and unfounded accusations,” according to a joint statement signed by CYFD Board Chair Darlene Packard, Clerk Jeff Wasowicz, and Director Matt Zurcher.
The directors – Packard, Wasowicz and Zurcher – are at issue with ViciLee Jacobs and Tom Steele. For many months, Jacobs and Steele have relentlessly launched verbal attacks against other directors and CAFMA staff members. The two have also called into question the legitimacy of CAFMA’s creation and financial management.
These positions were put into writing and passed out by Steele and Jacobs in a statement during the board’s May meeting. Included were concerns regarding potential conflicts of interest by CAFMA’s attorney and fire chief; how CYFD’s call to the public is conducted; how some checks were written by the agencies; and the transparency of the organization. (Stories on each of these topics can be found on dCourier.com.)
A formal response to Jacob’s and Steele’s statement was released and approved by the other three board directors during the board’s June meeting. The response essentially refuted everything Jacobs and Steele outlined in their statement.
“We’re at a point where it’s enough,” Packard said. “We’re just trying to put an end to it.”
However, according to Steele, there will be no end to the feud as long as he and Jacobs are on the board and the existing status quo remains in place.
“I’m not actually seeking any result,” Steele said. “We’re at the bottom end of a three-to-two vote; it doesn’t have to go any further than that.”
The only thing that would alleviate his concerns would be if a vote went to the public on whether or not they believe the current taxing arrangement between the Chino Valley Fire District and CYFD is fair.
“The taxpayers of Central Yavapai Fire District are clearly just paying more because Chino Valley is up against the tax limit,” Steele said. “That is my big issue and will continue to be my issue as long as I’m on the board.”
Jacobs was not available for comment.
Packard said the fire districts are doing the best they can given the challenges faced with post-recession budget adjustments and unexpected occurrences like Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) increases.
“I do not believe that looking out for the firefighters and looking out for the taxpayers are mutually exclusive, and I think that so far, we’ve managed to take care of our firefighters, and pay our bills, do what needs to be done and keep our tax rate low without any draconian measures,” Packard said. “And the reason we can keep our tax rate low during these turbulent times with PSPRS and rising healthcare costs is because we’re a joint power authority.”