In response to the J&C article on Feb 17th
I have continually tried to explain to Angel and Brendan their responsibilities and job duties. I tried to explain what was going on in the Feb 9th meeting but was interrupted so I tried again in email. See my update below, the boards response and my final response begging them to come together for the benefit of the township.
Email I sent to the board regarding an update on the fire district:
On Fri, Feb 12, 2021, 7:59 PM Jennifer Teising <email@example.com> wrote:
You can find all the information on the impact to the township, why we need the fire district and what happens if we don’t find a long term financial solution in our growing township HERE.
I am writing today to ask for your help to come together for the sake of the township to ensure we can get a fire district approved. I met with some of the Wabash Township Volunteer Firefighter Association officers and they are very concerned that the divisiveness and hostility of the board meetings and the (what I consider to be unfounded exploitative gossip) concerns about where I am working remotely are going to cost the Township the chance to secure the Fire Protection District (FPD). Morale among the firefighters is at an all time low. They feel ridiculed and disrespected by their colleagues and the residents of the township. The paid firefighters are worried about the longevity of their jobs and retirement benefits they have been promised. (I have instructed the above referenced officers to reply all to the email and express themselves if they would like. This is a brief description of my interpretation of what they have shared with me.)
While there has been a strategy at play to attempt to harm my reputation, I want to emphasize that those who are going to be most harmed by this strategy are the township, the residents, paid and volunteer firefighters, and local business owners. Are those individuals comfortable tearing the township apart to get to me?
The emergency loan provided us the funding needed to procure professional financial counsel for a long-term financial plan and to address the budget shortfall for basic operations. Failing to support the long-term sustainability plan recommended by our professional financial counsel, will ultimately result in reducing staff, stripping the firefighter employees of their benefits, and will put the volunteer firefighters and the public safety of residents and business owners at risk in our growing township. The township constituents are relying on us to put their best interests first.
Reedy Financial, understand they are not attorneys but financial counsel who have completed this process before, understand under IC 36-8-11-5 that “Freeholders who desire the establishment of a fire protection district must initiate proceedings by filing a petition in the office of the county auditor.” The trustee has the spending authority for requesting the financial study to establish a FPD and to organize a process to accomplish the required signatures. To be clear, the board does not have a role in these matters. However, I know that you care about the township and are concerned with the plans moving forward. With that in mind, I’d like to let you know the steps for fire district approval:
- Review the Tax Analysis of a Fire District (trustee public meeting, see #1 in timeline)
- Review the Fire Department Budget for accuracy (meeting between trustee and fire department, see #2 in timeline)
- Petition the public for support of the fire district (requirement: 20% of the land owning population in the proposed fire district)
- Petition is sent to the County Auditor
- County Auditor presents the petition to the Commissioners
- County Commissioners responsible for verifying the signatures
- Ordinance process begins
7a. Public Meeting with public comments and feedback
7b. Commissioners vote
- Review meeting (Reedy is working on a question I have and we expect to have this meeting with the public before the end of February)
- Review funding with the Fire Department early March
- Petition to the public beginning in March
- Fire District established by Dec 31st, 2021
- Fire District in effect Jan 1, 2023
- The Fire Protection District Board is established by County Commissioners (typically 5 members, 1 from each taxing district).
- The Fire Protection District Board is required to meet 4 times per year.
- Fire Chief is the executive officer of the Fire Protection District.
- Trustee no longer has statutory responsibility for fire protection to the district.
- Township Trustee and Board have no authority over fire protection funds.
- Current township fire assets would have an interlocal agreement to transfer from the township to the Fire Protection District.
I know there were some concerns expressed at this week’s township meeting about the process being delayed. I spoke with Reedy Financial and they assured me that the only delay we have experienced was due to the public remonstrance. We have also moved from a fire territory to a fire district because West Lafayette was no longer interested in a fire territory.
If any of you (board members) would like to meet with me (one board member at a time for transparency and open door law compliance) and Heather Maddox (neutral witness) to discuss anything, including the FPD, we will make ourselves available to you. This is a way that township board members and myself can meet and I can answer questions without incurring unnecessary expense to the township. You can also email me individually to ask questions.
In closing, I am asking you to put our disagreements aside as we work towards implementing a fire district.
Wabash Township Trustee
Response from the board:
From: Wabash Board
Feb 12, 2021, 7:53 PM (5 days ago)
to Heather, Angel, Brendan, Michelle, Kevin, James, Derek, Shari, David, me
It’s 8pm on a Friday. This is extremely unprofessional behavior on your part. You’ve been absent when we’ve needed a trustee to carry out the work that out constituents entrusted you. You don’t get to bombard us with messages and expect us to do things on your rapid-fire timeline when your back’s against the wall, while actively preventing communication with other stakeholders in the Township. We will look at this email at a reasonable time.
My response to the board:
Jennifer Teising <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Feb 13, 2021, 11:55 AM (4 days ago)
to Wabash, Heather, Angel, Brendan, Michelle, Kevin, James, Derek, Shari, David
Some of you have set us on a trajectory where no one wins. The township has now been served a tort claim notice where some of us have been named. I hope you are starting to understand the gravity of the situation and the consequences of the actions you have taken.
Let me try and walk you through what has really happened with the FPD. I was working with financial counsel, as is my responsibility outlined in the previous email, to create a tax analysis report to present to West Lafayette. This would allow them to fully understand the tax implications and therefore decide if a territory was something they would be interesting in discussing. As I came to learn, an employee was secretly communicating with the board and our financial counsel. Said employee was giving the financial counsel different information than they were to me. The board was secretly meeting with financial counsel, which is outside their purview. They were also giving the financial counsel a different direction than I was. This created chaos and confusion. I was not absent. I was intentionally and maliciously excluded from these conversations all while being the only person authorized to move the process forward.
Once again, I am asking you to put the interest of the township and taxpayers first and work together to secure the long term permanent funding solution.
I would like to make a correction to my original email, I have a typo under the Fire District category.
Fire Chief is the executive officer of the Fire Protection District.
A Fiscal Officer is the executive of the FPD
A Fire Chief will be responsible for managing the Volunteer Fire Department and reporting on the FPD