JULY 30, 2014, St. Louis, Missouri…Russell Lake, founder of non-profit community organization Monarch Residents for Truth (http://www.monarchresidentsfortruth.org), believes local media produce so many stories about the Monarch Fire Protection District because the Board of Directors exhibits poor judgment in managing the district.

“In a July 28 editorial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch referred to Board Secretary Jane Cunningham as ‘Calamity Jane,’ charging her with petty politics and absurd ideas,” notes Lake.

“The board also has been criticized by media and taxpayers for exceeding the District’s 2013 budget by $725,000 and for rehiring a former deputy chief who was previously fired after he was embroiled in a gender discrimination lawsuit,” Lake adds.

“Monarch board leaders have made a number of controversial management decisions over the last 15 months, attracting an abundance of media coverage that questions board leadership,” says Lake, a Chesterfield resident for 27 years who works as a Certified Business Advisor for small and mid size businesses.

“Last fall, media across the United States covered the board’s decision to prohibit Monarch firefighters from wearing pink T-shirts to raise awareness and money for breast cancer. Recently, the board was criticized for overlooking much-needed repair of fire protection equipment and facilities, including a rescue boat. The board also was disparaged for acquiring bullet-proof vests for the dais at board headquarters even though armed police officers guard the boardroom.

“It’s no wonder so many reporters question decisions by Jane Cunningham and Board President Robin Harris,” says Lake.

“The budget overage includes about $230,000 in fees paid to two attorneys who contributed cash to the board election campaigns of board president Robin Harris and secretary Jane Cunningham. The district’s respected fire chief Tom Vineyard, plus a battalion chief and an assistant chief, have resigned in the last six months, citing board controversy.

“Meanwhile, Monarch firefighters seem to get chastised by the board whenever they answer a question about board activities. In July, the board suspended fire captain and shop steward Chris Gelven for two days without pay after Gelven responded to media questions when the board acquired used bullet-proof vests.  

“Attracting ridicule by media and citizen complaints for budget excesses and questionable management is embarrassing for a board that should abide by the district budget and serve with more dignity, integrity and honesty,” says Lake.

“Board president Robin Harris is up for re-election in 2015. It will be interesting to see if he wants to keep being confronted by media reporters and local citizens for the job he’s been doing.”

For information, see the website http://www.monarchresidentsfor…

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