Dispute over China firefighter stipends elevates as chiefs lease lawyer

Three China fireplace chiefs have obtained criminal recommend after an endured clash with the metropolis supervisor and choose board over the distribution of firefighters’ stipends.
China’s city supervisor and treasurer Dennis Heath said he’s going to not launch stipend finances for the approaching financial yr till the departments offer itemized stipend requests that display how the cash may be allotted among individuals. The chiefs view this as an infringement on their repute as independently included volunteer corporations

Palermo legal professional and former Selectman Matt Evans is presenting seasoned bono felony help to the chiefs of China Village Volunteer Fire Department, South China Volunteer Fire Department and Weeks Mills Volunteer Fire Department, according to Tim Theriault, the China Village leader.
Theriault said the chiefs plan to take the difficulty to court docket and will bill the metropolis for any charges incurred. The conflict began in mid-March.
“I’m unwell to dying of this,” Theriault stated.
Based on a volunteer fee method from the U.S. Department of Labor, Maine-specific wage prices from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as mileage, hour and make contact with information that the fire departments have started to the metropolis over the past 18 months, Heath claimed that China’s 3 hearth departments and one rescue branch should have paid less than $14,000 in stipends. They were provided with more than $63,000 throughout that point.
Because of this disparity — and a nation law mentioning that a municipal treasurer “shall no longer pay out any funds for an account or claim in opposition to the municipality except the account or declare is itemized and declared to be a public file” — Heath told the departments that he’ll not put the disbursement request on a warrant earlier than the Select Board except they provide “substantiating calculations for the stipend request.” The departments currently provide the full parent they spend on stipends on a stability sheet at the give up of each 12 months.
“As difficult as they will try to (say in any other case), they’re falling well brief of the cash they’re requesting,” Heath said. “I think they’re knowing that they gained’t be able to validate wanting $40,000 of stipend money (this year). They haven’t advised me that, that’s just my interpretation. … If when they’ve calculated all the miles being installed and the overall hours spent on calls, it turns out to be $forty,000 — best. But provide the calculation to prove it.

Heath defined that his reasoning changed into two-fold. On one hand, if departments overcompensate volunteers, they will be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and hazard losing their popularity as impartial nonprofit corporations. On the opposite hand, violating his criminal obligations as the town treasurer is punishable by way of a $three hundred pleasant and 30-day imprisonment, in keeping with Maine law.
The hearth chiefs experience that Heath’s opinions are off-base. Evans recommended to the Select Board May 13 that “withholding finances from the volunteer fireplace departments” is “unlawful.”
“(Heath) doesn’t have a say in how we spend our cash,” Theriault said. “He doesn’t get that (authority), despite the fact that he needs it. We’re no longer town personnel; we’re a shrunk service … He can’t move laws round to match his needs as he maintains doing — it has not anything to do with the reality.”
Theriault stated that the conflict has created “a very hostile environment” among the departments and the metropolis.
“It’s too bad that we needed to take this flip of nonsense to the courtroom, but I don’t see another decision to it due to the fact (Heath) stands on his high horse and received’t come down.”
Heath stated he is not surprised that the disagreement has reached this factor.
“They have an exclusive view,” he stated. “They’re going to argue, ‘We don’t need your assistance.’ Well, this is not about assisting you. This is ready doing what’s legal.”

At the China Town Meeting April 6, citizens amended the hearth and rescue warrant article to increase the stipend allocation in a show of help for the volunteers. Voters upped the departments’ $33,000 stipend request — sponsored by means of the Budget Committee but now not the Select Board — to $40,000. The Select Board had advocated $22, seven hundred based totally on flat fees for all participants and no according to-call allocations to keep away from what Selectman Ron Breton knew as “double dipping.”
“The townspeople spoke at the Town Meeting and informed them that we’re entitled to all the money,” Theriault referred to.
Heath stated that this gesture was basically symbolic, though.
“The view of ‘if it’s accepted at Town Meeting, they get (the cash) right away’ indicates a lack of expertise of what the Town Meeting does,” Heath stated. “Although the Town Meeting can approve the quantity of cash and authorize spending, (it) can’t force it to be spent. Because we ought to comply with the regulation in how we disburse the money. If we don’t, we ought to discover ourselves in hassle.
“The Select Board isn’t opposed to supplying stipends to the volunteers,” Heath added. “It’s all approximately ensuring it’s carried out legally and efficaciously.”

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