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Same old, same old doesn’t cut it

POSTED July 6, 2010 11:35 p.m.

One day a month I ignore my nocturnal tendencies and wake at the absurdly early hour of 6 a.m. I then drag myself down to Latif’s for the monthly Kiwanis Club of Turlock Board of Directors meeting.

I do not enjoy getting up with the early birds, human or avian alike, but being a part of an organization that raises funds to disburse in the best interest of the community means doing things right. And part of doing things right is holding regular board meetings.

While the Kiwanis Club of Turlock is a relatively small club, with fewer than 100 members, we follow nonprofit best practices in all that we do. We follow an agenda and review minutes from last month’s meeting. We review both the club’s administrative and foundation accounts on a monthly basis.

On Tuesday, the club treasurer submitted the annual audit report from an outside agency. Our treasurer is a very honorable man, who we all trust implicitly. However, any nonprofit or public organization that collects and disburses funds should have outside oversight. It is the right thing to do.

So when I read the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury findings on the Turlock Rural Fire District, I was appalled to learn that their board of directors does not function the same way.

Not only is there no oversight of the fire district’s primary account, but they do not have separate accounts for administration of government funds and fundraising. The grand jury took issue with this co-mingling of funds.

The Kiwanis Club of Turlock keeps meticulous records on the tens of thousands of dollars we raise and distribute annually while keeps funds separate.

TRFD is a fire department. They purchase and maintain fire engines and equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also receive thousands of dollars in reimbursement funds from the State of California for assisting with wild fires, which is supposed to be distributed to the volunteer firefighters who took off work to risk their lives battling blazes and the district itself to maintain equipment.

I would hope that the record keeping at TRFD would be at the same level as any city or county fire department. But it’s not, according to the grand jury.

The Civil Grand Jury also questioned the TRFD’s practice of ignoring the three year, two term limit for directors. While the term limit is more of a guideline than a rule — no one is breaking any laws by being on the board for 20 plus years — it gives the appearance of a good ol’ boys club.

The Kiwanis Club of Turlock has one year terms for board members and all officers. While we have no stated term limits, the members of the board of directors have been different every year I’ve been involved with the club. This mix of old and new blood keeps the club working in an orderly and updated fashion.

I spoke with people who were interested in serving on the board, but couldn’t get appointed due to the continued reappointment of TRFD board veterans.

I believe in term limits. However, I also understand that getting qualified applicants to serve on a volunteer community board can be difficult at times. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some effort made in bringing in new blood to a board.

At least two officials I spoke with about the Civil Grand Jury findings on the TRFD said that the district has been run the same way for decades.

I’m sorry, but the excuse of “this is the way we always do it” doesn’t fly with me.

If we did things the way we always do it then women wouldn’t have the right to vote and children would still be working 10 hour days in some factory.

The grand jury findings do not take away from the hours of volunteer service the Turlock Rural firefighters give to this community. I am thankful to have such a dedicated group of professionals keeping Turlock safe.

I would like to thank the men who serve on the TRFD Board of Directors for their service. I would also like to ask that they treat the funds they are responsible for the same way they would like their personal bankers to handle their life savings.

After all, it’s everyone’s public safety at stake.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

 

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