The Clerk of Courts audit of the volunteer fire departments in Escambia County will be released on July 2. We are hearing – not from within the fire stations so don’t start pointing fingers – that the overpayments to volunteers could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are firefighters that were paid for certifications that they didn’t have.
The PNJ story on the county commission meeting on the Escambia County fire safety has upset several of the advisory committee members who worked months to come up with a better organizational system and controls to prevent this from happening in the future. The daily focused on the recommendation that businesses pay a minimum ($75) that is the same that residents pay for fire protection. And that there be a $200 impact fee for new construction.
But those are minor parts of the report.
Members in the African-American community are asking why did the daily newspaper focus on Thelma Manley for days, but completely ignore the problems with the volunteer fire stations.
Manley was put on the front page when she was accused of using Front Porch funds for personal use. The article were published while an investigation was going on. It was alleged that she took about $25,000 over a period of time.
The VFD issue could involve much more money yet it goes unreported by the daily.
Manley’s troubles had no impact on public safety. The firefighters story does.
Manley is black. The county firefighters are mostly white.
See why is the African-American community concerned? I don’t think racism is the reason, but I am baffled by the editorial decisions of the daily.
Maybe they will cover the audit results.