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Civilians are often caught at disadvantage

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My Views

By The Staff

One of the most thankless jobs may be an appointment to an agency, such as a fire board or a civil service commission.

Probably few people understand the responsibility of these agencies, especially when questions are posed by those outside.

In Shepherdsville, the civil service commission is a three-member body that listens to appeals of disciplinary action taken against employees.

It is also the body that certifies test scores for merit openings.

Of course, the first three members were fired in Shepherdsville. But that’s another story for another day.

The three men appointed to the board had to listen to a pair of very heated and very controversial appeals.

One came from an employee fired by the previous administration.

The other was a police chief terminated by the new administration.

Lawsuits are pending in both cases.

In Mount Washington, the fire district board of trustees are currently in the midst of holding a hearing for its chief, who was suspended after a misdemeanor indictment relating to alleged misconduct.

That seven-member board already fired a paid firefighter who was indicted for a felony over the alleged theft of Crusade for Children funds.

The case is pending in Bullitt Circuit Court.

The aforementioned cases have nothing in common.

The only thing they have in common is the participants are a group of residents who have offered to help the community and sometimes that becomes quite a burden.

The fire board, which is coming under severe heat for some of its practices, oversees a budget of around $1 million. It is big business with expensive equipment, paid personnel and little true accountability to the public.

Few people care about the operation of the fire district, especially since those agencies fall under special statutes allowing them to charge up to 10 cents per $100 of assessed property.

Few people worry about things like the ethics board or the civil service commission -- unless their dog becomes involved in the fight.

My biggest question is why someone would want to get involved.

And, if you are involved in a controversy, there must be come control over the appeals hearings.

We’ve seen in both Shepherdsville and now in Mount Washington where the civilians are at a major disadvantage when attorneys are involved.

The proceedings are run like a judicial matter and civilians don’t know how to deal with objections from attorneys, motions from the lawyers or questions over how the boards are to proceed.

And whatever decision is made, that will be part of the record if the matter is taken to circuit court.

At least in the fire board situation, there is an attorney on hand to assist the members.

In Shepherdsville, civil service members had two barristers looking at them from afar.

I liked the old days when hearing officers came in and served as mediators in such appeals proceedings.

That person didn’t have a dog in the fight and could help navigate the proceedings. For civilians without legal help, it’s a tough job.