Fire chief pays funds back due to training shortage

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$18,600 to be repaid for falling short of 100-hour annual training requirement to receive state incentive

 CLERMONT - A long-time fire chief will have to repay money provided by the state as incentive pay for training.

The Kentucky Fire Commission Board in Versailles recently notified Julius Hatfield, the long-time chief of the Southeast Bullitt Fire Department, that from January 2008 through December 2013 he did not meet the standards required to receive incentive pay.

Hatfield must repay $18,600 to the state commission by April 6. He said that the issue has been settled and there would be no appeal.

In documents received by an open records request by The Pioneer News, the board outlined its findings.

Under Kentucky Revised Statutes 95.A.230, Sec. 5, all firefighters must complete at least 100 hours of in-service training. 

Those training sessions could be done at a training site or in-house by certified trainers.

Meeting in late February, the state commission ruled that six annual payments of $3,100 made to Hatfield must be returned.

In his letter to Jeremy Rogers, an auditor with the Kentucky State Fire Commission, Hatfield said “we were not aware we were doing anything wrong.”

When joining the department in 1988, Hatfield said that fire board meetings were held on the second Monday of each month at the same time training sessions are held.

Over two audits by the state, Hatfield said in an interview Monday that no problems had ever been raised.

Hatfield and assistant chief Erik Butler are part of the five-member board.

Taking out the two hours of training each month, Hatfield said he would fall 11 hours short of his annual requirement but Butler would still have enough to meet KRS standards.

In his letter, Hatfield said that the complaints raised with the fire commission came from disgruntled and terminated members of the department.

Through the records secured by The Pioneer News, several contacts were made with local firefighters and the state commission.

One full-time paid member of the department resigned and two volunteers were dismissed.

The allegations included falsified training records and personal protection equipment not being properly updated. Other complaints were raised about the operation of the department.

With the exception of the training records of Hatfield, the fire commission made no other comments or recommendations in its findings.

Hatfield said he felt the issue was settled. He said it was apparent that the complaints were raised by disgruntled firefighters who were no longer part of the department.

As a remedy to the training situation, Hatfield wrote that the fire board meetings are now held at 9 p.m., following the training sessions. 

However, in his interview Monday, the decision was made to just not have training session on the second Monday of each month. Trainings would be held on the other Monday nights.

The Chapter 273 board would meet and that would be followed by the fire board’s meeting.

According to the information supplied to the commission, Southeast Fire Department has five paid members and 26 volunteers.

The paid members work a 40-hour week or 2080 hours per year.

The department was formed under KRS Chapter 273, which is the setup of only a couple of agencies in Kentucky.

The fire department is contracted by the KRS Chapter 75 board to provide fire service to the district.

The Chapter 75 board is made up of Julius Hatfield and Milford Hatfield, two positions elected by the fire department; Dan Thibodeaux, Tommy Lucas and Dave Blakeman, who are appointed by Melanie Roberts as the Bullitt County Judge/Executive; and Bruce Myers and Buddy Greenwell, are elected by the public in the district.

This board, which also meets on the second Monday of each month, receives the tax dollars collected and turns a majority of the funds over to the fire department board as part of the contract.

The fire board has its budget and operates the fire department.

Members of the Chapter 273 board include: Julius Hatfield, Butler and firefighters Tom Leach, Milford Hatfield and Joe Thompson.