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Brentwood Appoints Three to ECCFPD as Suspicions are Confirmed

The Brentwood City Council has finally made its decision to appoint three to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors while Vice Mayor Joel Bryant will remain on the Council for an additional twelve months with an option to continue. Bryant will serve as the council liaison and apparently ensure Brentwood has some “institutional knowledge” on the Board.

For months, it was unknown whether they would appoint one, two, three or even four citizens to the Board—when the process began, Steve Barr was adamant about remaining on the Board. Barr apparently had a change of heart as he flip-flopped stating it was time to move towards a citizen Board of Directors.

“I had less concern than I did four months ago when we started the process. I am in favor of me no longer staying on the Board,” said Barr. “The Board being independent makes more sense. I have no intention of returning to fire board and would replace me with a citizen.”

The committee was made up of Council members Erick Stonebarger and Robert Brockman who recommended at a minimum, the following three applicants be appointed to the Fire District Board as the Brentwood representatives:

  1. Stephen Smith (term to expire 12/31/2015)
  2. Greg Cooper (term to expire 12/31/2015)
  3. Joe Young (term to expire 12/31/2014)
  4. If no current Council Members wish to continue serving on the Fire Board, the Sub-committee recommends appointing Anthony Bargiacchi (term to expire 12/31/2014) to serve as the fourth member of the Fire Board.

When it appeared like Brentwood would move towards appointing four citizens, Joel Bryant stated he wanted to remain on the Board for the “institutional knowledge”. The rest of the council appeared fine with it from the start with the only real debate being how long he would serve before a transition would occur. It was suggested four-to-six months, but Bryant wanted twelve with an option to continue and the council approved that by a 5-0 vote.

While I can respect what the Brentwood City Council did with the appointments, it doesn’t mean I have to like their decision. I believe a huge mistake was made in not selecting a former Captain of ECCFPD who had to retire due to injury.

Minus Joel Bryant, this talk from the subcommittee about institutional knowledge is silly. Who better to have that knowledge than a former Captain of the District?

As a former captain, he knows the issues, problem areas, and things that could be done better than most people in East County–including the current Board and those appointed.  So this talk by the subcommittee about how they tried to give a selection that they thought had the bet ability to understand issues and tackle issues quickly is bogus because the one guy from the District was begging to get on and was rejected before the process even began—remember, Robert Brockman made anti-union and firefighter comments back in July which I will get to in a minute.

While Erick Stonebarger may have played it cool during the meeting stating that they had 11-strong applicants, his timeline was either misstated, incorrect, or he fibbed.  He stated one applicant (Whitener) came up with some legal hurdles (due to formerly working within the District) and that they would look into it with legal.

Whitener had his interview on November 26th and received a letter on November 28th stating he was not chosen. Meanwhile, Stonebarger told the public during the meeting he received a memo from legal on Monday (December 10) of what the District would be up against if they went forward or against the selection of Whitener.

So which is it Mr. Stonebarger?

Did the committee wait for legal or did you already rank the 11-applicants  because the timeline doesn’t add up?  The rankings were provided in the agenda that went out last week which is before you apparently got the memo from legal.  I would love to see a copy of this “memo” just to see the determination legal made and the wording used. The full rankings would also be very telling.

The truth is, Whitener was never going to be seriously considered or selected due to July comments by councilman Brockman.

Here is what Ben Whitener had to say this morning on the matter:

I had a gut feeling that I had a very low chance of getting a spot on the fire board, but I still had to give it my best shot. I think they had their minds made up about me before I even showed up for the interview. The interview only lasted roughly ten minutes, and I ended up getting the “thanks, but no thanks” letter two days later. It would be interesting to find out exactly how I ranked among the other eleven applicants, but I doubt we will find out anytime soon. I just hope and pray that the new directors will be pragmatic, conservative, and ready to tackle the huge amount of work ahead. That being said, I may be more effective by not being on the board. I won’t have the constraints a board member has, and I can ruffle all the feathers in the world if the situation warrants–Ben Whitener

For the record, here is a picture of Whitener receiving a $30,000 grant from a few years ago.

Ben Whitener

Meanwhile, Brockman apparently didn’t like that I’ve brought his July comments during this application process and calling it rigged. He apparently felt the need to make a statement during the discussion referencing this site claiming I’ve made false accusations. Here is what he said.

“There is somebody out there writing blogs making a lot of accusations about us not really being concerned about the fire district and throwing things out there that are actually really false and its really disappointing to see somebody  or to read things that people write on the internet criticizing people. If they have issues, I would truly love them, specifically me since I was the brunt of the issue to come speak to me in person and let’s talk about it and I’ll give you the true facts and then I think you would truly understand why the decisions we make are the decisions we do make,” said Brockman.

My response is simple, I’ve restated his own comments and called him out on it for discrimination before the process could even be played out. He made the poor comment mid-summer and has never clarified them in public or offered a further explanation on them. The easiest thing he could have done was redact them and go into the process with an open mind. He was aware of my concerns and could have clarified them at any time. He knew what he meant and he meant it which the results confirm my suspicions all along that a solid candidate was black listed prior to the process even starting.

For the record, a reliable source had informed me a month ago that there was a promise given to a applicant who lived in the Summerset area to ensure they received representation on the Board. This of course did occur with the appointment of Stephen Smith while my source was spot on.

Furthermore, if I am making accusations about Brentwood that are untrue, then lets go a step further in their own agenda where they state the following:

Finally, the Sub-committee recommends that Council direct staff to only provide those support services to the Fire District Board that are in contractual arrangements with the Board. Since the Board was reconstituted in 2010, City staff has been providing various support services to the District (financial analysis, etc.) without reimbursement for their efforts. At this time there is a contractual arrangement for certain Information Systems services to be provided to the District, and the Sub-committee feels it prudent to discontinue providing any additional services to the District beyond those provided for by contract.

The truth is, the subcommittee is being petty and its somewhat coincidence that the moment that three of four on the council are coming off the Board, they want to discontinue services. Look I get it, Brentwood wants to protect itself and that is fine, but this is just par for the course.

On a side note, I will say that Brentwoods City Clerk is wonderful. Margret Wimberly provided me very quickly with with the list of applicants followed by the the actually applications of those appointed along with Whitener. Take a look at it and decide if the subcommittee made a good choice or not. Here is the list.

  • Jana Aubert
  • Anthony Bargiacchi
  • Bruce Bradley
  • Harold Bray
  • Greg Cooper
  • Gabriele Dawson
  • Patricia Howe
  • Stephen Smith
  • Rolando Villareal
  • Ben Whitener
  • Joe Young

Here is the applications in PDF Form. records responsive to request 12-12-12

In the end, maybe Whitener was not the best overall choice, but he sure as heck was a top 3 choice. Brentwood tipped it’s hand early in the process and that is exactly how the process played out.  It’s a shame they continue to think more about their City than they do the District.

With this process now behind us, it’s time to move forward with the Board we do have to work with to ensure the next revenue enhancement passes a public vote.

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16 Responses »

  1. Well this is certainly more interesting than what the CC Times put out on the appointments. it also provides more depth which is needed. If it looks rigged, smells rigged, it probably is rigged. Next time, just put in the requirements no ECCFPD or former ECCFPD firefighter will be appointed rather than the a dog and pony show. Why did you not bring up this so called promise when you found out about it?

    Stonebarger putting out a false timeline should be addressed. Either an apology should be issued or he should be reprimanded for lying.

    Brockmans comments are hilarious because its what he said. He has no one to blame but himself. It’s not Burks fault the Times or Press failed to actually report it and he was the only one watching.

    Mr. Whitener, you are a stand up guy and I hope to see you fighting like hell on behalf of the district from the stands. You are a hell of an asset and Brentwood screwed this one up royally.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words. I fully intend to assist the fire board in whatever capacity they deem appropriate so that we can hopefully move things forward in a positive manner. We are looking at politics as usual going back to the mid to late ’70s, and that type of problem solving approach needs to be addressed and changed if we have any hope of improving our level of fire service and emergency medical service.

  2. This is why voters rejected Measure S. You have had a Board of Directors who is dishonest with the public. While I will not go into the Measure S debate, this is another example why the Board should be elected instead of appointed. If it is determined a promise was given to Mr. Smith, then Brentwood has some serious explaining to do. I do not think it’s appropriate Ben Whitener be selected because since he receives compensation from the District, Mr. Burkholder did point out some serious flaws in the process that need to be looked at in the future to keep this a little more cleaner going forward. I actually agree with Mr. Brockmans original comments and would back him on them. But going into an appointment process, I agree with Burkholder than it was instant discrimination against any firefighter or union person. If Brentwood had any sense, they would have removed Brockman from the selection process to ensure fairness to all applicants. In closing, Burkholder is being a bit harsh on the selection committee.

    • Jill I believe that Ben is retired on a disability retirement. He does NOT receive any money from the Fire District. His retirement comes from the CC Pension fund. For some reason, please seem to believe that the district and/or agency continues to pay for people even after they retire. THAT IS INCORRECT.

    • Jill – I can see and respect where you are coming from, but I am receiving a disability retirement from the Contra Costa County retirement system and not East Contra Costa Fire specifically. My disability pay and benefits are determined by state law and not through contract negotiations. My retirement cannot be added to, or taken away from, through any future labor agreements.

  3. Screw Brentwoods city council, they don’t care about the District, just Brentwood. They want their own fire service, let them have it and they can fail all by themselves with these bunch of morons thinking they are better than others in the area.

  4. Two things

    1. Brentwood did appoint 1 firefighter from Mountain View Fire so Burkholders argument doesn’t completely hold up about being anti-union and fire. I appreciate what Brockman stated to ensure the Board isn’t full of a bunch of union people or firefighters.

    2. Burkholder can call out this fixed process all he wants but it will continue as long as appointments are made. This Board needs to become elected. With all due respect to Mr. Bryant, 12 months is too long and he should be coming off with Kevin Romick in April.

  5. Here is an idea—– start a fund raiser to help pay for an election. (not sure of the legalize but it sure would send a strong message) The money to pay for an election just isn’t there and will not be there for a long long time. So the only way to get an elected board is from another revenue source. There is plenty of time since the appointees have terms of 2-3 years. Or we can continue to go along with things and sit on our butts and complain.

  6. Yep, welcome to Brentwood! Where we are known for shooting ourselves in the foot and then reloading.

    Personally I am glad that if anyone stayed on the fireboard it was (is) Joel Bryant. He is the only one that has demonstrated a lick of sense.

    Thanks Burk for letting us all know what Brockman and Stonebarger were doing all along. Maybe the voters figured out Brockman, but they still need to figure out Stonebarger. I knew they would jump ship once they figured out this board was not helping them and there was nothing they could offer to the district. Experience/Institutional knowledge? Yeah right. In the meantime this charade is nothing but a dog and pony show.

    There is only one solution; Increased revenue. Everything else is just a distraction.

  7. Burkholder should get a medal for exposing this flawed process. Poor Brentwood and poor firefighters.

  8. To be clear, Ben is a very well qualified applicant. In regards to the timeline, the City Attorney gave the committee a verbal opinion after Ben’s interview. We made our rec. after that conversation. The memo went out to the council on Mon at my request after the staff report didn’t address it. We didn’t rank everyone, only the top 4. I hope all applicants stay involved and help move this district to a successful revenue enhancement, it will take everyone working together.

    • One would think it would be a good idea to rank ALL applicants just in case for whatever reason one applicant doesn’t work out or one is forced to resign for whatever reason. Then you can simply go down the list and do not have to repeat the process. Just admit it councilman, Whitener was blacklisted from the start.

      Please send me a copy of the memo to mburk1010@gmail.com

      • Mike
        Ben was not “blacklisted”. We all may not like certain rules/laws/conflicts etc., but I choose to abide by them and take the advice from our City Attorney. I’m not at liberty as a single member of the council to share communications with the councils attorney, it would be a violation. Although I can assure you, the same process was in place for these interviews as all others I’ve done. You may not like or agree with it and that I can respect, but to imply and suggest that it was predetermined or manipulated is untrue and inaccurate.

      • Not sure who Stonebarger is trying to convince…us or himself. I guess he forgot who the “staff”, i.e. attorney works for. Verbal opinion? Violation? Get real.

        Why am I not surprised to read such a excuse infused retort.

        Yep, Brentwood being shady again. Business as usual, lack of leadership and one more fine example of the city’s downward spiral. How embarrassing!

  9. Brentwood being shady again yet nothing in the media? What a shocker!

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