West End Fire Co.’s board leadership unclear
Who sits on the West End Fire Company No. 2’s board of directors?
It depends on who you ask.
Keith Strohl, a lawyer for the Palmerton-based fire company, said Ron Peters, Jen Cebrosky, Shawn Hoffman and Kevin Buck legally remain in their seats despite an overthrow attempt by fire company members earlier this week.
“In a news broadcast, it was stated that seven fire company members conducted a meeting to oust the former board of directors for their inability to keep the firehouse active,” Strohl said in a news release Friday.
“The board wishes to inform its members and the general community that such activity was not legitimate and did not occur legally.”
One of the members involved in the overthrow, Scott Strohl, said a meeting was held at the West End Saloon on Monday night.
“We had 10 members willing to meet, and they were notified within the last several weeks,” Scott said. “Seven members attended the meeting and decided to remove the rogue board by a unanimous vote. They also voted to expel those four from the fire department.”
Scott said himself, Ryan Shupp, James Brown and Jeanie Stepp were voted to the board at that meeting, but according to Keith, West End bylaws require 15 members as a quorum to conduct any activity of the organization.
“This group did not obtain those 15 members,” Keith said. “Additionally, there are several notices required to conduct such a meeting, which had not been met and at least some of the members were not voting members of the organization, which would not allow them to conduct any activity.”
West End hasn’t responded to fires since June, when it announced it was going through a temporary restructuring.
Scott said Friday he and other members are concerned there is nothing temporary about the absence of fire response.
“There are rumors all over town that the equipment is going to be sold,” he said. “There is an email that the cascade system is going to be sold. It wouldn’t be the new one for the municipal fire company, so why would they sell ours? We want to be able to get in and service the equipment so we can get back to running calls.”
Only he and other members can’t get in the equipment bays.
“They changed all the locks,” Scott said. “The equipment hasn’t been run in months. This sounds like a hostile takeover to me. I’m pretty sure when Lucy Behler left a half-million dollars for new equipment, she didn’t want them sold for $5 apiece.”
Keith said the board feels a lot of misinformation came out of Monday’s overthrow attempt.
“We got calls from lifelong members who said they never received notice of the meeting and they want to know what this is all about,” Keith said.
“Factually, the individuals who held that meeting Monday have not provided the organization with any evidence of financial or other infractions as alleged in their statements. The organization is saddened that it must respond to such allegations, however, wants to thank its members and the community for its continued support during the trying times that the organization has gone through and reassure them that activities are being conducted by the board with the goal of continuing its charitable purpose.”
According to Scott, his group hasn’t seen any financial statements of late, but are concerned with recent activity.
For example, a pizza stand which had long been run by West End at the Palmerton Community Festival was taken over this year by the municipal fire company.
“The municipal station took over our pizza stand at the Palmerton Festival and sold pizzas in our spot, advertising it as the world famous pizza. From what we understand, the check for the stand came from the West End Fire Company. It’s all very shady to us.”
Keith said the board is trying to be as transparent as possible, but there are several key decisions that need to be made about the long-term viability of the station, which is still hosting social functions such as bingo.
“The biggest problem right now is the fire company is not on any municipal run cards as a company that can answer calls within that municipality,” he said. “That means there is no municipality paying for workers’ compensation, and it would be improper for the fire company to let anyone answer calls without being covered by insurance. So the question that the board and the membership need to discuss is, do they want to dissolve and sell the equipment to another fire company or can they get back to operating? That is basically where things stand right now.”
For Scott and others, the immediate goal is to get back to doing the volunteer service they love.
“We don’t do it because we get paid,” Scott said. “It’s a calling. We do it to save properties and lives.”