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Council approves MFD officers

The Mobridge City Council debated whether or not to approve a list of firefighters and the officers they elected because members of the department have not turned in paperwork needed to have them covered by the city’s insurance.
Several members of the council were against approving the firefighters because of the perceived lack of cooperation from the volunteers in getting the necessary paperwork completed, and the officers not turning in fire reports or handing over full financial disclosures.
Ward I Councilman Tom O’Connell and Ward III Councilman Randy Carlson stood firm in their contention that the firefighters did not cooperate with the city and should not be approved. They said it has taken way too long for the city to receive information requested more than a year ago.
Mobridge Mayor Jamie Dietterle had asked the council to approve the officers and firefighters as he thought there was an effort on the part of the firefighters to cooperate with the city’s requests.
“I know it has taken some time. It is small steps but I think we’re starting to get the communication in order to be able to move forward and bridge that gap and rebuild the department. The guys seem like they are willing to take that next step.”
Ward II Councilman Tony Yellow Boy made the motion to accept the officers as presented but asked about those who didn’t turn in personnel paperwork.
“The guys that haven’t signed probably will sign, they just weren’t at the meeting,” he told the council. “Can we just approve them and if they don’t sign just take them off (the insurance).”
But O’Connell, Carlson and Ward II Councilman Jeff Laundreaux all voted against that motion. That motion failed.
Yellow Boy told the council they needed to have a fire department. He said these are the men who are going out there in the cold, risking their lives to keep the city residents safe. Ward I Councilwoman Jackie Quaschnick agreed with Yellow Boy, saying if her home was on fire, she would want to have these firefighters there to help.
Dietterle encouraged the other councilmembers to voice their opinions. He agreed that the information requested was not turned in in a timely fashion but that the firefighters had made the effort, and he was encouraged that the relationship could be mended.
O’Connell said he was not satisfied the effort was made.
“We had to almost dragged them through the mud to get this information,” he said. “It’s time for them to step forward. If they want to be officers it is time to do their job as the officers.”
He said he has nothing against the fire department, but has a problem with the officers who refused to cooperate with the city, by not providing information or come to the council meeting when asked.
“If you asked your department heads to come to this meeting and they did not come, you would find out why,” he told Dietterle. “This is what is not happening with the fire department. They are refusing to do it.”
Dietterle asked what it was O’Connell wanted to see to move forward. Carlson said there are no reports since 2016. He said he wanted to see the officers do the work they should be doing.
When asked if those who didn’t sign the forms would not be allowed help fight a fire, city attorney Rick Cain said if those firefighters are not covered by the workman’s comp insurance, they would not be firefighters.
“That is why it is so important,” said Dietterle. “Maybe these guys don’t know why we need the forms.”
Yellow Boy suggested that they table the vote until he could talk to the firefighters. He said he would get the information the city needed. Yellow Boy reminded the council the firefighters are not on the city payroll, they are volunteers.
O’Connell said he would absolutely approve the list, but he expected them to comply with the requests from the city.That is where these problems have risen.
Dietterle asked what it would take for them to approve the list. He said he reviewed the ordinance applying to the fire department and it does include that officers should attend council meetings. If they refuse, according to Cain, by ordinance the officer could be removed by the mayor.
After more debate about whether they cooperated with the requests from the city and with the administration, the council agreed to approve the list with a caveat that when asked to attend a meeting (with an agenda item related to the department) they need to be in attendance. They felt the officers need to comply with what the city asks for in a reasonable manner, including financial information, cooperating with the administration and the council, training and recruiting. It is the responsibility of those officers.
“I think we are moving in the right direction,” said Dietterle. “I just hate to shut the door on the whole thing. I didn’t think we would get some of what we got presented to us tonight. I think that shows they are willing to work with us.”
O’Connell made the motion the people appointed as the officers be required to meet all the requirements. If not, they will be replaced.
That motion was approved, with all but Carlson voting for the motion.
The council also approved the list of firefighters as presented.
The video of the meeting and other council meetings can be accessed through the Mobridge Tribune website at mobridgetribune.com and following the video link.
– Katie Zerr