New local may be new start for firefighters, MFPD board

\Call the Tune\ by Mike Anthony

\”Call the Tune\” by Mike Anthony

We hope to see a new spirit of cooperation between the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors and the district’s union employees.

As we reported last week, a request by Mehlville Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters to join IAFF Local 2665 was met with unanimous approval.

In two separate floor votes on Sept. 12 and Sept. 15, a total of 306 members of Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 voted unanimously to approve Local 1889’s request. Members of Local 1889 previously had voted in favor of joining Local 2665 and the Local 2665 Executive Board had supported the request.

Only someone living in a cave would be unaware that the relationship between the Board of Directors and union employees over the past 61⁄2 years has been a rancorous one as board members worked to implement the reforms they promised voters.

In the months leading up to their election in April 2005, board Chairman Aaron Hilmer and board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman campaigned as reform candidates looking to eliminate fiscal waste and roll back a 33-cent tax-rate increase approved by district voters in November 2004.

Board Secretary Ed Ryan, who was elected in April 2007, ran on that same reform platform.

We believe the decision of the Local 1889 membership to join Local 2665 can be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in Local 1889’s leadership over the past 61⁄2 years.

Just consider the string of failed lawsuits challenging board decisions brought by the Local 1889 leadership. We can only imagine how much money Local 1889 has spent in legal fees since 2005.

But we do know how much money Local 1889 has pumped into the campaigns of unsuccessful candidates it supported for the Board of Directors in elections in 2007, 2009 and 2011 — roughly $131,000.

When Nick Fahs became president of Local 1889 in late 2008, we wrote in this same space that we hoped he would be able to improve the relationship between the union and the board.

But that wasn’t the case as the leadership of Local 1889 continued to wage war against the board. It’s disappointing that Fahs’ legacy will be serving as the last president of Local 1889.

With Mehlville union members now under the umbrella of Local 2665, we sincerely hope for the start of a new era of cooperation between them and the Board of Directors.