After another online article by CBS13 news regarding Garden Valley Fire Portection District was printed on the Internet last week, Chief Bill Dekker was contacted for comment. As of this printing, he said he has not been contacted by the District Attorney’s Office, which CBS13 stated has “opened a criminal investigation” to look into suspected credit card fraud.
“Garden Valley Fire welcomes an investigation,” said Dekker in a phone interview. “There is nothing wrong being done here. There is a four-year pattern of harassment, which is a smokescreen to the real issue. That is, the real issue is the $215,000 being taken away from Garden Valley Fire ($60,000 from Georgetown Fire, both from the Aid-to-Fire distributions), with no reduction in taxes. The only reduction is in services to the community.”
The CBS13 article cited El Dorado County Auditor-Controller Joe Harn’s scrutiny of Garden Valley Fire’s spending and credit card purchases. Part of those purchases were for $3,400 for alcohol/drug counseling services, an expense of the department’s Employee Assistance Program (something the county also provides its employees, according to Dekker), and shoe purchases of $85 and $34.
“I can’t speak on the counseling charges; that’s already in violation of HIPAA,” a federal violation, Dekker said.
“I’ve never been to Santa Barbara,” he said of the $85 Good Feet charge. “But if you look at the charge, that’s where their headquarters is located. The shoes were purchased in Folsom, and it’s part of my uniform allowance.”
Another charge for shoes was made at a Payless Shoe store in Placerville. The $34 charged was for a pair of dress shoes for the funeral of Jack Anderson, in which a variety of fire departments and employees took center stage.
As a result of the discontinuance of Aid-to-Fire funds, Dekker said Garden Valley Fire was back to its March 2008 level of service. The Aid-to-Fire funds reportedly paid for a second 24-hour full-time position at the local fire station.
“As of March 2, we are down to one full-time 24-hour position,” Dekker added. “We’ll adapt as we have over the past four to five years.”
The adaptation will primarily come via volunteers, of which Garden Valley has 15. Traditionally, Garden Valley, Georgetown and Mosquito collaborated on the fire academy training, which costs approximately $2,000 per student, but Dekker said the last one took place in 2010. Now the individual fire departments are taking volunteers for training at the state-of-the-art facility near Buckeye off Wentworth Springs Road.
To learn more about volunteering, call Garden Valley Fire at 333-1240 or Georgetown Fire at 333-4111.
In regard to his 1996 DUI reported in the online CBS13 article, Dekker said, “My fire department was on fire. I went into a burning building and have paid dearly for it for many years. I was wrong.”
Dekker was relaxing at the station off-duty when his building caught fire. He had reportedly drunk two beers, but and was moving a fire engine out of the building. In the ensuing chaos, he brushed a firefighter with part of the engine, sometimes referred to as “running them over.”
The incident was Dekker’s first assignment as chief and he referred to himself as “young. It’s one of those lessons learned in life,” he added.