The fact that St. Clair Ambulance District board members and some of their spouses have personal cellphones to use as they please at taxpayers’ expense is appalling.
Ambulance Chief Bill Hollo confirmed the perk to us last week, and a check into the practice revealed that it is costing Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer about $6,000 annually to fund this social gathering in addition to the $7,200 a year we pay to those same board members to represent us in the district.
Hollo said the board approved the cellphone policy several years ago.
To be clear, this is the board’s decision and not Hollo’s. And this has nothing to do with the outstanding emergency service St. Clair EMTs provide us day in and day out, even though our EMTs do not have district-provided cellphones of their own. True, in the overall scheme of things, $6,000 a year may not seem like a lot of money, but it is money nonetheless that should be spent on more essential things within the district and not as a benefit provided to board members and their significant others.
Tack on that additional $7,200 to attend meetings and throw in the several years the policy has been in place, and now we are talking about $66,000 over the last five years.
Now that is a lot of money.
It’s also true that this little perk, and it is a perk any way you dissect it, is not stealing $600,000 out of our pockets like former Fire Chief Eric Hinson allegedly has through his financial misappropriation of that district’s funds. But, the fact of the matter is, whether you take a penny or $1,000, it is still removing money that really doesn’t belong to you courtesy of the local taxpayer.
Hollo said according to state statutes, this practice is legal. We don’t doubt that.
But, we also know that everything that may be legal may not be correct, or, shall we say, kosher.
In a time when most of us continue to struggle to make ends meet because of a down economy, every cent we have counts.
Most of us work hard for our paychecks. Along with that, we know we have to pay taxes to fund some of the services we receive, including the terrific emergency services we do get from our ambulance and fire districts. But to fund something like cellphone service for board members and their spouses just is not correct. Period.
In addition, we have to remember there are numerous boards around here on which people serve without any compensation. And, these board members don’t expect compensation. They simply serve because they care about the cause. And, they do an exceptional job.
And these board commitments take up much more time than being on the local ambulance board. And, these board members find ways to communicate when it’s necessary. It’s called being a volunteer. It’s called community service. It’s called lending a helping hand.
We strongly encourage the St. Clair Ambulance District board members to eliminate this cellphone perk and policy immediately. And while they’re at it, why don’t all these board members donate their financial compensation back to the district for good measure?
Very simply, doing so is just the correct thing to do.