‘You Have No Rights as a Volunteer…,’ Claims Letter to the Editor

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Two former Fortuna volunteer firefighters dispute their removal from the department. They state that they want to bring attention the lack of rights of volunteers. They state,  “[Y]ou have no rights as a volunteer in any situation, dispute or capacity; even if the volunteer position is governed by policy & procedures and bylaws.”

fortuna fire

Fortuna Fire Patch

September, 2015, Dean Glaser and I publically opposed the “Fortuna Fire Tax” which was subsequently approved by the citizens of Fortuna, minus some 4,000 ballots that were never turned in by property owners.
At the time of my opposition, I had been removed from the almost 30 years of service to the community of Fortuna as a Volunteer Fire Fighter, by Chief Lon Winburn and the Fortuna Fire Protection District Board of Fire Commissioners.

I was initially removed as Captain of the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department Company #5, (in Campton Height’s) by Chief Winburn after a disagreement at a meeting held on June 2, 2015. I adamantly opposed my removal from the Dept. and through the Policy and Procedures, along with the Dept. Bylaws I Appealed my removal to my peers.

A hearing was held where (by majority vote) I was fully reinstated! After the vote was taken, Chief Winburn verbally told all present that he agreed he will respect the decision of the board. However, Chief Winburn later recanted that statement before the Board of Fire Commissioners.

Chief Winburn had claimed numerous past disciplinary actions for harassment and insubordination for my removal. At the hearing, I successfully disputed all past disciplinary actions that Chief Winburn attempted to use against me. Members that were named in the apparent disciplinary actions were present at my Appeal Hearing, but none of them spoke out against me or in support of my removal from the Department.

Within nine (9) days of my Reinstatement, Chief Winburn called a meeting before the Board of Fire Commissioners in a further attempt to dismiss me from the department. This type of hearing is not called for any department Bylaw, Policy, or Procedure of the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department.

At this Hearing, I was restricted to only fifteen (15) minutes to defend myself and my dismissal, I was not allowed to call any witnesses, and I had hired a private attorney who was not allowed to officially defend me as called for by the department Bylaws.

Not to anyone’s surprise, the Board of Fire Commissioners, who hired Chief Winburn, upheld Chief Winburn’s dismissal of me from the department. I find it ironic that Chief Winburn made numerous allegations against me, but failed to mention his own Conduct Policy violation by sending out a department wide e-mail calling Dean Glaser a “Low Life”!

The Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department Policy & Procedure Manual spells out very clearly the three (3) stages if discipline, 1. Written, 2. Suspension, 3. Dismissal/Termination. Through all of this, he did not even follow his own department’s policy & procedure, which he was the author for enforcing progressive discipline. Why is that?

Even after my dismissal, the Board of Fire Commissioners approved my “Exempt Status” with the department as long as I followed all policies & procedures of the Fire department; however, upon the passing of the Fire Tax, both Dean and I received a letter from the Fire Dept. stating that our “Exempt Status” had been revoked by the Department and Board of Fire Commissioners. No reason was given for the change in our Exempt Status or why it was suddenly revoked. I ask you WHY?

“{Exempt Status” is earned after five (5) years of service with the department and gives such member the right to attend all Fire Department functions, meetings, and social events. So after a combination of 45+ years of service to the community of Fortuna and the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department, our “Exempt Status” was revoked. WHY? To this day, neither Dean nor I are aware of any reason. Additionally, there has never been a policy or procedure that allows the administration of the Fire Department to revoke such previously earned status.

On December 14th 2015, I took my concern to 2nd District Humboldt County Supervisor Estelle Fennel, who is directly responsible for the Fortuna Fire Department’s Board of Fire Commissioners. Ms. Fennel directly appoints/replaces a person to this board in cases of vacancies. As a part of Ms. Fennel’s campaign is that she supports all fire fighters of Humboldt County. I provided video, audio, and written documentation supporting my position to Ms. Fennel in the hopes she would directly address this issue with the Fire Commissioners. Ms. Fennel assured me that she would meet with the Fire Commissioners in an attempt to resolve the matter. To date, Ms. Fennel HAS DONE NOTHING!

My goal is to make the public aware that you have no rights as a volunteer in any situation, dispute or capacity; even if the volunteer position is governed by policy & procedures and bylaws. The administration is not bound to abide by any of them and you have no legal recourse. After the assistance of three (3) local well known attorneys, who practice employment law, I surprisingly found that out!

Finally, I cannot tell you how disappointed it was to not get ANY SUPPORT or RESOLUTION from 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennel (who is adamant in helping/supporting our local Volunteer Fire Fighters).

Both Dean and I are past recipients of the departments “Firefighter of the Year” award, which is voted on by the membership of the department. Dean is well known as the organizer of the annual 9-1-1 Parade and Ceremony in remembrance of those who have fallen but will not be forgotten. An event that honored those that lost their lives in the 911 terrorist attacks. This will no longer occur in Fortuna due to Dean leaving the department and the revocation of his “Exempt Status”. To our knowledge, the revocation of our “Exempt Status” from the department after a combined 45+ years of dedicated service to the community of Fortuna is the first of its kind in Fortuna Fire Department existence.

Sadly enough after no response from Ms. Fennel, this puts the honesty & integrity of the department’s administration in jeopardy. To substantiate this claim is the fact that Ms. Fennel’s last appointment to the Fortuna Fire Board of Fire Commissioners involved an excused member who failed to disclose that he had been driving Fire/Emergency Apparatus for many years with a suspended driver’s license. Additionally, he had a NO BAIL WARRANT for his arrest. Even after this was revealed to Ms. Fennel, this subject still remains on the Fortuna Fire Board of Fire Commissioners.

My Goal is to bring awareness to the current members or those interested in becoming a Volunteer. YOU HAVE NO REAL RIGHTS AS A VOLUNTEER!

Some may feel that submitting this information is totally out of revenge, which is not the case. During my 30 years of dedicated service to the community, I served under past Fire Chiefs Bob Sommerville, Joe Toroni and Frank Hizer, and I never received any disciplinary action for any wrong doing! The evidence is overwhelming that this is a personal attack. Further evidence to prove my point, the department has recently changed the bylaws to directly restrict the attendance and behavior of past and current Exempt Members. WHY? Does Fortuna Fire have something to hide?

Please know it was an honor to serve the community of Fortuna for the COMBINED 45+ years we were allowed to.

Alan Mendes and Dean Glaser

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50 comments

  • Leave your dirty laundry in the hamper where it belongs. Why would you want to volunteer for a group that obviously doesn’t like you? It’s a bummer for sure, but after a year it’s time to move on.

  • Man they are so wrong to do these guys like that ,but just like all the rest of the.lame.board of supervisor s do something Estell fennel hope you read this comment from what u hear threw out the county you are all show and no go.

    • I have no idea if what you say is correct or not, because I can never understand a fucking word you type, let alone a complete sentence. Holy Fuck-A-Moly. Go to the library, and borrow a 3rd grade English textbook, and read the damn thing repeatedly.

  • It sounds like you guys should have hired a divorce lawyer. Hell halth no fury like a firefighter scorned.

  • What happened to the “Friendly city”?sounds more like Romper Room!grow up

  • Oh ya,I’m not voting for Estelle funnel,even for dog catcher.i love fur babies to much!!

  • Hermit of Livry

    It’s part of the Papist takeover. Control all the jobs through Rerum Novarum union control. Use false charity and make everyone else a volunteer to prove your loyalty to the system. Get ready for the future trap.

    “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast… He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or[f] the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13

    • And let us not forget Book of Numbers 31, Verse 14-16:

      And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle. And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

      Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

      But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

      Time for a change of government in Fortuna, Mosaic-style?

      • Hermit of Livry

        The desire for liberty of conscience inspired the Pilgrims to cross the sea, endure the hardships of the wilderness, and lay the foundation of a mighty nation.

        When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

        We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS-tshQ9sys

        • Lol I was just kidding ya friggin’ nut! Don’t kill anyone!

          • Lost Croat Outburst

            Ya gotta be careful, man, some of these religious extremists spend too much time on the fire-and-brimstone, smite-the-heathens flakey scriptures and are just ready to blow a gasket, any excuse to get violent. Glad that you printed some of the less savory biblical passages, yeah.

  • Alan Mendes: ” Why, I have NO IDEA why little ole me would be kicked out of Fortuna Fire, I am such a nice guy”
    Must be your science fiction Twin to blame for all of your violent and threatening episodes.
    Do the world a favor and get therapy before you really hurt somebody.

    • Sounds like your jealous of him for accomplishing so much. That was the biggest beef everybody had with him. His trucks were too clean, his equipment was too nice, he was too organized, etc. Time to get over it! No twin, just a hard working man who loved serving his community and took pride in his equipment! Stop whining!

      • Right, maybe his said outbursts have something to do with the majority of department members being intoxicated on a regular basis during meetings and events….I’ve seen it myself for years. Oh and during Said events and meetings a call comes in and they hop in the Shiney red trucks buzzed up and come to the rescue. This towns trucks should have breathalyzers interlocked I’m the trucks. But that’s just my opinion maybe he’s pissed off for other reasons, but I can’t understand why they would want to get rid of someone they have put lots of time and $ into training, who’s always willing to go the extra mile for his town and fam….thanks Al for all you’ve done for me and my family and the shit hole town you served for years. Fortuna is not a friendly city, it’s a corrupt city putting on a front

      • yeah he even polished the chrome bumper when he was engineering on a house fire with people loosing their home….too bad he couldn’t hear the radio. Don’t get me started on the rest of the issues his OCD caused…these two belong together and everyone knows it…insubordinate, self righteous, and creepy.

  • It’s hard to determine what actually was the beef from your letter. There are many laws (now days) protecting all people from discrimination in the work-place, volunteer or paid, which I can only assume this is/was. If this is the case, shout it out! Bigotry comes in all sizes, and cannot be silenced.
    A case of “Volunteers having no rights” occurred in Ukiah, at the Public Animal Shelter. In that matter, it was the 1st Amendment which volunteers were “required” to abandon. The problem turned out to be a badge-heavy Supervisor, and it was resolved when the actual facts hit the light of day… I encourage you to take the same tack.
    I find it hard to believe that there are so many fire fighters in Fortuna that ANY can be jettisoned on cavalier whims alone…so, what are the specifics of the problem?
    Thank you for your service. Your collective training and experience must surely guarantee your ability to help out in other areas or capacities. I hope you pursue them. af

  • Don’t expect honesty or integrity from someone that was a Service Writer at a car dealership for many years. It is their job to screw anyone who walks through the door, and to intimidate the mechanics into going along with the scams. They especially enjoy scamming the elderly. Winburn is a fine one to be calling anyone a low life.

    • can you get over a year of crushed heartbreak??

    • Mr. car dealership is now — Fortuna Fire Chief. Word was it that he quit the Fortuna car dealership, because they would not let him take off to go to the fires. So, he went to Eureka to a dealership there… ( now pray tell how could he leave that Eureka dealership to take off for the Fortuna fires)… do we tetect a lie??? Much of which he is known for.

      • Really Wilma… grasping

        • grasp all you want…. the truth hurts.

        • Really–dingleberry…. we do not mention any one other faults, except Alan and Dean’s.
          The chief has quite a few himself…. like letting an alcoholic drive the fire equipment.. without a license yet – What a lawsuit the city would have had…. but no one says anything about that… It’s alright because the chief is Mr. Perfect. and is the best friend of the no license….

          This so much reminds me of the movie – “Peyton Place”. When the chief called the firemen – LOW LIFE – he must himself been looking in the mirror. It takes one to no one.

  • Alan I have seen you for years volunteering your time to the Fortuna Fire Dept. The Fortuna fire commissioners should be ashamed of themselves. I guess that’s what you get when the board is appointed. i wondered about the tax measure that was voted in. Seems like the people were sold a crock because I have been told the Fortuana Fire Dept has a savings account of over a million dollars. That was never publicized before the election. If you have spoken to local attorneys they won’t touch anything that has to do with local politics. It’s not good for business. It is known any of the Fortuna organizations are an ol’ boys group. Always has been always will be. The Friendly City is a joke and anyone who lives outside the city limits knows that. if you are in your in, but if your out, your out. Those who you thought were friends won’t be there to support you. Ms. Fennel should have worked to mediate this situation. She is always there to get her picture taken with the Fortuna Fire Dept. If she is going to talk the talk she should be walking the walk.

  • Fortuna, like all small towns, has a small mind-set. Those with money and/or connections to money rule and the rest must drool. As for the catchy name: “The Friendly City;” what a joke! Friendly if you have money and are white.
    “Honkey-Town” is more appropriate. Dean Glaser seems to be a fanatic about 9-11 and I’ve heard him yelling out to the audience to repeat after him: “We will never forget….or something along that line.” He sounded like a demented preacher who lost his notes. Mendes also seems to have a reputation as being “a bit off.” Rumors, but having read the grammatically incorrect diatribe “Letter to the Editor” They need an English teacher and, as far as all those lawyers, didn’t mention any names did they? Wonder why? In my opinion, this is another case of not completely educated and/or evolved individuals that need to GET A LIFE!

  • Small Town Politics

    Once the good ole boy club votes you out, your ass is out!

  • Really – is this what this site has turned into? If you feel you have ever been mistreated, air it here on Kym’s site – should get interesting! And Alan – really… you have whined until you are blue in the face to anyone who would listen – you must have been ousted because of YOUR actions – you have ALWAYS been a bully and a mean spirited person. If this doesn’t work for you – what is next Dateline NBC- “The Mystery behind the firing of the INNOCENT Alan Mendes?”

    • Letters to the Editor allow people to have a voice and, on this site, it allows anonymous people to state their opinion of what was said. I wish there were less negative rants and more positive raves but I love the idea of people who feel powerless to get a chance to be heard.

      • If you are an English major — which probably none of these firemen are — then you may want to go to the library yourself… and get a book on COMPREHENSION. your not wanting to hear what is being said …. no heart.

        These dedicated fireman have a calling to help and protect our community,,,( instead of sitting at the bar) discussing who and what they can get rid of. If you poll these community LEADERS,, you may find that many overdo on booze.. but it’s ok, because of who they are.
        Mentally they are sane? Not everyone is?
        Nothing like calling the kettle black…

      • And thank you for that kym!

  • Thanks Kym for your honesty… I too am trying to be honest, and get the story correct, from an inside view.

    Many of these firemen are so dedicated…. It is not easy to understand them… sometimes it feels like the fire dept. is number 1 in their lives and all other comes second. . It is hard to figure them out… They do take the job seriously, perhaps too seriously. It is a job to them and they want to do the very best that they can… they take great pride in what they do.

    So when they are ousted – can you imagine the true hurt that they feel. Crushed to the max.

    Voted in, then 9 days later voted out,,, because the fire chief did everything that he could to get them out….except to mediate.. he refused. It was them that the commissioners should have sat down with the other parties and tried to resolve the problem. I see too many if’s here. Wonder if the ultimatum was I go or they go– I really do not know.

    Estelle Fennell,, tries to tell us that she knows what she is doing…. I think she failed here. It’s a sad story indeed.
    To my thinking — it is to sit back (be patient ) and see what happens to this regime.
    It is hard to answer nicely when I know the other side of the story, and have lived with it for nearly 30 yrs.

    • honestly this is a city matter not Estelle’s since it is an incorporated town, she appoint them, but doesn’t direct them..Alan, did she do nothing, or does she know the facts about you as well now?

      …and people keep wondering why he was let go then, let go again. Don’t wonder, just sit and talk to either of them. It wasn’t dedication to the community that brought them there, and ultimately that’s why they got let go. Insincerity.

      • Not a city matter

        This is NOT a city matter. The Fortuna Fire Protection District does not belong to the City of Fortuna alone and is not governed by the city.

        The Fortuna Fire Protection District provides fire protection services including prevention, public
        education, preparedness and emergency response to the City of Fortuna and the outlying
        communities of Alton, Hydesville, Metropolitan, Fernbridge and Palmer Creek. The area
        encompasses 26 square miles with a population of 15,000.

  • Alan was a douche bag when he worked for fotuna pd,corrupt no morales illegal tactic using bully. He us the same as a bails officer in the court house and the same everywhere else. It shouldnt be a surprise because youre an a**hole. The only surprise is that took so long to get rid of you!

    • Lap after lap around the high school stopping people in parking lot or crossing street….today he would have been ran out even faster for harassment and discrimination. He was worse on kids that adults, just like when he was in Ferndale.

  • I am trying to understand you, so sorry you are having a bad day. Your looking into your mirror Zzz is not good. Keep a stiff upper lip– this is a celebration day – live it up, and be happy. That nasty old mirror is a bummer Zzz. You may think of getting rid of it.

    A thought just popped into my mind — give it to the Fortuna Fire Dept.

    • Perhaps,sweetpea, you should try to take your own advise. Attributing what Ive said to a bad day ? GROW UP! Ive been a citizen of Fortuna for over 40 years. When I say he was a corrupt police officer who used illegal bully tactics.. thats just pure fact. As a court officer.. bully ass hat there too. And as a fireman, self inflated ego nazi. Dont belive me. Check his record as a cop. Sit in a court room he tends or as around town. Chances are they will tell you the same thing and that had hitler syndrom because he had his lunch money stolen as a kid.(see,I can be a child too) He is getting back a sliver of what he dished out and should consider himself lucky. – thought popped into my head too. You shouldnt troll blogs when youre so close to the situation.- Yes, I will celebrate Americas birthday and independence from nazis like him. Have a nice day!

      • goodness gracious

        LOL….. that mirror is still bothering you… Tell me RR about your record. Been fired from a job a few times??
        Bad cop, bad record,,, that is what the Sheriff’s office hires…

        40 yrs. in a corrupt Fortuna City, I feel sorry for you… doesn’t seem like you have made it any better — not enough Zzz’s. The corrupt regime still prevails in your town. Glad I don’t live there.

        goodbye and good luck…. you’ve had help composing— very good – better vocabulary.

  • Hints on how to win an Election. Have it all in home, therefore you do not have to answer to no one. No legal Election Office…. forget the cost of that. Just take full control of the votes, and have your family members count them…. It’s a sure thing…

    Happy 4th.

  • It’s hard to believe a lawsuit could not be filed .just on defamation of character if nothing else . I hate to see small-town politics get this ugly but I’ve seen it before .it certainly is not right to fire someone and not give a reason.

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