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Robinson escorted out of WMFR meeting

By Nick Walter, Islander Reporter

Holmes Beach Commissioner Al Robinson has been a mainstay at West Manatee Fire Rescue District Commission meetings the past few months, consistently blasting WMFR for alleged wasteful spending.

On Sept. 16, a Holmes Beach Police Department officer escorted Robinson out of the meeting after WMFR Commission Chairman John Rigney told Robinson he violated his 3 minutes of speaking time.

WMFR Chief Andy Price said the reason Robinson was escorted out was because “he ignored the 3-minute rule and got louder, and kept going.”

Robinson read from a letter at the meeting, saying he was insulted that he did not receive an invitation to WMFR’s Sept. 8 stakeholder’s meeting. Robinson said because of that, and his limited opportunities to speak at WMFR meetings, he was submitting the letter as a formal complaint against the fire district for violations of his constitutional right to free speech and assembly with other citizens and taxpayers.

Price would not comment about the letter, but said the WMFR commissioners will investigate the complaint. “If anybody makes a complaint we’re not just going to pass it off,” Price said.

Price also issued a seven-page memorandum in response to a 12-page letter Robinson previously submitted that also alleged wasteful spending.

Price said Robinson’s numbers were inaccurate and that he repeatedly made false statements. Price wrote that Robinson’s statement about the firefighters’ out-of-control retirement program are “blameless and misleading. When making comments about actuarial data you should have a reasonable understanding of what the data means.”

Price also rebutted Robinson’s statement that his job requires no formal education, such as a college degree.

“My position has required a college degree since I was appointed fire chief in 1992,” Price wrote. “Chief officers have been required to have a college degree since 1997, and all officers since 2001. (Robinson) was provided the education requirements in April and has been present at board meetings when the college degree requirements have been discussed.”

Price said Robinson’s accusations have undermined the morale of firefighters.

“It has had a negative effect on our department,” Price said. “It’s one thing when you hear lies, and when firefighters read the letter Robinson wrote, even if it isn’t true, they take it personally. They feel like, ‘Why is he attacking us? We haven’t done anything.’”

Finally at the meeting, Price announced a 6 p.m., Oct. 11 workshop at Station No. 1, 6001 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

Price said he will present a draft of a strategic plan to commissioners. Much of the plan, such as the strengths and weaknesses of the department, was collected from surveys filled out by citizens at the WMFR stakeholder’s meeting.

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