KEY LARGO -- In a special meeting last Wednesday, the Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue board of directors agreed to comply with a 2009 forensic audit commissioned by the Key Largo Fire-EMS District that it has long since mostly ignored.
Led by its attorney Russ Yagel, the board reviewed internal bylaws, the Key Largo Ambulance Corps bylaws and the forensic audit that found accounting and management mishaps in the department. The board hopes complying with the audit will help appease the district and convince it to rescind the department's termination.
As a result, the department's board agreed to add two new non-department members, increasing its size to nine. Yagel said the two members would likely be Key Largo business owner Robert Stoky and Monroe County Sheriff's Deputy Corey Bryan.
It also agreed to have the department's members elect the board of directors. The board would then appoint the fire chief. Currently, the department's members elect the chief.
These changes are contingent upon approval by the department's membership.
"We've got to convince the district we're making real change," Yagel said.
To get the membership to approve those changes in a short time period may be difficult for the department, which requires itself to give formal notice of a vote.
The fire department may be able to circumvent a full-membership vote if it can get signed letters from all of its members approving the amendments, Yagel said.
"There is no guarantee if we amend these bylaws this will be the magic bullet for this problem," he cautioned.
The active voting rights of retired firefighters are also under question. The board may decide to grandfather in some voting rights, but future retired firefighters would not be eligible to vote.
Former fire department board member Rob Bleser said the lingering issue with the district is more about management.
"It's a command-and-control aspect," he told the group.
Bleser was part of a three-person committee in 2010 that recommended management changes in the fire department in the wake of the critical audit.
Those recommendations, though, didn't survive a membership vote.