Saginaw Fire Department holding new election after lawsuit

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Saginaw Volunteer Fire Department will be opening the polls July 12 to elect a new department board of directors after a judge recently handed down an order in a lawsuit brought against the former board.

The judge’s order came a little more than two months after Corey Baginski, a captain at the fire department, sued the fire board, claiming a board election held in December 2010 was illegal.

When he filed the lawsuit, Baginski claimed the board, which was then composed of Joe Acker, J.D. King, Michael Minor, Steve Hall and Bob Picou, manipulated the election by inviting people to the polls to vote for them.

While the lawsuit was pending, a judge issued a restraining order preventing the board from meeting. When the lawsuit was filed, the board was in the process of rewriting the department’s bylaws, Acker said.

“The bylaws we were writing said if you worked or resided in the Saginaw fire district, you were eligible to serve on the board,” Acker said.

However, the judge ruled only those who live in the fire district are eligible to serve on the board. As a result, Picou, who worked, but did not live, in the district, was removed from the board and replaced by Charles Seales, a founding member of the department.

Seales and the other four remaining members of the board will serve as an interim board of directors until the July 12 election, which will be held from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Saginaw Civic Center on Shelby County 26.

In order to run for one of the board’s five at-large positions, candidates must live in the district and submit by June 30 a petition containing the signatures of at least 10 people who live in the fire district.

The judge’s order also changed who is able to vote in the upcoming election. Only those who are registered voters who live in the district and pay dues to the department will be able to vote.

Currently, the district covers more than 1,500 residents, only 207 of whom currently pay dues, Acker said.

The department’s current 12 firefighters will also be able to vote in the July 12 election, regardless of where they live.

Baginski said Acker, King, Minor and Hall have already declared they intend to run for re-election. He said if the current members of the board are re-elected, it could be detrimental to the current firefighters.

“We know that if the old board is re-elected, they will remove most, if not all, of the current firefighters,” Baginski said.

Acker called Baginski’s claim “pure foolishness,” and said he does not know who will serve on the next board.

“The prime responsibility of the new board is to maintain the fire and rescue protection, and secondly, to rewrite the bylaws,” Acker said. “To say that the board will clean house immediately is pure foolishness.

“You can’t maintain that fire protection if you don’t have personnel,” Acker added.