Discord vented at Fire District No. 11 meeting
by Clarke Davis
Butch Wynkoop, a board member and former chairman of Jefferson County Fire District No. 11, does not think someone should “run hot” from Nortonville to assist with medical and fire emergencies in Valley Falls.
John Franco, the man who “runs hot” from Nortonville, is employed in Valley Falls and is here during the daytime. He says he likes serving District 11 and he feels liked and respected here.
His vehicle is equipped with a red light and siren and he says he runs legal and is a safe driver.
But Mr. Wynkoop’s insistence that it’s not OK has reached the level of being harassment in the eyes of Mr. Franco who lawyered up recently making it a concern of the district board when it met Aug. 9.
Franco said he intended to sue Wynkoop if he didn’t lay off, but was advised by his lawyer that he would have to sue the entire board.
No other board member appears to have the same problem and a couple of members tried to mediate the situation during the meeting in an attempt to get the problem to go away.
Written statements were referred to that describe a near altercation that took place in front of the fire station. These tell about Franco approaching Wynkoop, who was in a vehicle and then Wynkoop exiting his vehicle to confront Franco. Nothing came to blows, but it was a clear indication of the friction that exists between a volunteer and a board member.
The issue eventually went beyond these two verified by a written statement from Lisa Franco, John’s wife, who states that her 17-year-old daughter was dragged into the situation by Wynkoop, who told her Franco was wrong in running with a red light and siren. She did not like a minor having to deal with any part of it.
Franco’s complaint also extended to Wynkoop calling or talking to his employer, Steve Mackison, who gives Franco permission to leave the business to make emergency runs.
Somewhere into this discussion Barbara Westbrook accused Wynkoop of additional rumor mongering involving her late husband Bill’s heart attack and things that were said about paramedic John Shipley, her nephew, following that incident.
Wynkoop’s response was to deny her allegations, but added that when she and Fire Chief John Gordon visited with him to get him to join the board they had two reasons: 1) get John Gordon more money, and 2) get rid of board member Mary Jane Burns.
“More money?” Westbrook responded. “I thought he deserved ‘some’ money for what he was doing for the department.”
The remark about Burns went unanswered and the room quieted enough for board member Mike Hahn to get the message back on Wynkoop and Franco to see if it could all be put to rest. Board chairman Jason Nellis was also searching for a way out hoping the thing had run its course. “Just stay away from each other,” he advised.
“Are you guys willing to stop and get along . . . let it drop?” Hahn asked.
Franco said it was all over for him and that he had no desire to sue anyone or carry the matter any further — but he did want it to stop.
Wynkoop indicated nothing one way or the other, except to say he’d probably get some dirty looks the next time he goes to the store. (Both Franco and Westbrook are employed there.)
The Francos left the meeting and there was no handshaking.
Wynkoop has hard feelings over being unceremoniously dumped as the chairman of the board three months ago. The annual election was postponed from January because the board had a vacancy.
In June, the election appeared on the agenda when city representative Todd Harrington appeared and nominated new board member Jason Nellis to be the chairman. Wynkoop said he did not make up the agenda and said it was the fire chief who decided there would be an election that night.
“I was told by someone earlier that day that I would not be the chairman when I left the meeting that night,” Wynkoop said.
His informant was right.
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