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LoBuglio’s answers spawn questions about EMS survey

The complete text of emails between Supervisor John LoBuglio, The Journal, and the one to him from Steve Wolfe, former supervisor, can be found here, along with the text of the EMS survey.

LoBuglio’s answers spawn questions about EMS survey

King George Supervisor John LoBuglio is taking responsibility for a May 14 email survey to “All Former Members of King George Fire & Rescue” that went out anonymously.

The survey was authored by Pete Sullivan. Sullivan was a long-time volunteer who was fired by Chief David Moody back in 2009. Sullivan appealed that decision to the county administrator and the firing was upheld. Sullivan had publicly aired his grudge at the time and at other opportunities since.  

But LoBuglio first went on the record denying that Sullivan had any involvement in the survey. He then backtracked when presented with evidence to the contrary, admitting Sullivan was involved in a limited way.  

LoBuglio’s answers have spawned additional questions. One big question is in regard to LoBuglio’s motive for working behind the scenes with Sullivan on a survey that provides answer-options that largely point blame at the county chief. 

Those questions and others were pointed out in correspondence to LoBuglio by Steve Wolfe, former Dahlgren Supervisor, who keeps abreast of county news. His spouse, Jessica Herrink is the president of The Journal newspaper.

(The complete text of the survey and the emails mentioned in this article, including Wolfe’s, can be found on our website, www.journalpress.com.)

In chronological order, below are the main facts that have been revealed. 

MAY 14 SURVEY

A survey went out anonymously to at least 40 former fire and rescue volunteers on May 14. Survey recipients were asked to send responses to the physical mailing address of former Sheriff Clarence “Moose” Dobson. 

The survey contains 16 questions and the first three are innocuous, asking how long former volunteers served in the county, in what capacity, and would they participate in the survey. 

Most of the rest of the questions are what pollsters call a ‘push-poll.’ A push-poll steers the respondent toward the answers that are desired by the pollster. 

The survey questions assume that volunteers only left because they were unhappy, without allowing for the possibility of moving away or lack of time due to job and family commitments.

There are numerous questions with multiple choice answers, with several of each having answer options blaming county Fire and Rescue Chief David Moody for one thing or another. 

Click here to see the text of the survey.

Here’s just one example. Question #4: “As a former member of King George Fire & Rescue; what did you see as a problem with the Volunteer Organization that caused you to leave;  

(  ) The Volunteer Operational Officers,  

(  ) The Volunteer Administrative Officers, 

(  ) The County Fire Chief

(  ) I don’t think some of the Operational Officers knew what they were doing, 

(  ) I don’t think some of the Administrative Officers knew what they were doing,

(  ) Some of the Operational Officers didn’t have the training I did but they were promoted   

(  ) I wasn’t allowed to take the Training Classes that others were allowed to take

(  ) The County Fire Chief had two sets of rules - one for the Volunteers and one for the Career 

(  ) Other

LOBUGLIO’S FIRST ANSWER

The survey was forwarded to The Journal by someone who received it. We had an indication that LoBuglio was involved in the effort and emailed him on May 18 asking, “What is your involvement with the attached survey that went out to a group of former volunteers earlier this week?”

He responded last week, on May 21, saying he “came up with the idea of collecting direct comments from prior volunteer members...”

He directed his email answer to us, and in addition copied his fellow board members, the county administrator and county attorney. 

LoBuglio told The Journal, “The questionnaire is meant to search for a way to bring members back who already have most if not all adequate training and serve as volunteers in adjoining jurisdictions. It must be properly documented to find out why it has not been possible to date to have a substantial number return to service. Therefore, the questions must be asked and properly recorded to determine if there is any possibility to bring back a fair number to help re-enforce the severely depleted ranks of the volunteers.” who have quit volunteering for fire and rescue in the county.

His response was longer than those couple sentences and the complete text of it - again – and a subsequent one to The Journal can be read here.

MAY 23 REPORTING

An article published in the Free Lance-Star on May 23 covered the news about the survey and LoBuglio’s answer to The Journal, and also ended stating, “LoBuglio said neither Sullivan nor any members of his family, who currently volunteer in Port Royal, were involved in the questionnaire.”

The regional daily paper has continued its coverage by Cathy Dyson to get to the bottom of this, and so has The Journal.

DOCUMENT FINGERPRINTS

LoBuglio’s statement about Sullivan not being involved is false. 

Wolfe was the first one to notice that and pointed it out to Dyson and The Journal. He also pointed it out to LoBuglio, with a second of our queries crossing with Wolfe’s to LoBuglio in the ether.  

That survey document’s ‘hidden’ history has Sullivan’s fingerprints all over it. 

The document’s “properties” and “details” indicate it is revision #2 authored by Pete Sullivan, last printed on April 30, and also last edited by Pete Sullivan on the morning of May 9 at 11:53am. 

[Note:  Different computers and versions of programs reveal document ‘fingerprints’ differently. But there are ways to find them. Since I made no changes to the survey originally forwarded to me when I ‘saved’ it to a file, it did not list my name as the individual who last modified it. For the Sullivan info to be revealed, I had to ‘save’ the document to my computer. Then open the document listing and hover my cursor over the survey doc’s name and right-click to ‘properties’ then click on ‘details’ in the window that popped up.] 

LOBUGLIO’S SECOND ANSWER

The Journal separately emailed LoBuglio on May 23 about finding Sullivan’s name on the survey document, saying it disputed what he told Dyson and was reported in her newspaper.

His answer to us strains credulity.  He changed his tune and admitted that Sullivan was involved, but his response on May 24 said, “Pete was not on the Committee, but one of the committee members did use a copy of a word doc that had some pertinent information on it referencing the county codes.  The work doc was then used and completely changed to build the questionnaire on.  Also, after the questionnaire was finalized, no one on the committee had a good up-to-date file of contact information for the former volunteers that were identified to be contacted.  So, a committee member had to request help from Pete and others to compile our list of contact information as best we could.  Otherwise, the questionnaire would not have been able to be distributed, but he was not part of the committee.  We were still missing addresses/contact information for about a dozen former volunteers when the questionnaire was released.”

STEVE WOLFE

As noted, Wolfe also wrote directly to LoBuglio on May 24. We obtained a copy. Wolfe’s correspondence to LoBuglio cogently lays out the stark contradictions in LoBuglio’s previous answers to reporters. Wolfe expressed his dismay at LoBuglio’s participation in the survey, calling it “unsavory,” and criticized him for, “your constant blindsiding of your colleagues on the Board, which you seem to enjoy.” 

Wolfe also noted, “That the people you are working with on this matter harbor ill will toward Chief Moody is not in doubt.” He also asked, “Do you seriously believe however, that a document prepared by people with a grudge against the Chief, containing pejorative questions that reflect those grudges, and sent to an audience that likely harbors many of the same grudges is going to produce balanced and objective data?”

STRATEGIC PLAN

Earlier this month, Travis Quesenberry, county administrator, provided the board on May 15 with copies of a draft five-year strategic plan developed by the Department of Fire, Rescue & Emergency Services. The board is expected to review it at an upcoming meeting. 

The strategic plan addresses goals to achieve over the next five years for a rural county that does not have fire hydrants near most residences and businesses and with a preponderance of private septic systems and wells. 

It also reflects some recommendations contained in a December 2011 independent state study performed for the county at the board’s request in January 2011. The study provided both praise and criticism for the current operations. That study, along with a previous one completed in 2001, can both be found online at the county’s website. 

Most residents remember in the not too-distant past that the county had no paid fire or rescue staff. Times have changed and the economy has had its effect. Businesses have had policy changes that are no longer conducive to liberal time off for employees for volunteering, including for fire and rescue. 

BACKGROUND

In addition, it took several years for mergers to take place between three volunteer groups in the county. Supervisor Joe Grzeika proposed the merger idea in 1997 at a Dahlgren Rescue Squad officer installation banquet that year.  

By June 1999, the idea took root but the county needed help to assist the volunteer groups to combine. 

Some recall that aspects of the volunteer groups were more reminiscent of social clubs than service organizations, with family dynasties in some instances ruling groups for years.

By May 2000, the King George Volunteer Fire Department and the Fairview Beach Volunteer Fire Department had merged into one organization.

A 2001 state study said consolidation of the volunteer Dahlgren rescue squad with the fire department was essential for provision of comprehensive emergency service to the citizens.  

Supervisors pushed the merger, but delicately, in order to not alienate volunteers.  They publicly encouraged it at various board meetings and directed the county administrator to continue to make efforts to pursue a merger. It took several more years, until the end of 2004, for a merger to be completed with the Dahlgren Rescue Squad, at least on paper. Some are still fighting it.

(*As noted, the complete text of questions and answers between Supervisor John LoBuglio and The Journal, along with the complete text of the email to LoBuglio from Steve Wolfe, former supervisor, can be found on our website, journalpress.com.)

 

Phyllis Cook 

 

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