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Monarch fire district directors criticized in wake of chief’s arrest

The board of directors of a public entity that has positioned its own actions as a model for transparency and urged others to adopt similar approaches while criticizing those who don’t, has found itself on the receiving end of charges that it is not practicing what it preaches.

Chesterfield resident Randy Logan used the public comment period during the Aug. 25 Monarch Board of Directors meeting to criticize the board on a number of fronts, including a lack of transparency.

Logan, who is a Ward 3 Chesterfield City Councilmember, said that nothing to date has been reported on Monarch’s website regarding Chief Chuck Marsonette’s arrest early in August on charges that he stole from a previous employer.

In addition, “… minutes from open meetings are approved and posted [on the website] months after the fact, there is no notice to the nature of your closed meetings, and closed meeting minutes are never released, not even in redacted form,” Logan stated.

Commenting on the nationwide search that led to Marsonette’s hiring in 2014, Logan said, “Although your search may have brought in a larger pool of applicants, it appears this board failed to execute [its] responsibility to thoroughly vet [its] selection.”

In addition to the forensic audit that the fire district is conducting on its own financial records in the wake of Marsonette’s arrest, Logan asked the board to consider checking all vendors with whom Marsonette had contact “to ensure no quo-pro-quo or kickbacks occurred,”

Logan said closed meetings have outnumbered opened sessions so far this year and that there is no information given about the topics to be discussed. He also questioned directors’ receipt of a yearly clothing allowance.

Logan wasn’t the only person calling the Monarch board to task. After the meeting in an interview with West Newsmagazine, Chesterfield resident Jeff Edwards said he had contacted both directors Robin Harris and Jane Cunningham after observing Marsonette engage in flight-related activities at the Creve Coeur airport after arriving in his Monarch uniform and driving a district vehicle.

Edwards operates AvSafe, LLC, a firm based at the airport that investigates aircraft accidents and provides an analysis of factors involved. Edwards said he didn’t think it was appropriate for an employee of an operation funded by taxpayers to be engaged in such activities for lengthy periods of time during regular workday hours.

According to Edwards, Harris and Cunningham dismissed his concerns and noted that Marsonette’s outside interests helped bring that much more experience and expertise to his job as fire chief.

Asked about Edwards comments, Harris said a long-standing practice has been for senior officers to drive Monarch-owned vehicles to and from work, as well as in and around the district, because they are on call 24/7. Having a company car available means their response time during emergencies is shortened. Other area first responders do likewise, he added.

Similarly, Monarch does not restrict officers’ wearing their uniforms when not on duty, except if the time and place of appearing in those clothes do not present a favorable image for the district, Harris said. He also reminded that senior officers often work long and irregular hours and taking time away from the job when conditions permit during a typical workday is fair and appropriate.

Cunningham echoed Harris’s comments and said rather than dismissing Edwards’ concerns, she took notes on them for follow up. She then responded with a number of phone calls and emails to him to address the issues he raised.

As for the district’s follow up due to Marsonette’s arrest, Rick Gans, Monarch’s board president, said the RubinBrown accounting and consulting firm in St. Louis has been retained for the forensic audit that he earlier had announced would be done. He said the work will take about six weeks, but if anything develops that requires more time, that also will be announced.

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