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Fire board recall effort moves forward

Proponents have 120 days to collect 2,714 signatures

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Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2012 2:12 pm | Updated: 2:17 pm, Thu Jul 5, 2012.

San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer Mark Church approved petitions to recall three Coastside Fire Protection District members on Friday. The board majority has angered some for efforts to trade CalFire for a new stand-alone department.

The approval leaves 120 days to get approximately 2,714 signatures necessary to place recalls on an upcoming ballot. That would be 20 percent of registered voters in the district, according to elections officials.

Theoretically, the recall could get on the November general election ballot if proponents collect the necessary signatures in time. State law requires the district to set an election date within 14 days of receiving notice that the signatures have been certified. The election itself must occur between 88 and 125 days of the signature certification. A recall election requires a simple majority to pass.

If ultimately successful, the recall would remove directors Mike Alifano and Gary Riddell and board president Doug Mackintosh from their elected positions before the end of their terms. Riddell’s term is set to expire November 2013; the terms of Mackintosh and Alifano run out November 2015.

Currently, the district contracts with the state fire agency for management of day-to-day operations on the coast. With CalFire's contract set to expire in less than a year, CalFire advocates are working in a tight time frame to keep the agency on the Coastside. A boisterous core of about three dozen citizens who support reauthorizing the CalFire contract has been attending recent fire board meetings, but leaders of the recall effort say they are not being heard by the board majority.

"To have three people basically take control of the entire political process surrounding our fire service is lunacy," said Mike Gaynes, a proponent of the petition effort. He acknowledges that seeking a recall is troublesome. "I don't think anybody is happy about this."

Board members targeted for recall are certainly not happy about a recall effort that is the first in memory for longtime elections office employees.

"Every time you talk to someone who's doing the recall, they don't have the facts right … What they're doing is wrong," said Alifano, who has repeatedly stated that he wants greater control of fire district management and that CalFire has failed to provide a level of service outlined in the contract.

Approval of the recall petitions followed a lengthy meeting June 27 that ended in deadlock over the future of the Coastside's fire protection service. Another meeting Tuesday night occurred after Review deadlines. See for updates.

Determining the cost and benefits of various options for the future of Coastside fire services has proven contentious.

Alifano, Mackintosh and Riddell would rather see the CalFire contract expire and establish a local department, while directors Gary Burke and Ginny McShane adamantly support CalFire.

Several hours into the June 27 meeting, Burke proposed a number of motions, all of which lost three votes to two.

He proposed that the board discontinue the process of investigating a stand-alone department, that negotiations toward extending CalFire’s contract be completed with the knowledge that this could be re-visited at a later date, and that the board refrain from establishing a stand-alone department unless “substantive” evidence materialized demonstrating how CalFire had failed to meet the demands of its contract.

Prior to CalFire’s Coastside arrival four years ago, a number of lawsuits and complaints were lodged against the existing local department. A series of former fire chiefs and consultants recommended a CalFire contract and the county’s civil grand jury has repeatedly praised CalFire’s work on the coast.

But the board majority points to deficiencies in the CalFire work. Alifano pointed out that the state agency has performed fewer business inspections than in previous years, and Riddell has suggested the state employees aren’t properly trained to work on the coast.

"That's our job. We have to look at the options," said Alifano.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • John Charles Ullom posted at 7:37 pm on Mon, Jul 9, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1069

    Here is a blast from the past. Mackintosh got us sued over nepotism. --

    Mackintosh's son, Eric, was hired by Asche as a firefighter for the district - despite Eric Mackintosh's ranking in the lower tier among candidates for a job when the district hired new personnel in 2002.

    Secondly, in charges alluded to in Smith's lawsuit, Lees said that Asche systematically ordered district personnel not to inspect the business of the elder Mackintosh's Strawflower Electronics, allowing several fire code violations to remain year after year..

    Even a Riddell, got in on this action.

    But Lees - with the backing of additional deposition testimony from Captain John Riddell - contends that Asche has ordered the fire marshal not to inspect Mackintosh's business in recent years, and instead took personal responsibility for the inspections.

    I shopped at the old Radio Shack and I do remember. It was a disgrace from a safety point of view, especially considering that an on again off again Fire Board director owned it.

    As far back as 1990, Mackintosh was getting us sued per his alleged nepotism and cronyism.

    In April 1990, the San Mateo County Firefighters Local 2400 union alleged that Ron Michaelson, a former employee of Mackintosh and a friend of then-Chief Gil Bustichi's son, was hired by Bustichi and approved by the fire board despite not being on the list of recommended hires issued by the captains.

    The union filed a lawsuit in the matter, accusing district officials of taking away the firefighters' votes on hiring.

    Both Bustichi and Mackintosh insisted that Michaelson didn't receive preferential treatment at the time, and San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Stevens ruled that the district had no legal obligation to confer with firefighters on entry-level hiring.

    Why would anybody think anything is going to be better when Mackintosh is now in charge, Riddell is in cahoots with him, and Alifano wants to give preferential treatment to all the good old boys that were part of the Stand And Pee In The Chiefs Sleeping Bag shame of a department that we all endured and paid millions for.

    This scam has been in play for well over a year. Last June, 2011, the board voted to buy out of CalPers, unanimously. In August of 2011, while Director Burke was out of town, an emergency meeting was called so fast that there is no video of it. At the so called emergency meeting, the vote was reversed, unanimously?

    What changed? I'll tell you what changed. Director Mackintosh found out that opting out of CalPers would mess up his scheme to inflict Union 2400 on our community again. So in a brazen ploy to get Burke out of the picture, they pulled a fast one on us.

    Why would they do that? Why would the reverse themselves at a meeting that was unscheduled and not documented? What happened at that meeting?

    We'll never know because mackintosh and friends made damn sure there wouldn't be a recording and the biggest advocate for opting out of CalFire, wasn't there to press the case.

    This decision cost us millions because even thought they know CalPers was going to raise the buyout penalties, they put the interests of their Cronies ahead of ours. --

    If it wasn't for Mr Vince Williams, nobody would know about this shameful betrayal of the community trust.

    I wish Mr Williams was still posting. I've seen him intellectually spank Riddell at meetings on several occasions. Every time Mr Williams goes the the podium, the Board Majority starts to sweat and hyperventilate. I do believe that Mr Williams has been onto these Local 2400 stooges for a long time. We should have paid more attention to what he was telling us.

  • Martininsocal posted at 4:08 pm on Mon, Jul 9, 2012.

    Martininsocal Posts: 3

    Ah, here is a perfect example of a Union taking control of local politics and creating a financial windfall for themselves. Who wants to bet that former union members of the previous local will end up in management positions in the new department? Would any of you be surprised if one of the board members doesn't find a new job in there as well? It's a shame when the citizens are given the sharp end of the stick while being told tograb the handle of local control. Enjoy your much higher fire department costs or lower level of service. You are NOT going to get the same level of service you got with CalFire for the same price you were getting it for.

    And the reply to the grand jury report from the board? All I can say is, I see how you guys got elected. Maybe you can go sell some used cars in San Mateo to offset yoru new, higher fire department costs.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 11:10 pm on Sat, Jul 7, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1069

    Here is a link to a story documenting the implosion of the San Carlos Stand Alone Fire Department: --

    And here is a link to the findings of a Grand Jury : -- http://

    Notice that CalFire learned from their experience with Mackintosh, Alifano, and Riddell.

    The model that the consultants the Board Majority have given thousands of our dollars is exactly the same as the San Carlos model. Got that folks?

    Exactly the same as the Failing San Carlos model.

    Yet Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh are trying to impose on the citizens of the Coastside?


  • Tyler Durden posted at 8:02 pm on Sat, Jul 7, 2012.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 417

    Does anybody think it makes fiscal sense for HMB to go back to having its own stand alone police department? No of course not.

    But that's the same math that comes into play for considering going back to a stand alone fire department. But somehow these genius fire directors think they ignore the math. It's sort of like the genius California legislature voting to fund the monorail to nowhere which a fiscal black hole for the state's taxpayers.

  • Bob2788 posted at 1:03 pm on Fri, Jul 6, 2012.

    Bob2788 Posts: 1

    There has to be a reason other then CAL FIRE being late to do business inspections to dump the contract. So far, I have not seen or heard very many people voice their support to kill the contract and ton of support to keep it. Yet, the three board members that hold the power refuse to listen. You really got to ask yourself why? Why are they in such a hurry to get rid of CAL FIRE and put their own people in place to "answer to the board". Apparently, the board does not have to answer to anybody. I think it would be in the best interest of HMB to get a court injunction to stop the board once they get the signitures for the recall. This way no more money is wasted trying to undo what the board is planning on doing in the next few weeks.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 12:03 pm on Fri, Jul 6, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1069

    Thank you Dan for your interest in a vital community decision. Here is a link to the response of the CFPD to the Grand Jury Report.

    I find myself liking Mike too. No matter how much I ream the guy, he is polite and friendly to me when we encounter each other on the street. The last discussion I had with him really impressed me with his ability to separate politics from day to day life in our corner of paradise.

    I think it says quite a bit about the man that he is.

  • Danismaximus posted at 10:32 am on Fri, Jul 6, 2012.

    Danismaximus Posts: 15

    I have not seen it. I will check it out. Thanks.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 10:19 am on Fri, Jul 6, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1069

    Dan, I suggest you read the full page advertisement that Alifano paid for. Check how 1/3 of it is vitriol against Chief Ferreira.

    Mike is a good man and has contributed much to this community. But Mike will not listen to the people who are genuinely upset about the way CalFire has been treated.

    I believe he is looking at data and facts when he makes tough choices like this.

    Read the response to the Grand Jury report then get back to us and tell us why Alifano is so disrespectful to Chief, his men, CalFire, and this community. Remember, it took them seven months to share why they are so upset with CalFire.

  • Danismaximus posted at 9:55 am on Fri, Jul 6, 2012.

    Danismaximus Posts: 15

    You people talk about Alifano in such an aggressive and accusatory way that it makes your argument sound like your just bitter and it doesn't come across very valid. I would like to point out that Alifano has led an amazing effort with the Cabrillo Education Fund that has resulted in our schools getting much needed financial relief. I believe he is looking at data and facts when he makes tough choices like this. He simply believes there are better options for our community other than Calfire. This argument got very bitter and mean spirited but I don't think he ever wanted it to be that way.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 11:05 pm on Thu, Jul 5, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1069

    How do these kind of people get elected in the first place?

    In Alifano's case, nobody ran against him as he was clever enough not to share his hate for all that is CalFire during his campaign. As for Mackintosh and Riddell, Local 2400 rewards their faithful poodles with campaign cash and volunteers.

    The real question in my mind is, how do these guys look their friends and families in the eye? This community is never going to forget the rude and insulting manner that we have been treated by the Due Diligence Faction. The way they treated the lady from Canada Cove at the July 3rd meeting was shameful Alifano and Mackintosh felt compelled to challenge and interrogate her when she finished her presentation. When I asked her a question, Mackintosh freaked out and told me to stifle.

    Cowards. They are afraid of ladies from Canada Cove. Shameless cowards. When Alifano's and Mackintosh's friends and family scope out the video, they will be ashamed for Mackintosh and Alifano. Why these guys are willing to sell us out is a mystery.

  • Tyler Durden posted at 8:17 pm on Thu, Jul 5, 2012.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 417

    "What the're doing is wrong".. says Alifano

    Oh yes, citizens exercising their right to recall malfunctioning politicians are doing something "wrong" whereas the malfunctioning politicians who are putting the community at financial risk to pursue their own personal agenda are somehow "'right." How do these kind of people get elected in the first place?

  • George posted at 2:43 pm on Thu, Jul 5, 2012.

    George Posts: 610

    Just for the sake of clarity; Director Burke's motions were taken directly from the SMC Civil Grand Jury Report -- the most recent one, under recommendations to the District.

    Director Burke announced that just before he went item by item.

    "That's our job. We have to look at the options," said Alifano. Yes, creating and maintaining options are part of the job; but is that done by eliminating all others? Is that the best way to serve the public on such a critical service?

    What if....there's a glitch along the way? ...the Board is unable to fully staff the needs in time?

    Wouldn't it have made more sense to extend the CalFire contract and create an overlap - some breathing room - a safety net for our community? -- and this is assuming, of course, that the majority is correct and that going back to a stand alone is best for our community.

    I am still not convinced that it is, but then there is a lot I either don't know or don't understand, I guess.


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