Hard Feelings Continue in Brookville Fire Company Dispute

BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) — What amounts to a personality conflict led to a dispute between factions of the Brookville Firemen’s Club and the Brookville Volunteer Fire Company that, in turn, led to a lawsuit that dragged on for two years before a court order last fall settled it.

Potter County Senior Judge John B. Leete issued a court order in September that ended the dispute.

The settlement ordered the Firemen’s Club to donate $400,000 to the Fire Company, to help buy a fire truck, and a significant percentage of money raised from small games of chance.

But hard feelings haven’t healed yet and no one knows if time will.

“How would you feel? I’ve had 40 years in the Company,” Firemen’s Club president Ron Pearsall said. “They want to hire because their company is shrinking while others in the area are in the 50s and 60s. Who is going to fight fires after 5 p.m.? We’ve always given money to them. Without the suit, they probably would’ve gotten more money.”

The Firemen’s Club is also waiting on financial records from the BVFC for 2014 and 2015.

The suit was based on alleged corporate infractions committed by the Firemen’s Club. The original suit, filed March 11, 2013, alleged “significant material changes of charitable purposes that violate law” were made by the club.

In his order, Judge Leete, said the “proposed purpose of the Articles of Incorporation of the Brookville Volunteer Fire Company (Club) will state that the primary charitable purpose of said organization is to provide assistance in fire protection efforts for the Brookville Volunteer Fire Company as well as to operate a social club as provided by law.”

Then, Brookville Volunteer Fire Company Fire Chief James Lipuma said it was the right decision and that he was satisfied the agreement corrects some of the issues that he felt were not addressed when the Firemen’s Club separated from the Volunteer Fire Company.

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The settlement also said that the Volunteer Fire Company has to OK any changes in the Firemen’s Club’s articles of incorporation, amendments thereto, names of entities, by-laws and sale of any assets in excess of $25,000.

Judge Leete also ordered a change in the composition of the club’s board of directors. The Judge said in his order that there will be five board members. The first board seat will be appointed or elected by the Volunteer Fire Company and must include an active firefighter. The remaining four seats will be elected by all club members at large.

Those four seats will be selected by the club members including, but not limited to, any active or reserve firefighters who may be club members. Three of the four seats must be filled by active or active reserve firefighters with the final seat to be a social member selected by the club members at large. Three of the four active and active reserve firefighters have to be firefighters from the BVFC.

Leete also ordered that “as matters of business coming before the club, any members of the board of directors will have the right to automatically table any motion for a period of 30 days so that the matter may be further considered.”

In addition, “all fire company members may apply to the club for membership provided that such individuals are 21 years of age and complete an accurate application.”

While the Volunteer Fire Company has lost members, the Firemen’s Club still boasts a membership of more than 1,700, according to Pearsall.

For Lipuma and the volunteers, the decision to attempt to hire two part-time employees has generated more controversy.

Brookville Borough Solicitor James Dennison was generally alarmed at the prospect of the BVFC hiring firefighters, mainly due to the unknown costs that could result.

At Tuesday night’s Borough Council meeting, Dennison said there needs to be much more discussion about the matter before the BVFC hires anyone.

“I heard that Chief Lipuma would be here and I’m sorry he’s not,” Dennison said.

Lipuma hasn’t responded to repeated efforts for comment on the matter.

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