Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

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Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment
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Photo: Painted Cave Fire Department

By edhat staff

The volunteer-based Painted Cave Fire Department is selling its trucks and equipment to cover legal fees, reports The Independent.

A lawsuit was filed in March by the Painted Cave Ad Hoc Committee (PCAHC), a group of 16 firefighters and local residents formed last December, claiming the Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department (PCVFD) and its Chief Kevin Buckley have misused funds, refuse to release their records, and holds secret meetings. It also states Buckley used department funds to buy a flat-screen television, a dining room table worth $1,800, an artificial Christmas tree worth $1,200, and hundreds more on gas for unrelated travel.

Since 2003, the Board of Directors of the Painted Cave Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, has managed the department. Kevin Buckley has been the only Fire Chief and President of the Board from 2003 into 2019. 

In August, a Santa Barbara Superior Court judge ruled PCVFD Board of Directors referred to themselves as a public entity in 2018 and must release financial records. Lawyers representing PCVFD claim the organization is a private entity and releasing financial documents would be too expensive and time-consuming.

Recently, on October 20, an edhat reader reported seeing Painted Cave fire trucks and heavy equipment traveling down Highway 154 to Mission City Auto Group in Goleta, a local auction broker.

Painted Cave residents have raised questions of legality in selling the fire equipment as some were purchased with grants and with help from Painted Cave residents. 

The PCVFD suspended fire operations since March.

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I know Fire Nov 03, 2019 11:32 AM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

The majority of Funds that the PCVFD received to buy their Equipment was due to Kevin Buckley and raised privately, not from the community itself or Federal or State Grants. While Kevin could be difficult to deal with, without him, the department would never had the fleet he built. There is an old saying, “Be Careful what You Wish For” Maybe the Attorney and the members of the Ad Hoc Committee are going to fight the next fire with a bunch of legal paper and hot air......sad.

MountainMan4865 Nov 04, 2019 05:01 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

Nice try sneaking that one in.... The funds were raised from the Community, FEMA, BLM, the Hutton Foundation, The Valley Foundation, the Santa Barbara Foundation, and the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation. The biggest donor over the last ten years, of course, was the Wood-Claeyssens. I seriously doubt they would have donated as much money as they had had it not been for the presence of the Painted Cave Fire Department at their compound in Mission Canyon for three days during the Jesusita Fire. THEY, the firefighters, did a fantastic job of protecting their residences. I think if it had just been Kevin Buckley with his hand out, there would not have been the same outcome.

Flicka Oct 30, 2019 05:26 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

I don't get how it is legal to sell equipment that was bought with grants and donations from residents (even FEMA?), leaving the residents with no protection of their own. This Buckley and his bogus "board" should be the ones sued and have to pay. Maybe Buckley should even go to jail for his misdeeds.

Coyote Dave Oct 30, 2019 05:07 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

Unfortunately, this is not just a Painted Cave community issue. As many of you are aware of, the most devastating fires in the Santa Barbara area started higher up the mountain and burned downhill. PCVFD was strategically located to provide first response to not only the community but to surrounding area. Given the number of homeless people sleeping in their cars on turnouts on painted cave road, the weekend riffraff that parties on PC Road and at Knapp's Castle, the Glass Factory shooting range (closed but still used), and nuisance non-local traffic to Painted Cave State Park, there are plenty of opportunities/scenarios for fires to start high up the mountain. Seems like the County may want to consider how it can fill the void left by the defunct PCVFD.

a-1573807404 Oct 30, 2019 01:02 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

Strange to me that you have latched onto the cheese pizza story. Mislabeling of food is far more than just "false advertising". Give it a rest, many people care about this issue even if you don't.

Yeti Oct 29, 2019 03:20 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

It sounds like severe breach of fiduciary duty for the entire board of directors. Lets just hope that they carry a lot of Errors and Omissions Insurance to cover their liabilities and reimburse the district. The entire board could be in BIG trouble, not just the chief.

PitMix Oct 29, 2019 02:04 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

Who is responsible for investigating and addressing nefarious actions by public agencies like this? If it is the DA, now that she has cracked down on the phony cheese pizza at Lazy Acres, maybe she has time to improve fire fighting services in this community?

Red Creek Oct 31, 2019 03:45 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

I'm not a lawyer, but the article states that the PCFD considers themselves private according to the article: "Lawyers representing PCVFD claim the organization is a private entity and releasing financial documents would be too expensive and time-consuming." My limited experience with 5013c is that applicants for the tax exempt status can be considered "public" if they apply for the designation. Otherwise many are private.

a-1573807404 Oct 29, 2019 11:16 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

Red Creek - this was a community volunteer fire department - started in 1965. Buckley said the incorporation was for fund raising opportunities. There were annual meetings, and voting for the board. But after 2008, one of the board members moved away and the annual meetings stopped. Buckley was President of the Board, and responsible for calling the annual meetings, but because there was such a high turn-over in the department, no one noticed, and Buckley, Chief and President of the board, never informed fire fighters - resident or not, of their rights as voting members. In 2018 after maybe five meetings over ten years, the current (hand picked board) tried to rewrite the bylaws to reign in Buckley's power, wrote totally illegal bylaws stating there were no members. Regardless of the fact the previous bylaws stated that amendments could be made by the board, unless... UNLESS they affected the voting membership. Suddenly, the bylaws are secret, no firefighter can see them, because they are private. No firefighter can speak to a board member, except for Kevin Buckley. If someone has a problem, they go to Kevin Buckley. If someone has a problem with Kevin Buckley, they can write it down on paper and give it to Kevin Buckley, who will take it to the board, and then return with the answer. This was a community fire department. Kevin Buckley convinced the previous (hand picked board - that quit in frustration) and the new hand picked board that he raised the money and can do whatever he wants with it. Just because he stopped writing grants with federal agencies and just focused on one VERY grateful foundation, does not mean it's no longer a public 501(c)3. It was decided in court that this was, indeed, a public nonprofit, and yet, they continued, under Kevin Buckley's guidance to behave in secret. And in secret, liquidated an entire rural community's defense against wildfire in an area that has a 20-30 minute response time from County Fire.

Red Creek Oct 29, 2019 03:16 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

Pitmix, you are free to sue these individuals for malfeasance as you see it, but it is not a "public agency" governed by laws and elected officials. The good people of PC relied on a small PRIVATE non-profit corporation to protect them. Unfortunately the BOD run by Buckley did not, and left Buckley in charge since 2003 to do what he wanted with the money and equipment, and he did,.Buckley is still using the fire station (Indie article). Anyone can conjure up a tax exempt club and run it into the ground, which appears to be what happened here.

a-1573807404 Oct 29, 2019 12:21 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

I read on another site that he already lost his lease so I don't think he is living up there anymore and his stuff is in storage. I also read that all the equipment was sold already. This story ran last week.

Lucky 777 Oct 29, 2019 12:19 PM
Painted Cave Fire Department to Sell Equipment

So, all the equipment was sold off to pay the legal fees to defend an embezzler who used funds for private purposes? Uh, wait a minute here. And wasn't at least one of the trucks bought with a FEMA grant? So how n the world is this legal? Now effectively there IS NO Painted Cave Fire Department, in the middle of Santa Ana wind conditions..... I'm guessing Buckley will have to sell and leave, he's got to be persona non grata up on the hill now.

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