Throughout Killeen, large yellow election signs can be seen with the words with “Killeen Firefighters for…” followed by a City Council candidate’s name.
The Killeen Professional Fire Fighters Association wants the public to know the signage and endorsement belong to the organization and not the Killeen Fire Department.
Association President Marc Clifford said the association’s intention with the signs was not to confuse residents.
“Nowhere on the sign does it say the city of Killeen Fire Department. It says firefighters and it’s not a mistake. We are firefighters for the city of Killeen; it’s just of a different organization,” Clifford said.
The association has endorsed three candidates running for the May 4 Killeen City Council election: Jim Kilpatrick, Debbie Nash-King and Brockley Moore.
Councilwoman Shirley Fleming said it should be more clear who is actually behind the billboard as she has heard from “constituents trying to figure out who is endorsing the candidates.”
“I get phone calls left and right about it. I get questions of ‘Is our tax dollars going towards endorsements?’ I answered ‘I don’t know.’ If the association is backing these candidates then the signs should make it more clear,” she said.
Clifford said the association did receive inquiries about the signs from Fleming, and it was the only direct complaint it received.
“We try to distinguish that of ourselves (the association) as much as we can. On our Facebook page it says the Killeen Professional Firefighters Association and labeled as a nonprofit. Nowhere on there do we try to presume that we are representing the fire department in any way,” he said.
Ian Steusloff, the general counsel for the Texas Ethics Commission said that there is no limitation on how many candidates one organization can endorse. He also said under law the commission cannot disclose whether any complaints about the local signage were submitted.
“Any complaints our office receive are investigated, and the results will be on our website,” he said.
This year marks the association’s fourth in endorsing through surveying election candidates and a vetting process, Clifford said. The process includes going through voting records, an interview and a vote among the association’s board.
Clifford states the process took three weeks from start to finish.
“In the end, the board chose Nash-King, Kilpatrick and Moore,” Clifford said.
An eight-question survey was submitted to each Killeen City Council candidate for the May 4 election, complete with detailed descriptions of issues that have the potential to impact the fire department and the residents it serves.
Firefighters also asked the candidates to sign each page of the document if they agreed with the particular issue on that page.
Clifford said out of all the submissions, two declined to participate. They were District 4 representative Steve Harris and District 2 candidate Mellisa Brown.
The questionnaire came from the association and Killeen Firefighters for Responsible Government.
Among the issues listed on it are:
Competitive Compensation — The Killeen Fire Department has experienced a rapid increase in call volume since 2009. EMS call volume alone has grown from 8,546 calls to service in 2009 to 19,331 calls to service in 2018.
Safe Staffing — The National Fire Protection Association Standard 1710 recommends that all fire trucks are staffed with four firefighters. Currently, the Killeen Fire Department operates with a minimum of three firefighters on fire trucks and two firefighters on rescue trucks.
Fleet Replacement Stations — The National Fire Protection Association recommends that the ratio of fire stations to citizens is 1:10,000. The current ratio of fire stations to citizens is approximately 1:18,000, almost double the national standard.
Retiree Healthcare — One of the goals of the KPFFA is to enact a program that would support continued health care for its retirees at no cost to them.
Solving issues through collaboration and learning the Job of emergency services personnel were also listed as issues.