We are responding to the many errors in an article published yesterday in the Daily Local regarding Fire / EMS services in Kennett and the ethics complaint submitted regarding Eden Ratliff (we were never contacted in the preparation of this article). Taken together, these mistakes and omissions tell a very incomplete and misleading story .
- The headline "State Ethics Commission rejects complaint" because "Doehring had presented no evidence of his claims" is very misleading. The Ethics Commission informed us that they would not investigate because "no evidence was provided that Mr. Ratliff used his position to secure employment for his spouse (emphasis ours)". We believe that the response from the Ethics Commission simply clarified that they expected us to provide specific and detailed documentation confirming that Ratliff had been directly involved in the decision by Longwood Fire to hire his wife. This kind of documentation is not part of the public record and so, given this feedback, we will continue our inquiries. It has become clear to us that an "investigation" conducted by the Ethics Commission under these circumstances means that their staff are primarily focused on verifying documentation we have brought to them, as opposed to uncovering new facts.
- It should be no surprise that Kennett and Longwood Fire Companies are reported to have "lauded these changes", given that both benefitted from massive infusions of new funding. While the need for more paid firefighters may not be in dispute, the lack of detail in the 32% budget increase recommended by Ratliff should alarm any taxpayer. Funding was intended to make up for "years of deficit spending" and to create an unspecified $250,000 "volunteer recruitment program".
- No data have been provided to support repeated claims that the "ability of several fire companies to respond to emergency calls has dramatically improved, as have response times". These statements are based on purely anecdotal reports, and as such can hardly be used to justify such a massive and expensive overhaul of EMS services. In fact, we understand that EMS costs have increased and response times decreased in neighboring townships since these changes, as their own EMS services struggle to cover calls that Longwood Fire cannot.
- We know from publicly available documents (including a parallel inquiry filed last week by the Borough of Kennett Square with the Attorney General's Office) that Ratliff did not disclose his relationships with Longwood Fire to either Kennett Borough or Kennett Township prior to making recommendations about major budget and organizational changes, though he may have disclosed these afterwards to Cuyler Walker and others. We are requesting clarification from Mr. Walker about exactly when Ratliff disclosed his potential conflict of interest.