SAN RAMON -- Family ties are a factor in the race for the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District board of directors.
The district provides fire, rescue and emergency medical services in Alamo, Blackhawk, Danville, Diablo, San Ramon, the southern area of Morgan Territory and the Tassajara Valley. It maintains 10 fire stations -- one of them volunteer-staffed -- and employs 190 personnel.
Five candidates are running for three open seats on the board. At a time when the board is negotiating a new contract with the firefighters union, one candidate is the brother of the union president, another has a cousin on the union's executive board, and a third is the brother-in-law of a district firefighter.
To further complicate matters, current board member Jennifer Price, who is not up for re-election, is the sister-in-law of Fire Chief Richard Price. Jennifer Price has had to recuse herself whenever the board has made decisions on the chief's pay and benefits.
Business owner Matt Stamey is the only incumbent running for re-election. Incumbents Tom Linari and Roxanne Lindsay opted not to seek re-election.
Veterinarian H. Jay Kerr, certified public accountant Stephen Mohun, Alameda County Fire Captain Gordon Dakin and Chevron information technology professional Gerardo Peniche are hoping to win seats on the board.
Mohun, Dakin and Peniche all have the backing of the San Ramon Valley Firefighters Association International Association of Firefighters Local 3546, and all have family ties to the district. Mohun is the brother of Mike Mohun, who is the president of the union. Dakin, who served on the board from 2000 to 2006, is the cousin of Matt Dakin, who sits on the union's executive board. Peniche's brother-in-law is Erick Hubbard, a district firefighter.
Mike Mohun said the family ties are relevant. "It matters because they care," he said. "They are our brothers, our cousins, our relatives. Their skins are in the game. The perception of our employees is that the chief's skin is not in the game."
Chief Price retired about a year ago and is receiving a pension. He has stayed on as the acting chief for the past year and receives a token $1 a month. The board is expecting to select a new chief by January.
Over the past four years, the district has been running budget deficits and relying on its dwindling reserve fund to balance the budget. Far and away, the largest expense for the district is salaries and benefits, with pensions alone accounting for 25 percent of the general fund budget.
For the 2012-13 fiscal year, the district is projecting total revenues of $56.4 million, mostly from property taxes, and total expenditures of $58.5 million.
For the past 18 months, the board has been in negotiations for a new contract with the firefighters union, with no contract approved thus far.
Both Stamey and Kerr said they want no new parcel taxes, no cuts to services, no station closures and no layoffs. Both hope the budget can be balanced through concessions on salaries and benefits made by the firefighters union.
"In general, the goal is to get to sustainable retirement benefits and have a reasonable pay plan with the employees within the budget parameters that we have to work with," Stamey said.
"They do a great job here," Kerr said of the personnel at the department. "I have a lot of respect for them. But we can't continue doing what we're doing. Ninety-five percent of expenses are payroll-related, so it's going to have to come out of there somehow."
Peniche said part of his motivation for running comes from a respect for first-responders gained from firsthand experience after his daughter suffered a life-threatening epidural hematoma at UC Davis.
"I'm interested in continuing the level of excellence that we have," he said. "I think I can provide some leadership to the people in the community. I'm a very outgoing person, and I think we need to provide communication and transparency to the public."
"I take my role as a financial professional very seriously," Stephen Mohun said. "If elected, I will evaluate the nature of any discussions/negotiations for possible ethical conflicts due to Mike's position, and if I believe that there is an ethical conflict, I will recuse myself from participation in those talks. ... The bottom line is that these economically challenging times call for leadership that can identify the issues, quantify the solution and respond to the outcome."
Dakin said when he left the board in 2006, the district was in great shape and flush with cash. "I'm not pro-labor or pro-management. I'm pro-citizen," he said. "My biggest issue is getting the district financially back on track."
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.
Occupation: Former teacher at Las Positas College; Alameda County fire captain at Lawrence Livermore Labs
Civic involvement: Served six years on the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District board of directors; former president of Contra Costa County Fire Commissioners Association; served on the Office of Emergency Services Region II Local Emergency Planning Commission
Education: B.A. in public administration, University of San Francisco
H. JAY KERR
Civic involvement: President of the board of California Veterinary Medical Association; president and member Canyon Green Homeowners Association; President of the San Ramon Kiwanis Club
Education: B.S. and veterinary degree, UC Davis
Occupation: Certified public accountant
Civic involvement: N/A
Education: B.S. in business administration with an emphasis in accounting, California State University Chico
Occupation: Information technology professional at Chevron
Civic involvement: Former board member on Loaves and Fishes; former board member San Ramon Soccer Club
Education: B.S. management of information systems, San Francisco State University; A.A. in electronics engineering, Diablo Valley College
Occupation: CEO of a privately held corporation involved in agriculture, Stamey Management Group
Civic involvement: Chairman of the board of the PulsePoint Foundation; finance committee member for the 100 Club of Contra Costa County; Dougherty Valley San Ramon Rotary Club
Education: B.S. in management, Arizona State University