Almost a dozen volunteer firefighters walked out of a meeting Sunday night at Sandlick before officers were elected for the new year.
“They walked out before the elections ever started,” said Buddy Sexton, president of the Sandlick Volunteer Fire Department. “I don’t know what their problem was.”
Doug Benton, who was the fire chief until the Jan. 3 election, said he was the first to walk out when he saw between 25 and 50 people there who don’t regularly attend the meetings.
“I just got up and walked out, and when I did firefighters followed,” said Benton, who has not resigned from the fire department.
Chris Sexton was elected as the new fire chief.
One of the firefighters who left the meeting early said about 40 extra firefighters who aren’t actively involved with the department were asked to attend the meeting to vote for certain candidates seeking department offices. The firefighter, who declined to be identified, said he was under the impression that to be able to vote for officers firefighters had to attend a minimum number of meetings a year in addition to answering a minimum number of fire alarms.
“All that voted yesterday, I never saw them at one fire or one car wreck and they decided the vote,” said the firefighter. “That’s not right.”
Sexton, who says he has been president of the fire department for more than 20 years, said firefighters can vote if they have been with the department for at least six months.
Sexton, who helped buy the land where the fire department was built, said a few firefighters have been “causing trouble” the last couple of years.
“They came in and tried to take it over and it just didn’t work,” said Sexton. “Some of them did me pretty dirty. Some of them voted me out the year before last so I got some of the old members together and we voted them out last year.”
Benton, who is related to several firefighters with the Sandlick department, wouldn’t say why firefighters have been disagreeing.
“It’s something that has been going on for awhile,” said Benton, who helped build the fire department in 1986. “Hopefully it will straighten out.”
Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward, who lives across the road from the fire station, said “it’s internal problems.
“I don’t know enough about it to tell you anything,” said Ward.
It is unclear to Sexton whether or not the firefighters who left the meeting plan on returning to the department.
“I don’t know what their plans are,” said Sexton.
Sexton said the department has 12 certified firefighters who did not walk out of the meeting.
“We’ve got enough people to fight a fire if they do not want to come back,” said Sexton. “We will make it. It won’t affect our firefighting.”