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Accusations Over Fundraising Methods Inflame Fire Union President

Union president Michael Day responds to claims that telemarketers working for the International Association of Fire Fighters in Baltimore County are falsely representing themselves.

The president of the union that represents the county's professional firefighters is calling local volunteer fire company leaders "childish" and "jealous" after they made accusations about misleading fundraising practices.

Michael Day, president of the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters, called volunteer fire company leaders “childish” and insisted that the union has supervisors in place to ensure telemarketers don’t deviate from the provided script.

Volunteer firefighters alleged that a county career firefighter union has on multiple occasions misrepresented itself to fund-raise for its charity by insinuating donations would instead go to local volunteer companies.

“It’s a jealousy factor with the volunteers trying to point and throw stones in the direction of the careers [firefighters],” said Day, a Perry Hall resident.

The issue centers on a year-round fundraising drive conducted by the union for which telemarketers call homes seeking donations for various charitable causes.

Day said the most prevalent outreach comes in the form of new smoke detectors for residents.

Chuck Bollinger, president of the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, said this has been an ongoing issue for more than a year.

“What I’ve tried to get through to him is we only find out about the ones that call us and say ‘Hey should we give to this organization? Is it going to go to you?’ What we don’t know about is all the [donors] there are that give to this organization thinking [their money] goes to us when it doesn’t,” Bollinger said.

Bollinger said he has spoken with Day’s second in command, Michael Crosby, “three or four times” about this issue in the last year. Crosby is reportedly in charge of staffing or overseeing the telemarketers.

“We’re all out there to protect lives and property,” Bollinger said. “I would hope that we can move beyond this. I believe we took the step of doing this press release because we weren’t getting a suitable or complete response from them.

They would tell us that they would warn somebody the first time and fire that person the second time.”

In its news release, the volunteer firefighter association claims residents are receiving calls from telemarketers  who claim “if there is a fire at your home, your volunteer fire company will not come to help.”

“That’s simply not true,” Marci Catlett, Vice President of the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Company, said in the release.

Bollinger said the phone call was reported about three months ago.

“That phone call didn’t happen,"  Day said. "Our folks don’t deviate from script and say that they’re volunteer firefighters. They never said if your house catches fire because you don’t contribute that we’re not coming. We’ve never done anything like that. These guys are jealous that the career guys have more and are getting more than they are. It’s childish, sandlot, baloney.”

The system the union uses “randomly,” according to Day, records phone conversations, although it will soon track all conversations. Additionally, telemarketers are given one warning if they ever deviate from the script before getting fired, Day said.

“Two complaints on you and you’re gone. We have a high regard from the public and we want to keep it that way,” Day said.
The dust has begun to settle since Monday’s conflict and Bollinger has now shifted the focus to informing potential donors that their local volunteer fire companies do not make phone calls solicitations.

“If we keep that as the perspective, I don’t think [Day] has anything to complain about what we’re saying,” Bollinger said.

Volunteers use mailers and go door-to-door to collect donations.
Bollinger admitted the “jealously” label was likely attached to him by Day as a result of a disagreement the two had outside of the county Public Safety building Monday.

“He said some things about the volunteers do this, the volunteers do that, and I came back with a somewhat knee-jerk reaction,” Bollinger said, not wanting to get into the details about the conversation.

“I don’t consider myself the best debater in the world and I’m not always politically correct,” Bollinger said. “I’m sometimes brutally honest. He took it as jealously, where I see it as absolute truth.”

Harry Callahan July 18, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Mr. Bollinger, first, I want to thank you and your fellow firefighters for taking a career that 99% of us could not or would not wish to take up. You are forced to see things that 99% of us would never want to see and which once seen may never be un-seen. I do, however, have an issue with the use of telemarketers to raise money for your activies and those of the various volunteer fire houses in the county. I hate telemarketers regardless of the reason they call me. They are a pain in the behind and I NEVER contribute to any business or cause that they are hired to support. I live near the Lutherville VFD and they send out solicitations for support by mail. I ALWAYS contribute to them in these campaigns. The reputations of these telemarketing firms who purport to provide a high percentage of funds to the causes they solicit for is poor at best. I have read too many articles on how little the organizations who hire them actually receive from the contributions they raise. I know that their employees deserve to receive a living wage, but the method they use, i.e. calling me and disturbing my life as they attempt to force themselves on me is dispicable and I will never respond positively to their solicitations. Visit www.chris.com and check out his Telemarketer Abuse page to learn how I deal with these people.
James jones July 18, 2012 at 08:39 PM
What about the volunteers sending mailings out that misrepresent their response area. The mailings i receive insinuate that a volunteer ambulance is first due to my area when in fact a career station is closer.
fred July 18, 2012 at 09:54 PM
better yet check into who is handling the money for each company. alot have no training or background for it. google it up and check how many have had funds embezzled or stolen while taking care of this money. there needs to be better control over this when some of those funds could be county tax dollars.
Freddy July 19, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Well since the Baltimore County Volunteer Firefighters opened this can of worms let talk about the fraud they put out in their fund raising letters they send out begging for monies. Some companies state they are there 24/7/365 days a year. Most companies are on dual dispatch meaning they have a very low response rate so the career firefighter company backs them up and responds to the emergency the volunteers failed to respond to. Maybe their letter should state “Send whatever you want because we may or may not show up if you have an emergency”
Sean Tully July 19, 2012 at 05:26 AM
As I said in an earlier thread on this story, why would paid firefighters claim to be volunteers and then say “if there is a fire at your home, your volunteer fire company will not come to help,” as the volunteers are accusing? It doesn't make sense.
Edward July 19, 2012 at 10:53 AM
The man is a liar. He assures that his people don't ever deviate from the script but calls are only randomly recorded. How could he know?
Wayne July 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM
I have a great idea, instead of battling with each other why don't these 2 groups get together and work on a common goal, the safety of the citizens of this county. This seems to be a huge waste of time with this internal bickering. Can't we all just get along?
Mike Pierce July 19, 2012 at 11:32 AM
If the firefighters' union really cared about people, they would not be using telemarketers.
Chrisb July 19, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Harry I believe you may be confused Mr Bollinger represents the volunteers and Mr Day represents the union.
Freddy July 19, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Mike the same could be said about the volunteers. If they really cared they would respond to every emergency that is dispatched in their area. Again some companies make that fraudulent claim they are there 24/7/365, but are they really there? If these companies were they would not be on dual dispatch. Whats the problem if the union collects monies using telemarketers? They are not profiting from the money they collect they use the funds to benifit the community and other organizations. Wayne the old say don't throw stones when you live in a glass house well the volunteer firefighters organization just threw a boulder. As far as the career/volunteers living in harmony that will never happen 100% to many disparities between the two organizations.
Sherri Clark July 19, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I recieved one of these calls, when I declined to donate the gentleman did indeeed state "that the fire department would not come to my house". I knew it was rude and not true but at the timeI lost respect for the local fire department.I am relieved to know it was a telemarketer that responded that way and not the fire department!
Steve July 19, 2012 at 02:40 PM
LOL Isn't Mike Day the same guy who was convicted of running a Ponzi Scam?
Mike Pierce July 19, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Glad you brought that up.
Freddy July 19, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Steve, whats your point?
Other Tim July 19, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Telemarketers are just doing a job. Maybe they can't get anything else. When they call me, I just say "Sorry, I can't help", and hang up while they are still talking. I have never had one call me back. That's if I even answer the phone. Caller ID helps.
Chrisb July 19, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I believe his point is that Mr Day is questioning others integrity and he himself ripped off others.
Freddy July 19, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Again what the point your going to up something that happen in 1995 17 years ago the man paid his debt. By no means am I here to protect him, I’m here to go against the Volunteer Associations accusations. As I stated in my prevous post Volunteer Fire Companies commit fraud every year when they send out a donation letter saying they are here for the community and then fail to show up when called for an emergency.
Jim Jones July 19, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I have received doantion letters from different volunteer fire stations in the course of my life. Never has a single one said they guarantee service 24-7. Most say they respond to calls in the community and are asking for donations to help support purchasing the equipment it takes to do it. I am not quite understanding how that is fraud. Many times a volunteer station responds into a career stations territory to cover for that career piece that is out on another call, out doing training, out of service for maintenance, etc. Is that fraud too cuz the person thought a career station was responding??? The conflict between volunteers and the small percentage of career guys that hate them will never go away.
James jones July 19, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Unfortunatly anything having to do with combination systems will always be about ticks, scabs and paid guys. In my opinion this argument about fundraising has to do with volunteers losing out on donations. They should just suck it up and maybe just have steak instead of steak and lobster at their taxpayer and donation funded banquet this year.
fred July 19, 2012 at 08:54 PM
all citizens of the county deserve to have a immediate response without a delay, this does not happen everywhere in the county. the administration should make this happen.
Jimmy July 20, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Just today I heard a fire get dispatched. Out of 5 pieces of equipment only the 1 career engine responded. Whether you donate to the volunteers or not, they may not come. They constantly misrepresent their area when begging for donations and are fraudently using the fill the boot name. The money they collect doesn't go to Jerry's kids.
Freddy July 20, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Damn Jimmy forgot that one, see them all the time on White Marsh Blvd....
Billy July 20, 2012 at 02:09 AM
The firefighters, whether career or volunteer have a job to do which is protecting the lives of the citizens. If they choose to be more efficient in their fundraising efforts by utilizing a professional organization that follows the rules so be it. This story has been misinterpreted as a scam like issue however it appears to be more of a simple disagreement between two organizations trying to achieve valuable goals.
Jeff Quinton July 20, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Time to abolish unions for all public sector employees.
Freddy July 20, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Jeff why is that? What do you have against public unions?
fred July 20, 2012 at 02:51 PM
so private sector unions are ok? whats the difference?
Freddy July 21, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Oh Jeff where are you? Typical make a comment then run and never to be heard from again.
Arbutus Town Crier July 21, 2012 at 02:47 PM
That will never happen, volunteers are "PRIVATE SECTOR" and supported by the community and a part of the community,(of the people) Professional Fire Fighters supported by the government is a "PUBLIC SECTOR" supported by taxes, well you know how government handles you money.
Marc December 06, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Firefighters don't have time to make phone calls, it's their office admin that does it most of the time and who would want such a task? Someone has to ask for help.

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