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Company Bylaws - Do we need a Chaplain?

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  • Company Bylaws - Do we need a Chaplain?

    Hoping for some help here -


    Any ideas, or where can I look for this info?
    Last edited by emsff32515; 03-12-2008, 01:42 PM.

  • #2
    Having been chairman of my dept's bylaw committee a few years back, I feel confident in saying that there is no NYS law requiring a Chaplain. In reality, many positions in a fire dept are optional and are usually based solely on tradition. You'd be wise to pick up a copy of FASNY's book/CD on NYS laws that pertain to the fire service. I consider it required reading and reference material for anyone who has to deal with legal issues and policies that may be governed by state law.

    http://www.fasny.com/core/orders/pro...id=1&prodid=20

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    • #3
      My response is based on Michigan law - check with your own state for personal application...

      An organizations by-laws are legally binding. If the position is listed in the by-laws you are then REQUIRED to fill the position in accordance with the policies and procedures outlined in the by-laws.

      If you don't have/need/want the position any longer, you should change the by-laws.
      Resident Chaplain of the IACOJ

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      • #4
        why not?

        Having your bi-laws outline the position of a chaplain does NOT mean you HAVE to have one!

        I respectfully disagree that if its in the bilaws you have to fill the position. I don't see anything wrong with wording the declaration of the position something like this:

        "the department may, via majority vote, upon having qualified applicants based on the criteria below, elect to fill the position of Department Chaplain on a yearly basis. Even if said qualified applicants exist, the department membership may elect, via majority vote, not to fill such a position."

        I would strongly recommend wording it in such a manner as a department chaplain position may involve at times a religous arguement - which is always a legal concern in one form or another.

        Also note the wording of the last sentence, it provides NO REASONS why the membership may elect not to fill such a position because such reasons may also be based on religious factors.

        But the point here is that you can define the chaplain position in your bilaws and MAKE IT OPTIONAL and this allows you the flexibility of filling the position whenever the MEMBERSHIP decides it necessary...and also allows you not to have to modify the bilaws at a later date to add this position.

        Which is also a good idea, provide in your bilaws some type of procedure for modifying your document at a later time in some structured format.

        And of course, one last bit of advice, ALWAYS have your legal council involved in drafting any sort of constitution/bilaws or SOGs.

        Hope this helps!

        Richard M. Spackmann
        Fire Commissioner
        Greenfield Fire District
        http://www.RichardSpackmann.com

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        • #5
          Ok - Thank you all for the advice and Info....
          Last edited by emsff32515; 03-12-2008, 01:49 PM.

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          • #6
            Like da'Rev said, the law varies from state to state, but generally if your bylaws say you have the position, you have to fill it. We ran into the same issue with my old vollie department. I'm sure if they indicate the position is optional, then it's a different animal, but I didn't get that that was the situation in your case.

            Don't get hung up with the term "Chaplain" in a strictly religious sense. A chaplain can be a very valuable resource in keeping your members heads straight as stressors accumulate. He or she can be a resource that's familiar with what da' job's about, and understands just as well the importance of confidentiality.

            Most of the chaplains I've been associated with have been just as valuable and effective without bringing religion into the issues if the member didn't want it. Sometimes people want to just unload without worrying that everyone's going to find out about it.
            Steve Gallagher
            IACOJ BOT
            ----------------------------
            "I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

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            • #7
              One last comment emsff32515,

              Do NOT let the officers drafting the SOPs stop your efforts in drafting the bilaws - they are TWO SEPARATE documents - and really should be treated as such.

              Bilaws should be more of a constitution - outlining positions, responsibilities, membership applications, declarations of the company(ies), rules of the membership, company charters/goals/oaths, etc. SOPs should be really just how your department operates - which includes of course firematics and ems, but also "other" activities - such as how you purchase equipment, how inventory is taken, etc. So you can see, that because of this definition, the two documents can be written separately (although they are very much related).

              I would suggest letting the officers have an opportunity to comment on the bilaws after your committee is done with them as well.

              Also, make sure your commissioners review the SOPs and approve them - if there is something wrong, its up to your Board of Commissioners to change them. As with the bilaws, have your legal council look at them as well.

              Regards,

              Richard M. Spackmann
              Fire Commissioner
              Greenfield Fire District
              http://www.RichardSpackmann.com

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