Small Town, Big Smears, No Rebuttal Allowed

UPDATE: Yesterday, July 5, Publisher Jack Mitchell posted 
both my open letter and the Amador Fire press release online, 
and featured both links on the front page of the Ledger Dispatch. 
Thank you, Jack. 

Given the many questions posed in Mr. Frank Moreno's OpEd  
and by many others privately, I am calling on the Ledger 
Dispatch and its owner the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwuk 
Indians to hire an independent investigative reporter, someone 
without personal connections to the people involved, to answer 
the "Who, what, where, when how and why" of this very 
important story. Fire safety is the single most important issue 
of our time in this rural county, and we deserve the best public 
service we can have. Certainly there are excellent reporters close 
by who have worked for McClatchy news' The Sacramento Bee 
who would be willing to take this on, or perhaps given the state 
implications, someone from CalMatters.

Let your light shine, Ledger Dispatch. 

I'll say a bit more, please see my comments below.

UPDATE 10:15 AM July 4: Still nothing online as promised, 
except a second hit piece is featured. 

UPDATE JULY 3: Publisher Jack Mitchell tells me that my letter and 
the Press release from Amador Fire are both featured in today's July 3 
print paper. As soon as I can link to the stories I will revise this post.
 July 3, 2020
      From my Facebook page:  "Our local newspaper, the Ledger 
Dispatch is mounting a witch hunt and refuses to allow the entire 
story to be told. Such is the danger of living in a community that 
has only one news source. So I have published "Small Town, 
Big Smears, No Rebuttal Allowed" on my blog as it 
is the only means to provide the other side of the story.

Original Story:

I have written a lot over the years about the danger of 
relying on a single news source in one community, but for 
the first time, this has hit home with me.  

Jack Mitchell, the publisher of the only newspaper in 
Amador County, has engaged in a witch hunt against the 
Fire Chief of our local Fire Department. My readers who 
focus on media accountability will be shocked with his 
obvious bias and inattention to facts in his initial  
piece, to which I responded.  Rather than printing my 
open letter to the Board of Supervisors correcting the 
facts, he has doubled down with more accusations, yet 
he provides zero opportunity for comments or rebuttal. 

I am publishing my letter below, as this is the ONLY 
means I have to color in the picture made yellow by 
someone who apparently cares more about an agenda than facts. 
Will it reach as many people as his paper does? Doubtful. 
But you know what to do.


June 30, 2020 

An Open Letter to the Board of Supervisors
Dear Amador County Board of Supervisors,
I am writing to you in response to the many misstatements 
and unstated facts in Jack Mitchell's recent article about 
the Amador Fire Protection District in the Ledger Dispatch, 
especially the allegation that AFPD is trying to destroy 
volunteer fire fighting in this county. Here is what I know 
based on my personal dealings with Fire Chief Walt 
White and AFPD about volunteer staffing in Fiddletown.

After seeing three family members lose homes in Paradise, 
and after last summers' long power outages and numerous 
red flag warning days, I joined with others to find ways 
to keep our community in Fiddletown safer from fires.  
We held Town Hall meetings in the Community Center, and 
quickly ascertained that we no longer have any volunteers 
firefighters left in Fiddletown. Suddenly, staffing our 
station became job one for the Fiddletown Fire Safe Council.
By chance, I met Chief White at a meeting at Assemblyman 
Frank Bigelow's local office, and brought up this need to 
him.  He told me that if he could find a way to build a 
shower and create sleeping quarters in the fire station, 
he could staff it with volunteers 24-7. I responded that 
I thought the Fiddletown community would be willing to 
raise funds for such a task, and I am happy to tell you 
that the community has stepped up and, with the aid of 
the local Passport Rotary and the Plymouth Foothills 
Rotary Clubs and Rotary International, we have raised more 
than $9,000 toward this goal. As a result of this project, 
I have spoken with Chief White several times. Kayla Dale, 
AFPD's community outreach representative, came to one of 
our meetings and gave a presentation on evacuations during 
emergencies. I have spoken with her many times as well.
The one thing that I heard over and over again is that 
AFPD is committed to building a lasting volunteer fire 
fighting staff. And even though we have not yet commenced 
construction on the firehouse project, Chief White has 
come through for Fiddletown already: in partnership with 
Pioneer Fire Protection District, they are staffing two 
volunteer fire fighters inside our long empty fire house 
on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting July 3. I 
learned that they have built the largest volunteer 
firefighting staff they have had for years, and also 
learned they are partnering with local non-profits 
for roadside land clearing and emergency animal 
evacuations.  I also am aware of the SAFER grant 
AFPD has written to obtain funding to create a new 
training Academy which would provide free training 
for 100 new volunteers over the next four years and 
a career path for those who want it.

Yet in recent days, primarily on Facebook, community 
members are accusing AFPD of purposely trying to 
destroy the volunteer aspect of firefighting 
throughout the county.  Mr. Mitchell fanned these 
flames by writing, "Coming off the cryptic emails 
and reaching out and investigating the wild claims 
about AFPD, more than a dozen sources came forward 
to corroborate, substantiate and define an ongoing 
battle as, according to all sources, Volunteer 
Firefighters are being quietly and systematically 
wiped out." But Mr. Mitchell did not include all 
the sources, as he dismissed out of hand the press 
release sent to him by AFPD detailing all their 
successful volunteer efforts which would have 
doused this flame. (Full disclosure, after seeing 
such allegations on local FB pages but before the 
publication of the Ledger article, I suggested to 
AFPD they put out such a release so people would 
have the facts about their volunteer efforts. 
Maybe he missed the memo, so here it is 
One last thing. Some on Facebook are saying it 
was the recently dismissed volunteer Antonio 
Moreno who was bringing volunteer staffing to 
Fiddletown. The first time I heard Mr. Moreno's 
name was in a related conversation I had with 
Brian Oneto on June 22nd when he told me of 
Moreno's dismissal.  I do not know Mr. Moreno, but 
I can tell from the backlash that he is much loved 
in this community. Perhaps he helped train one of 
the two volunteers staffing our station, I do not 
know that (the other is provided by El Dorado 
County's Pioneer station, as Fiddletown crosses 
over into that county.) But I know personally 
that Chief White has been driving 
this effort for volunteer staffing here.
There is much more I have to say about state 
requirements for volunteer firefighter
training and reasons why volunteer firefighter 
staffing is dwindling throughout the 
entire nation, but I will reserve that for now.
Sue Wilson


  1. I read this word for word on Ledger Dispatch page A5 this morning.

  2. As a former volunteer firefighter in Amador county, I can say that AFPD has continually pushed away old and new volunteers alike due to mistreatment from the full time staff. It's not a secret that AFPD used to have a huge volunteer response to incidents just 10 short years ago. It all changed after measure m passed and afpd got too big for their britches. #ECOUNTY

  3. Interesting, sounds like the local paper could use a new reporter. I recommend you attend these meetings,and find out what is actually happening in the community.

  4. Sue, thank you for posting this article. Jack Mitchell is not interested in the truth surrounding this matter, he is simply trying to sell Newspapers. The Ledger has been a dying newspaper for many years, thankfully Jackson Rancheria stepped up and purchased the paper allowing it to survive in the current climate of social media.

    As for the matter regarding AFPD and recent comments in the ledger and from the comments posted by Anonymous. You state you were a former volunteer Firefighter in Amador County, which agency? I am a volunteer for AFPD and have been for many years, I have never been treated the way you mentioned above, I have never been pushed out by any AFPD employees. I have in fact been treated like crap from Antonio Moreno for not following his way or his plan for volunteers for AFPD. Antonio, has for many years been responsible for volunteers in the Plymouth area, he truly is responsible for 14 volunteers leaving the plymouth area due to his treatment of volunteers, especially ones he does not like or ones who work for Cal-Fire. In 2007 - 7 of his volunteers who were EMT's / Firefighters walked away due to his treatment, no one said anything about it. In 2011/12 Volunteers signed a letter of what is called a vote of no confidence due to his behavior, the current Fire Chief at the time, David Bellerive chose to do nothing with it. From 2017 to 2019 Antonio released 7 volunteers for not making calls, not attending all the trainings, not listening to him or working up to his standards. The volunteers who he left go did in fact give the time they had available due to their family and work life. Antonio Moreno was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit from a member at his current Fire Department in Eldorado Hills, this matter was settled and EDH paid out the member. There are two sides to Antonio Moreno, the side the public see's and the side everyone else see's. Antonio is a micro manager who believes his way is the only way to do something right, and if you don't follow his way he makes you feel like crap. Antonio was a Battalion Chief for Amador Fire Protection District, one of his responsibilities was to train and recruit volunteer firefighters, he chose not to do this for the last several years and chose to only point fingers at AFPD. What Antonio failed to realize he was, is apart of the Command Staff so he chose not to recruit additional volunteers, he chose to run out volunteers again 14 total.

    As a volunteer from the Plymouth area I can go on and on about his behaviors and the conversations he would have with us regarding AFPD and trying to convince us to not to follow the past and current Fire Chief's of AFPD.

    1. Hello, I am sorry for any confusion. I am not a volunteer for AFPD, I just suggested they draft a press release touting their volunteer goals and status. I am part of the Fiddletown Fire Safe Council which is working with AFPD to bring volunteers to staff our Fiddletown Fire Station.

  5. Frank Moreno mentions in the Ledger about being afraid to speak up against AFPD, it is not about being afraid to speak up against AFPD is about being afraid to speak up against the Moreno's, if you do speak against them they will attack you any chance they get. For many years Antonio would not listen to the Fire Chief's of AFPD, if he was directed or asked to do something he would just call Brian Oneto, then Brian Oneto would just harass the current Fire Chief. This was apparent when we were asked to attend a training of roof ventilation at Cal-Fire station 60, this was not Antonio's plan so he called and complained to Brian Oneto. Brian Oneto does not support firefighters in the plymouth area, we know as we have him convinced he can lay off the paid staff and only use volunteers. Brain Oneto has not supported paid staff or personnel from AFPD, Antonio has done a great job of convincing Brian Oneto we can get by with all Volunteers. Honestly as a volunteer we don't have enough, plymouth has one active volunteer living in the city limits, the rest of us live outside of the city limits. Frank Moreno talks about Measure M, honestly Frank Moreno has no clue to what he is talking about, Frank has not been around the fire service for a while, he honestly just started showing up because his brother Dominic Moreno called him out to be his puppet. However Frank Moreno talks about Measure M and Response areas. All Fire agencies have what is called a AHJ or area that they are responsible for, the cities well that's just it, the city limits. AFPD is responsible for 491 square miles of Amador County, however AFPD is not the closest resource to all of these areas so AFPD pays through the use of Measure M other agencies to respond. Well AFPD has grown over the years and currently AFPD responds into their AHJ without other agencies turning a wheel and guess what, AFPD does not receive the funding as it goes to two other agencies. AFPD pushed to have the closest resource respond to all areas of Amador County, what this means no matter what department had responsibility the closest resource would respond. What happened during this process is AFPD found out that the Ione Fire Chief had a back door deal with Mule Creek State Prison to have their Fire Department respond, yes respond with felons, people who were incarcerated. This was the idea of Ken Mackey, to have felons respond to the citizens of Ione, is truly what you want? So by this back door deal it put Mule Creek State Prison as closest resource to many areas of Ione, once this was found out by AFPD it was corrected. Debra Mackey has fought Chief White since he got here, she was pushed to do so by Ken Mackey and Dominic Moreno, she was new so they took advantage of her to be their spoke person. Debra Mackey has tried many times to not have the closest resource respond to her city, and wants no part of AFPD responding into her city as closest resource.

  6. To solve this problem, fire agencies need to just consolidate resources, consolidation is what was sold to the people of Amador when Measure M was passed, ken Mackey was responsible for working out the consolidation and he called for a 10 year plan, it's been past 10 years and no consolidation. Frank Moreno says Chief White has retired from another agency (PERS) and is only working at Amador because it is non-pers, well this is partially true. Chief White is able to work at Amador because AFPD is not pers, however he is not the only Fire Chief in the county to do so. Dominic Moreno retired from Sac Metro with a very healthy retirement, around 125% of his salary, he brings home around 10 thousand a month in retirement from Sac Metro, he also gets paid $3500 a month from Sutter Creek and an additional $400 for each 24 hour shift he works at Sutter Creek. Dominic works at minimum 4 24 hour shifts a month, that's $1600 a month plus the $3500 a month he receives so who's truly working the system. ken Mackey retired from Lodi Fire Department which is a PERS agency, Ken Mackey has been working illegally for the City of Ione as it's a PERS agency, he receives $24,400 a year, not reporting it to PERS and still collecting his PERS retirement, who's taking advantage of who? You see they point out what AFPD does or doesn't do while they are doing the same if not worse. Dominic Moreno does not want to work with AFPD, he just wants to tell AFPD what to do. When Chief White was first hired Antonio was at Sutter Creek helping work an event in the town of Sutter Creek. Antonio, Dominic and Dominic's BC were having a conversation, they wanted Chief White out and stated they were going to do everything they can to run him out of the county. Antonio was very proud of this conversation. The Moreno's, Mackey's and Oneto have tried to do what they can to run Chief White out of this county, they have failed. As a volunteer I have sat by listened to all of this, sat quite as not wanting to get involved, I just want to serve my community however I can't remain quite for to long. Chief White is trying to bring in volunteers, he supports us and wants to see this program succeed. There are a ton of fabricated lies, one can easily find the truth just be doing some research on Google or by going to the office of AFPD. AFPD is the most transparent department in the County.

  7. Staffing Station 123 was Chief White's idea and promise to the community of Fiddletown, as volunteers we were told by Antonio to not to volunteer to staff station 123 as he wanted to see this program fail under Chief White's responsibility. In closing I would say, you will always find the truth somewhere in between the two sides of the story, you can believe Antonio is a saint, or you can believe he's not, you can believe everything Frank Moreno writes in the paper or you can believe Frank Moreno is unable to come up with his own thoughts and uses both Dominic's and Antonio's ideas, you can believe the post from the other Anonymous user published, however they posted #ECOUNTY, I would guess this was not a volunteer from AFPD as they have no clue to what #ECOUNTY really means. You can believe what you see of FB being written by a fake account named Jim Swanson, or you can believe Jim Swanson is a real person who only exist on Facebook. As a volunteer for the Plymouth I know who Jim Swanson truly is. You see in this day and age you can believe what ever you want, you can find the positive in anything you want or you can find the negative in anything you want, it's really up to you. Be your own person, do your own research, don't be someones puppet.

  8. I don't have to remain anonymous. My name is Dana Calhoun and I started this investigation a year ago AND ran a campaign on it. Yes, i live in District 2. I went to every meeting, dug deep into the politics, who benefits and why... Here, I don't have enough room (or time) to repeat a year's worth of research, but it's put there for the public to read. You can start with the top 3 paragraphs of the RECALL FORSTER campaign filed at Amador County office of elections. This topic is highlighted in every bullet point. It will be a huge eye opener if you actually read it. We predicted this, and the AFPD board and chief will continue to deny it all. That's fine. Actions speak louder than words.