A common question and topic of conversation when discussing point systems is how to award points to committee members and for committee meetings. The two most common mistakes we see in point systems are:
- Giving committee members (or the chairperson) points as an officer under the Elected or Appointed Position category.
- Giving committee members a specific number of points for being on the committee under the Miscellaneous Activities category.
Both, in our opinion, are incorrect.
A committee member, or the committee chairperson, is not an Elected or Appointed Position as defined in Article 11-A of the General Municipal Law. The law states an “elected or appointed position” means means line officers, department or company officers and president, vice president, treasurer and secretary of a fire company or department. It seems fairly clear that, a committee member does not fit this definition. The Office of the State Comptroller seems to agree, as in at least one audit they criticized a LOSAP sponsor for awarding points to committee members under the Elected or Appointed Position category, and stated that a committee member does not meet the statutory definition.
Regarding miscellaneous activities, the statute reads: Participation in inspections and other activities covered by the volunteer firefighters’ benefit law and not otherwise listed–one point per activity. The key part of this particular language is what we underlined – one point per activity. In order to earn a point under the Miscellaneous Activities category, a volunteer must attend a specific activity that is not covered under one of the other categories, and that is also covered by VFBL. Therefore, just being committee member is not attending an activity. As such it would not be appropriate to, for example, award five (5) points to the fundraising committee chairman.
So what can a sponsor do? We believe the only available option under the current statute is to give points for each committee meeting that a committee member attends. The meeting itself is an activity, but it does not qualify for a point under the Attendance at Meetings category since a committee meeting is not a meeting of the entire fire department/company. Therefore, for each committee meeting, the committee should complete a sign-in sheet to be awarded a miscellaneous point.
Interestingly, there are two additional sections of law that govern volunteer ambulance LOSAPs – Articles 11-AA and 11-AAA. In both of those statutes, a member of a standing committee of the ambulance corps can earn a point for attending official committee meetings under the Attendance at Meetings category. This option is not available for LOSAPs sponsored for volunteer fire departments.
As usual, we suggest reviewing this with your legal council before making any changes to your point system.