Board of Directors Charged with Corruption in Shocking Allegations
Blackjack Fire Protection District Board of Directors: L -R: Kenneth Schmalbeck, David Calhoun, Orlando Smith during an official trip to the Lake of the Ozarks
A major public corruption case has sent shockwaves through the midwest political and civic scene. The Board of Directors president, secretary, and treasurer of Black Jack Fire District in Missouri is facing allegations for misappropriation of funds, overpaying themselves against legally mandated salary caps for government employees, availing themselves of full insurance coverage resulting in overpayment of $178,000 to insurance companies since 2016, as well as harassing vendors for favors. The indictment also alleges the illegal termination of the Fire Chief, who called out the board's corrupt activities. In turn, they allegedly retaliated by terminating him, violated his civil rights, refused to give his last pay and took away insurance for his child with special needs and wife with pre-existing conditions who was just released from the hospital late last year. According to a source from the health provider's office, someone from the district called with the intent to terminate their coverage effective immediately. The insurance provider refused as this is not their policy.
The suit names David Tyrone Calhoun, board president since 2019, along with current Board Secretary Orlando Smith - a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist, and end-of-termer Treasurer Kenneth Schmalbeck, for misusing their public offices for money and other things of value. The three men were served on February 14 2023.
The charge provides details of the alleged overpayment on their annual salaries and benefits. The three men are also accused of going on out-of-town trips, purchasing electronics, and in the case of Orlando Smith, partying in Florida with an unidentified woman that is not his wife.
The allegations also captures spoken and written conversations among the Board of Directors and their lawyer, Dan Bruntrager of Bruntrager & Billings, P.C. Attorneys at Law, who, himself is being questioned for his moral and ethical conduct for having relations with another Board of Director from another district he serves, as well as other conflict of interest representations with the current board.
Scandal Rocks BlackJack Fire District as Board of Directors face corruption charges
Calhoun, Smith, and Schmalbeck have all pleaded not guilty and denied all allegations. Calhoun has stated that he will not resign and plans to preside over regular Tuesday meetings of the Board of Directors. Citizens have complained that during these board meetings, all three board of directors and their counsel would hide in the boardroom for hours until the elderly citizens become restless. They would however come out again only to adjourn the meeting.
The most overwhelming evidence is against Director David Calhoun, who was caught on both video and taped recordings yelling and throwing a tantrum at the former Fire Chief, Ankeneth Corbin, in front of 4 other firefighters for refusing to allow him to purchase a decommissioned vehicle without bidding.
Calhoun has likewise made questionable personnel decisions by promoting his best friend, firefighter Capt. Michael Scott to a future promotion as battalion chief 2 years in advance. This, according to a board minutes acquired via the 321 Sunshine Law. He continues to plead not guilty despite witnesses present during this conversation. Numerous vendors also alleged being harassed by Calhoun in exchange for baseball tickets, trips to various events, special processing of his insurance claims and free dinners. Orlando Smith has only been serving four years out of his six-year term, yet has already taken multiple trips to Las Vegas and Florida, and allegedly acquired double insurance like Calhoun costing the district over almost a million dollars to date.
Kenneth Schmalbeck, who has served 40 years as treasurer, refused to respond to the questionable expenses he has incurred throughout his entire term. During an interview with a district witness who asked not to be named, stated that Schmalbeck was caught admitting to a colleague of orchestrating the termination of Chief Corbin by convincing "these two monkeys" (referring to his fellow Directors, Calhoun and Smith - who are African American) to get rid of the former chief as punishment to the shop for no longer supporting his intent to run another term. "let them be a mess without their Chief" he said, according to the source.
Prior to Corbin's termination, Schamlbeck openly expressed his hurt feelings during a speech at their 2022 Christmas party. 30 firefighters and their families were present. Schmalbeck is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and is a Deacon at his church at Angela Merici in Florissant, Missouri.
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) practically threw their own Chief under the bus and then abandoned him, our source says. They have not made any stand or comment since the termination nor has there been any statement from union leader, Firefighter Captain John Hicks.
The charges are expected to have an impact not only on Black Jack Fire District but on fire districts and departments throughout Missouri where cases of discrimination and illegal terminations and delay in promotions have overwhelmingly exploded. The termination of Fire Chief Ankeneth Corbin is especially noteworthy, as he transformed an insolvent district to a $21M well funded organization, a Double A Moody's rating Fire District and was recognized by the New York Times for his excellent work. Corbin was responsible for diversifying the Fire District during his tenure. He is now replaced by assistant fire chief, Roger Ellison who is also being questioned on nepotism by the citizens of Blackjack and Florissant.
Senator Josh Hawley has recommended that the three Board of Directors face the full extent of the law for their wrongdoing. He also states that this must be an example to those who take advantage of taxpayers' hard-earned money and their position. Cases like this affect the progress of our community. The allegation's details are rich and numerous, and this case will be watched closely as it unfolds in the coming weeks and months.
We reached out to Chief Corbin for comments but refused to make a statement at the advise of his counsel.