The President of the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors says service will not suffer despite the board's move Tuesday to remove four senior officers. The officers included two battalion chiefs, a deputy chief and an assistant chief who were identified in an employment discrimination lawsuit against the district which was upheld earlier this month in a state appeals court. The verdict, which includes $200,000 payments to a pair of plaintiffs in the case, will mean more than $1.5 million in total costs, including attorney fees.
Board President Kim Evans said a total of five officers were identified through the suit. One was given the option of a reduction in rank to keep his job and accepted. Four others were given the opportunity to resign in exchange for a neutral recommendation and did not accept, according to Evans.
The officers were identified by the district by title only Tuesday night. Director Robin Harris and a Concerned Citizens group have previously identified them as Assistant Chief Les Crews, Deputy Chief Cary Spiegel and battalion chiefs Fred Goodson and Mike Davis.
The board convened in closed session for roughly 50 minutes Tuesday night before announcing the 2-0 vote to remove the officers in open session. Director Harris could note vote because he was not physically present and participated by phone.
Harris urged further review of trial testimony before making a decision, suggesting that the four officers were being scapegoated, but Evans and fellow director Steve Swyers said the message from the courts was clear.
"They found the district guilty and it cost us $1.5 million dollars. In the appellate court ruling, they describe the environment as hostile, pervasively discriminating and abusive. I don't believe that's a description of how we want to be treating our workforce," Swyers said in front of a packed meeting.
Evans said the money to pay the verdict will come through tightening the district's budget and through insurance, although the district will have to pay for it "for years to come" because it will have a higher insurance risk.
Evans said there are no plans to replace the officers at this time, although the district did authorize the hiring of a Chief Medical Officer who would also function as a Deputy Chief. Monarch is also moving forward on an experimental staffing model which Evans said could result in a "huge cost savings," beginning December 1.