One of the facts asserted in the recall petitions is that the Fire Board made a covert decision to oust the Chief. Supporting documentation follows:
- Early in the fall of 2012, the Board advertised a facilities maintenance position. Chief Astrom had been working under contract at $26.25/hour to do maintenance for some time. Email correspondence between the Board and the County Attorney’s office show that the Board considered Chief Astrom to be the most qualified person for the salaried position and fully expected to retain him.
- Also in the fall of 2012, the Board was considering a change to BCRFD policy to allow alcohol in the community room of the Fire Station. All of the Trustees except Franklin Coles were in favor of allowing alcohol. The Chief, the volunteer firefighters and some community members opposed because of increased risk to safety on the roads and the liability to the District. On December 3, 2012, following intense scrutiny from the public and the media, the Trustees unanimously voted against allowing alcohol. Trustees Peggy Foster, Dave McKee, Mike Conn, and Colleen Carnine completely reversed their earlier and consistently stated positions.
- Just prior to the alcohol vote, on November 28, 2012, an email from Cam Gould was sent to all of the Trustees except Franklin Coles. The email urged Trustees Mike Conn, Peggy Foster, Colleen Carnine and Dave McKee to consider whether the chief was “fit”. (Cam Gould and his wife, Val Gould have been very strong and vocal supporters of allowing alcohol in the community room.) To read this email in its entirety, click here, but in part it says:
It is important that we eliminate the divisiveness between BCFD and the Citizens. The first step is to allow the democratic process to play. The second would be to eliminate the areas of dissention. This latter involves corrective action. Necessary and possibly sticky, yet opportunities exist for growth both in competency and support if these hard decisions are made.”
- December 4, 2012 Trustee Dave McKee alerted Trustee Mike Conn just two days after the alcohol vote, to consider the ramifications of initiating a performance review of the Chief on the heels of the alcohol debate: “ I am almost certain this will cause far greater hard feelings…. I just question the timing, only a few days after the alcohol vote and before Christmas”. The fact that the Trustees have suddenly decided to review the Chief, and McKee knows that the review will be negative, before the review is even started, indicates a pre-determined outcome of the yet-to-be-conducted review.
- In an executive session on December 20th only a few weeks after the alcohol vote, the Board decided to outsource facilities maintenance instead of hiring Chief Astrom. Chief Astrom was not present at this meeting, and the Board did not inform him of this decision. At this closed session, the Board contrived problems with the Chief’s performance. The Board’s decision to conduct the first Chief’s review in the Department’s history, was not announced to the public, and Trustee, Franklin Coles, was not included in any conversations or emails about this decision prior to this item being listed on the agenda.
- On January 6, 2013 Board member Franklin Coles pointed out in an email to the other Trustees (Foster, McKee, Carnine and Conn) that there was no public discussion of the decision to implement a performance review of the Chief.
- A January 16, 2013 email from Dave McKee to Mike Conn indicates that the board decided not to honor their earlier commitment to make the Chief’s job a salaried position.
- February, 2013 in a contentious Board meeting to discuss the review of the chief, fire fighters and many community members pointed out that the hastily contrived review of Chief Astrom and behind-the-scenes decision to outsource the maintenance position was retaliatory in nature.
- A special board meeting on March 6, 2013 included two community members who asked the Trustees if they were trying to get rid of the Chief. Trustee Colleen Carnine responded with a vehement, “YES!” No other board members contradicted her claim.
- On March 7, 2013 in a series of emails, Rick Anderson, an ardent Board supporter, tells Mike Conn that the Chief must improve or be fired.
- On March 15, 2013 Dave McKee sent an email to Jerry Perkins in which he states that “there is no question that the real division between the Board and the FD is linked almost exclusively to the alcohol issue.” In that same chain of emails, Dave outlined 3 options for Chief Astrom: Astrom can either get the FF to support the Board; relinquish his maintenance and administrative duties; or resign. About the possibility of the Chief resigning, Trustee Dave McKee states “He would certainly take some, maybe all fire fighters with him”.
- Through March , April and into May of 2013 there were discussions between the Board and the Chief regarding mediation (see the Mediation Timeline for details). A meeting was scheduled with the Chief on May 20 to discuss some personnel issues. In the days leading up to that meeting, the Board clearly expected to force the Chief’s resignation. For example:
On May 16, 2013, a week before Chief Astrom resigned, when mediation in good faith was absolutely essential to District safety, Trustee Carnine stated by email “If the firefighters have a problem with what we are proposing for the Mediation, too bad. It is time to draw the proverbial line in the sand…This has come to a point of no return and this is a fence that can no longer be mended with the chief.”
On May 18, 2013, Trustee McKee wrote to Trustee Conn about the liability risk to the Board if all the firefighters left the department and someone’s house burned. McKee suggested looking at increasing the department’s coverage.
On May 19, 2013, in a series of emails, the Board discusses giving the county and their mutual aid partners “a heads up as to what is happening and what could be a result” of the May 20th meeting with the Chief.
Board members were making decisions affecting our safety behind the scenes including the decision to oust the Chief. Colleen Carnine was very clear when she told a community member that the Board’s goal was to get rid of the chief. The Board’s own communications indicate that prior to the alcohol vote, the Board was satisfied with the chief. However, immediately following that vote, the Board secretly and without consulting Trustee Franklin Coles, decided to review the chief, decided to outsource maintenance and administration, and engaged in a pattern of hostility so severe that they succeeded in their endeavors, to the detriment of every person in the District.
Trustees Peggy Foster, Dave McKee, Mike Conn and Colleen Carnine claim there were performance issues with Chief Astrom, but even if there were legitimate issues, they failed to make them known or address them constructively. Their poor management led to the resignation of a highly respected chief and over 80% of a highly trained and experienced volunteer force. Management that loses over 80% of a skilled workforce (whether volunteer or not) should lose their job as well.
Vote to recall these Trustees and elect Franklin Coles and John Maloney–qualified leaders who value the contributions of our greatest asset – our volunteer firefighters.