Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Controversy in Boone County over resignation of fire chief





Controversy in Boone County over resignation of fire chief

By Kristin Crowley


Posted: May 02, 2017 10:54 PM CST


A Boone County Fire Protection District is in the midst of turmoil. It's chief says he was forced to resign by board trustees.
The move is not sitting well with his firefighters but the county is standing behind the trustees. 13 WREX spoke with the former chief and the county board chair to get both sides on a controversial issue impacting a small community.

"I think it was very cowardly," said  former District 2 Fire Chief Brad Bartell.

Bartell says he was blindsided last month when the district's board of trustees asked for his resignation.

"They never came to me and said we have problems to address and there's never been any issues that were ongoing," he said.

After 26 years with the department, four of those as chief, Bartell says he was asked to step aside. The reason?
A list of dozens of complaints from the trustees.

Including accusations he didn't monitor the budget-, didn't know who damaged a truck, left the administration door open and didn't address facial hair on firefighters.

Bartell doesn't deny some of the issues the trustees brought up did happen. But he says they weren't safety issues and all were addressed after they happened. He says his forced resignation wasn't about the list.

"I think there was some personal vendettas there, they were losing power. They couldn't control it," said Bartell.

"They told me in their opinion, this is something that needed to happen to move the department further ahead," said Karl Johnson, Boone County Board Chair.

The three trustees, Jack Ryan, Kevin Stark And Jim Marrs, will not comment on the accusations. But Johnson says he doesn't believe the decision was made lightly.

"I've gotta trust the trustees who are there every day, who are in charge of that department, Running that department. Know what they're doing," he said.

13 WREX asked Johnson specifically about the allegations against Bartell and whether they're grounds for removal.

"How they came to that decision, that's all for the trustees to decide. I can't really second guess because I don't have all their information. And just looking at a list of stated things may be different than living them," he said.

Bartell's force of volunteer firefighters want more information about these accusations, however, Johnson says trustees don't have to give it.

"That would undermine the authority of the trustees and what they're there for. Their job is to run the department financially," said Johnson.

Whether the trustees will eventually comment on these accusations remains to be seen. Their next meeting is the first Monday in June.