Chelsea fire board votes 3-2 to review chief's hiring, firing decisions
John Counts | AnnArbor.com
The Chelsea Area Fire Authority board came together Tuesday afternoon at a special meeting and voted 3-2 to review personnel decisions made by the chief, who previously had sole discretion when it came to hiring and firing.
It was the same resolution the board voted on last week, but the approval of which was found to be invalid.
The same issue passed 2-1 at the board's regular meeting last Tuesday, but it was later discovered that the two members who abstained -- Craig Maier and Kurt Koseck -- weren't allowed to.
The board came to the same decision on the issue with a full vote, however.
Board chair Rod Anderson and Koseck voted against the resolution while board members John Francis, James Bollinger and Maier voted for it. "I have never worked for an organization where one person had total authority," Maier cited as a reason for his vote.
Anderson made a later motion to replace Francis with Koseck on the controversial Policies, Procedures and Personnel (PPP) committee. Some firefighters have expressed they felt threatened by the committee's questioning of each member about how the department could operate better because it resulted in a lot of finger-pointing, Anderson said.
Anderson's motion failed by a 2-3 vote that echoed the vote for the review resolution: Anderson and Koseck voted yes; Francis, Bolling and Maier voted no.
"I'm very disappointed," Anderson said about the vote after the meeting.
The votes came after Fire Chief Jim Payeur read a scathing letter to the board that suggested a toxic relationship between the two.
“Over the past few months, I feel I’ve never been treated so disrespectfully as a professional,” he said. “I have never seen problem employees steer the ship. I’ve never seen board members allowing the chain of command to be thrown out the window.”
The two resolutions are just part of a deeper problem in the department, officials acknowledged. The passage of a millage that seemed to call for a reduction of the department prompted four of the firefighters to try unionizing. That was voted down 7-4 in January.
The department continues to be split, with the pro-union firefighters on one shift and those who didn't support the union on the other two shifts, Anderson said.
Payeur doesn't feel fully supported by some members of his department, accusing some of leading a "smear and slander campaign" against him.
“We know for a fact that members of this department have been providing the news media, board members and other departments slandering comments about the department and myself,” he said. “My good name has been (dragged) through the mud, Good honest people in this department have been smeared and their good names have been dragged through the mud as well.”
The chief said he has fielded many calls from people who have heard rumors he's being fired for various reasons, including the misappropriation of fundraising funds.
Anderson and Maier, when interviewed for a previous story, did not want to comment on allegations that money for the Paint the Town Pink event had been mishandled.
Payeur said the board also hasn't had his back, citing "severe violations" of chain of command and not having any professional respect for him. He said the PPP “created an intimidating work environment,”
“Honesty and trust has been broken," Payeur said. "It can be repaired. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and strong leadership. I’m asking for your help so we can pull together as a team in the best interest of the citizens that we serve.”
Board members had mixed responses Payeur's letter after the meeting.
"I was glad to hear him express his feelings," Francis said.
Bollinger hopes to have an opportunity to hear Payeur elaborate on what he said.
"I'm going to ask him for an explanation of his letter," he said. "He's a good man."