Vote that would have given Chelsea fire board more power deemed invalid
This article has been corrected. Jamie Bollinger and John Francis voted for the resolution, not against it as originally reported.
The Chelsea Area Fire Authority Board's 2-1 vote that would have given it more say in personnel matters has been deemed invalid, Board Chairman Rod Anderson said.
The two board members who abstained -- Craig Maier and Kurt Kosek -- did so against the rules, officials said.
Maier said he didn't cast a vote because he didn't believe there had been enough discussion about the resolution, which would have given the board more power when it comes to hiring and firing, which is right now at the sole discretion of Fire Chief Jim Payeur. Kosek had a similar reason, according to Maier.
“Things got a little hectic in that meeting we didn’t have the opportunity to have further discussion on it,” Maier said.
The vote took place at the board's regular meeting Tuesday.
The two abstentions did not meet legal requirements, however, and the resolution is now invalid, making its future uncertain. Anderson, who voted against the resolution, said he wasn't sure if it would be on the agenda at the board's next meeting on May 21.
“I think it’s something we have to address,” Anderson said, adding he might vote differently on the issue next time if the board modifies the resolution.
Two or three years ago, the board fully vested the chief's position with all hiring and firing matters, Anderson said.
Maier said the board wanted to reconsider due to the financial impacts such decisions might have.
Anderson said the invalidated vote is just one more chapter in a long road starting with the passing of a millage that seemed to call for a reduction of the department, which prompted four of the firefighters to try unionizing. That was voted down 7-4 in January, Anderson said.
What many of the firefighters didn't seem to realize was if taxable values went up — thus increasing funds — no one would have to be let go. When the board formed a committee to speak individually with firefighters to communicate this — and to get feedback to update the department's handbook and standard operating procedures — firefighters began making allegations against one another, Anderson said.
Some of the firefighters felt threatened, officials said.
“The interviews became very adversarial,” said Anderson.
Both Anderson and Maier conceded the resolution to give the board more power was directly related to these issues in the department, which remain unsettled.
Jamie Bollinger and John Francis voted for the resolution. They could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could Kosek.