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---Mayor breaks tie vote, picks Ohio fire candidateTells interim chief he sees problems in department
The Miles City Council was split Tuesday on whether to hire a fire chief applicant from Ohio or to go with Cameron Duffin, interim fire chief of nine months.
Mayor Butch Grenz broke the tie by choosing Gary Warren of Ohio.
After the vote, Duffin asked Grenz why the Ohio candidate was chosen over him.
The mayor replied that the culture in the department needs to change, and raised issues surrounding the deaths of four children in two fires that happened several years ago. He also criticized handling of some ambulance calls. More of the discussion appears below.Duffin reviews job
Before the vote, Duffin addressed the council, listing the things he has accomplished, in addition to juggling the two full-time jobs (interim chief and captain). Some of those were negotiating an agreement between Holy Rosary Healthcare and the fire department on out-of-town ambulance transfers, rewriting the ambulance fee collection policy, revising the part-paid workers’ rules and job descriptions and pay scale and applying for a $750,000 grant (with the help of Grant Administrator Connie Muggli), and working with the ambulance billing company for continued increased revenue for the city.
Duffin has worked for the department since 1994.Appointment discussion
There were more than 30 applicants for the position.
Grenz started the discussion by telling the council that the hiring committee of three non-council members ranked Warren highest.
Councilman Mark Ahner said when a committee goes through all that effort and time looking through the candidates and determining the best qualified applicant, unless there is substantial reason not to agree with the committee, the council should go along with what they have recommended to the mayor and what the mayor recommends to the council.
Grenz said that if the council didn’t accept the recommendation, the city could be in legal trouble.
City Attorney Dan Rice said it could be subject to challenge by the person whom the committee recommended.
Councilman John Hollowell said, “I always feel we should support loyalty, and these people [firemen] put a lot of time in, work their way up, ... sacrificed for this community.” There may be cases where it is warranted to choose someone outside the area, he said, “but I don’t think this case does.”
Councilman Jerry Partridge agreed with Hollowell.
“We rarely appoint from the outside,” he said.
When it’s done, “it takes a long time for that person to get used to the job,” he said.
He said it is not known how well the person would do and whether he will turn around and leave.
“As far as defamation of a committee goes, that’s silly. That’s really silly,” Partridge said.
Councilwoman Roxanna Brush said she’s always liked that Miles City promoted from within, but the people on the committee are smart and she didn’t know why they decided the way they did.
Councilman Dwayne Andrews said, “I guess my understanding, and you can correct me, was the hiring committee didn’t recommend anything.”
He said the committee “scored” the applicants and decided which ones should be brought in and interviewed by the council.
Members of the hiring committee interviewed the applicants on Skype.
“It’s pretty hard to judge a person’s makeup and personality on Skype,” Andrews said.
“So was that the committee’s recommendation? Was it for them to be interviewed by the council?” Councilwoman Susanne Galbraith asked.
“They suggested that, but that’s not really in our policy,” Grenz said.
“So, basically, they didn’t pick anyone is what you’re saying,” she said.
According to Grenz, the committee said “the one they thought had done the best job was Gary.”
Voting against going outside of the fire department were Galbraith, Partridge, Hollowell and Andrews.
Voting for the Ohio applicant were Ken Gardner, Sheena Martin, Ahner and Brush.After the vote
Duffin addressed the mayor, saying, “You sat in the council chambers multiple times and told me we need to be hiring local people for the fire department. ... You also stated you weren’t appointing anyone [as chief] until they fixed the problems with the billing first.”
“I repaired the problem, not someone who doesn’t even live here,” he said.
Duffin said the mayor told him that the department had been running more smoothly since he was appointed interim chief than any other time in his terms as mayor.
Duffin asked for an explanation why this person was appointed, someone no one in this town has ever met, “and has nothing invested in our community.”
“All right, I really didn’t want to do this, but I felt the culture in the fire department needed to have a change,” Grenz said. “The idea of having two little girls (dying in a fire), five blocks from the fire department and nobody showing up is bad enough, then we had the next thing down on Woodbury with two kids perishing in a fire. Rural [fire] shows up, and you guys are having an argument whose jurisdiction it is.”
(The North Haynes Avenue fire occurred in 2003 and was outside the city’s jurisdiction.)
Duffin said they responded to the Woodbury fire and removed the two children.
(When the children were removed, one was alive and one was deceased.)
Grenz told him not to interrupt and recalled when he was mayor the first time and the ambulance wasn’t picking up people. “... They ended up in ICU for weeks,” Grenz said.
“Weeks?!” Duffin disagreed.
“Yes. This has never been corrected, and still to this day you will not send two ambulances out at a time. ... Either you’re in the business or you’re not,” Grenz said.
Grenz said when the department doesn’t send a second ambulance to the airport for an air flight, “the bill goes from $5,000 to $30,000, and not everyone can afford that $30,000.”
“The culture has changed and you know it,” Duffin said.
Firefighter Ryan Smith said bringing up people perishing in fires is “old history” and is the wrong way to approach this.
He added that the city and county fire departments have a better relationship than they ever had.
The local firefighters’ union supported Duffin’s appointment.Warren chosen as next chief
Gary Warren of Ohio was chosen to be the next Miles City Fire and Rescue chief.
Warren is a volunteer firefighter-instructor and an assistant team coordinator for the hazardous materials response team in Middlefield, Ohio.
He has worked in two fire departments in Texas and in East Cleveland, Ohio, serving as assistant fire chief, operations officer and acting captain. He is a fire safety inspector.
Warren has earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s in business administration degree.
He has completed a Federal Emergency Management Agency program on emergency management and the Department of Labor’s journeyman firefighter program.