A contract dispute and infighting among governing board members will result in a two month delay in the effort to recruit and hire a new fire chief for the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District (NACFD). Former Chief Pat Moore and contract attorney Charlotte Wells resigned in the weeks following the November election that changed the makeup, and the politics, of the governing board.

Chairman Patty Lewis and Clerk Sue Wilkin dissented in a January 19, 3-2 board vote to spend $15,000 to hire Human Resource Strategies LLC to conduct a recruitment campaign that would lead to one or more candidates recommended for hiring. Lewis and Wilkin’s refusal to sign documents and award the contract stopped the recruiting campaign before it began, and triggered need of a special board meeting to resolve the stalemate.

The impasse was broken when Victor Riccardi flip-flopped at the February 2 special board meeting, rescinding his previous support for the recruiting firm. He joined Lewis and Wilkin in expressing concern that the cost could run higher than $15,000 and that other firms could do the same job significantly cheaper.

Bailey and Collins ripped Lewis and Wilkin for circumventing policy by refusing to execute the contract and implement the will of the Board expressed in the January 19 vote.

“Per our policy, you’re to sign what the board’s will is,” Collins said to Lewis and Wilkin. “You guys were in the minority. You still have to sign.”

Lewis and Wilkin said they also had a duty to protect the treasury and look out for the taxpayers.

Fire District lawyer Bill Whittington said that the $15,000 price is in the ballpark for quality services offered by Brenda Tranchina and her Human Resource Strategies firm.

“That’s not an uncommon price,” Whittington advised the board. “I have no qualms about her abilities. I have seen her work many times and she’s well-qualified.”

Lewis noted she also didn’t like the way the 11-page contract approved January 19 was placed at the back of the agenda and that she didn’t have enough time to read it before that meeting.

“That’s not true either,” Bailey told Lewis. “The packets were available over 30 hours before the meeting. So it’s your fault if you did not pick up the packet and review the packet in time for the meeting. That’s your responsibility, Patty!”

Interim Chief Tim King confirmed that staff emailed all board members that the meeting information packets were available some 34 hours before the meeting. He said that Lewis and Wilkin picked their packets up after arriving for the meeting.

After Riccardi essentially rescinded his support for contract award to Human Resource Strategies, the Board directed King, through a 4-1 vote, to shop and get quotes from firms that would conduct the recruitment campaign.

King intends to have that information ready for discussion and possible action at the March 16 board meeting.