A union leader encountered some “blow back” during his February 18 presentation to the Golden Valley Fire District Board (GVFD). Chris Simpson, President of the Professional Fire Fighter Association local 4191, told board members that the District might benefit from use of Meet and Confer and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) detailing a working relationship with the union. Simpson called Meet and Confer and MOU a tool that can effectively mediate issues and disputes between firefighters and administration. He said the “interest based” collaborative approach can save money and legal fees by resolving issues before they become lawsuits. Chief Thomas O’Donohue subsequently posed a series of rhetorical questions to make his point that the the GVFD already has policies in place allowing the concerns and interests of its employees to be expressed and heard. “You talked about open door policy. I want to let Mr. Simpson know, and also the community to know, because I don’t want the implication that we don’t listen to our people and that there’s not an arena for them to air any concerns,” O’Donohue said. Board Chairman Paul Gorham said the GVFD doesn’t need another ingredient in its personnel soup. `I would hate to think that we would have to have somebody in between to mediate, or whatever, when I would think our firefighters would come to our Chief and our assistant Chief, and if there’s a problem, that we could work that out without another layer,” Gorham said. Board member Steve Robinson also told Simpson he’s not interested in union involvement in GVFD affairs. “I’ve seen too many examples of unions that do not represent the interests of everybody, but only their firefighters,” Robinson said. “I’m having a hard time listening to this presentation.” Rhonda Brooks was the only Board member to readily embrace Simpson’s Meet and Confer, MOU outline. Her motion to pursue or adopt the tool was defeated by a 4-1 vote. Meantime, personnel matters continue bubbling in the GVFD cauldron. Chief O’Donohue confirms he placed firefighter David Guerrero on paid administrative leave on February 13. O’Donohue said he is not at liberty to provide more information regarding the personnel matter. David Guerrero’s wife, Nicole Guerrero continues to appeal her termination as the District’s former Administrative Manager. She also has a whistle blowing and retaliation complaint pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Nicole Guerrero said the suspension of her husband further fuels her position that she and her family has suffered retaliation by the fire district. Tony DeMaio, a former Captain who was demoted to engineer last fall, continues appealing his dismissal just before last Christmas, ending his 18 years of service to the GVFD. Daniel Burgan, several months after alleging mistreatment by former assistant Chief Ted Martin, recently resigned his firefighter position. Chief O’Donohue was rebuffed when asked the Board during its February 18 meeting to allow him to use Phoenix attorney John Kelly to handle personnel matters beyond the DeMaio appeal, the purpose for which he was originally retained. Board member Jack Hommel said the Fire District’s interests are being diluted through use of too many lawyers on too many issues. Hommel said the GVFD is better served by sticking with Bill Whittington, its primary legal counsel. “I think that we ought not to go away from having a single law firm representing all of our interests,” Hommel said. “I believe the firm of which Mr. Whittington is part is quite capable of handling all the issues that we need to be dealt with.” Brooks agreed, noting that Whittington is already familiar with the GVFD, its issues and the various players. And she said Whittington, at $150 an hour, is half as expensive as the $300 hourly rate charged by Kelly. Robinson was in the minority of a 4-1 vote rejecting O’Donohue’s request to further engage Kelly.
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