FD #3 employee appeal changes original decision

The Jackson County Fire District 3 Board of Directors met in a special meeting Dec. 10 to hear an appeal of a decision made following an executive session Nov. 9. The appeal was from Laurie Wilkerson based on a Nov. 10 letter wherein authorization was given for a two day suspension without pay. At Wilkerson’s request, it was an open meeting.

Wilkerson was represented by attorney, Brian Pocock, from Eugene. She began her employment with Fire District 3  at the front desk seven years ago and more recently has been the office manager.  Pocock’s  initial comments centered on the difficulty in responding without information the board had from the executive session and learning basis for chief’s opinions and where he got his documentation.

Pocock went on to say he understood there were five allegations with regard to Wilkerson and began asking Wilkerson questions, to which she provided answers.

There were instances wherein Wilkerson had conversations with employees, such as a Civil Service member or an assistant fire marshal that were not reported to Fire Chief Dave Hard.

Board member Cindy Hauser asked the chief if these were issues that could have been resolved instead of going to the appeal level. Hard said he needed to be kept informed.

The chief corrected some of the details in Wilkerson’s answers, such as two people had a conversation in the kitchen, not the hallway as Wilkerson indicated and correcting a date of a conversation.

The board learned that Wilkerson had not had an evaluation since 2006. Hard, who is in his second year as chief, said he did not do evaluations his first year because he walked into a tumultuous situation when he was hired and he started a process to evaluate this year but other issues kept that from occurring.

In conclusion, Pocock said he didn’t think the charges were worth a hill of beans. “She did nothing wrong. She cares about her record and wants vindication.”

The board adjourned to executive session to discuss their options and when they reconvened, Colin Fagan made a motion that directed the fire chief to issue a letter of reprimand following board policy.

Board discussion ensued before the four members present (Lois Wilson was not in attendance) gave approval.

Fagan said the board president was to work with the chief to improve relationships in the district. He said Wilkerson had to deal with a lot as the district went from one chief to another. He said the board needs to discuss policy changes to avoid this sort of happening in the future.

Other board members noted the district does not need to be fragmented and a confidentiality policy that would be signed as part of employment needs to be put in place.

Wilkerson has been on leave since Oct. 20. She is eligible to return to work Monday, Dec. 14, said the chief.

One other item not discussed by the board of directors was the resignation of Chief Barry Hoffman. A notice was sent to all personal on Dec. 10 from Chief Hard, which said:

“Last night chief Hoffman notified me that he is retiring. I, on behalf of the entire District, extended sincere appreciation to Chief Hoffman for his 32 years of career service to the District and over 35 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Oregon.

Please extend retired Chief Hoffman every courtesy and respect given to any retired District member. Information on a retirement event will be forthcoming.

I will meet with staff and discuss my thoughts for an interim plan to address this vacancy. I’ll provide further information by Dec. 18.”
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent


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