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Investigation completed following vote of no confidence in assistant fire chief

By NATALIE MARTIN
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber Editor
September 24, 2013 · Updated 5:05 PM
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The board of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue met in executive session Tuesday evening to discuss the results of an investigation into union allegations against the agency’s assistant chief.

Fire Chief Hank Lipe said the results of the investigation would be available to the public after the baord meeting, which took place after The Beachcomber’s press deadline. He also declined to comment on the investigation until after the meeting.

“I think it would be inappropriate to release it before the board discussed it and came up with any concrete decision on the information,” he said.

The investigation was launched last month after the firefighters’ union took a vote of no confidence in Assistance Chief  of Operations George Brown, who has been with the department since 2009.

Members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 4189 contend that Brown’s “actions, words and behavior had fostered a work environment which continues to be contentious, demoralizing, demeaning and displays a notable lack of leadership,” according to a letter presented to the fire board last month.

At the time, union president Steve Palmer said the 23-member union’s vote, taken in July, was overwhelmingly no confidence. In an interview, he elaborated on the group’s complaints, saying he felt Brown was a poor manager and an ineffective leader, keeps a schedule that takes him off-island much of the time, doesn’t complete work and is sometimes disrespectful and aggressive.

The agency hired a private consulting firm based in Seattle that specializes in internal investigations to research the union’s claims. Lipe said an investigator spent several weeks interviewing VIFR staff members and completed a 30-page report, which was made available to board members last week.

While some board members have declined to comment on the situation, others expressed surprise at the turn of events last month and said they believed Brown was doing a good job.

Brown, in an interview, denied many of the union’s claims and said he has been implementing changes at the department that Lipe and the board have requested and that operations had improved under his watch.

On Friday, board member Candy McCullough said she was planning to review the report before the meeting and would keep an open mind.

“I want to do what’s best for the community, and if George is it, I want to keep him. If George isn’t, I want to get rid of him. Bottom line, whatever is the right thing,” she said.

 

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