Board extinguishes fire chief's employment

NEAL BELLEW

NEAL BELLEW

GOLDEN VALLEY - The Golden Valley Fire Department is without a chief after the board elected to sever its relationship with interim chief Neal Bellew at its board meeting Tuesday.

It was also revealed during the meeting that Bellew (Ba-LOO) failed to tell the board about a firefighter who is charged with driving under the influence while off duty.

It was reported last week that Bellew resigned his position and turned in his keys to the office manager. Two days later, Bellew told the board he hadn't quit and that he was just taking some time off.

Bellew was appointed to serve as interim chief for 90 days after Chief Rudy Barboa retired in April after more than 20 years with the department. In the last several weeks, the board had discussed whether to appoint Bellew as the permanent chief or whether to open the process to other applicants.

The office manager said Bellew came into the office last week, tossed his keys on her desk and told her to "tell your friends on the board that I'm gone, they got what they wanted."

The board voted 3-2 at Tuesday's meeting to end its relationship with Bellew, with Lovelle Barnett and Noel Labonte casting the dissenting votes. Labonte said Bellew had 18 years of honorable service with the department, serving as a firefighter, board member and person on call, and that he had to jump through hoops to please board members during his latest stint as interim chief.

Board member Curt Hardy said he was disappointed in Bellew's performance. He said he saw a first-responder vehicle parked at Station No. 2 with a near bald tire several weeks after Bellew had been appointed.

"It's not rocket science to walk around and do a little hands on work," Hardy said. "I haven't seen the leadership quality (from Bellew) I believe this department deserves."

Board chairman Marc Frederick said he recently learned that one of the department's firefighters had been charged with DUI. He said the board asked Bellew point blank if the department had checked everyone's driving records.

Bellew said it was his understanding that the firefighter has been charged but not yet convicted of the offense. He said he was asked if everyone had a driver's license, and that to the best of his knowledge, everyone did. He added that the department's policy book states that a person convicted of DUI cannot drive a department vehicle for 18 months.

Frederick said his issue isn't so much about the offense but rather the fact that it was not disclosed by Bellew.

"We have to make sure, from a board standpoint, that legally we're not putting the community at risk," he said.

Frederick said the department had not checked employee driving records until the current board was in place.

Two captains were asked at Tuesday's meeting if they would like to serve as chief until a replacement could be found. The board has already advertised the open position and has received four applications.

Both captains declined the offer. The board elected to have the captains in charge of day-to-day operations on their shifts. The board said it would contact the Mohave Valley and Bullhead City fire departments and ask for help finding a replacement.

Two residents spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. One woman said the board did nothing for 90 days and asked for an investigation into their activities. A second woman said she attended the last four board meetings and said the chief lost his temper and refused to answer questions.

Frederick said he was disappointed in the turnout from the community. While the meeting was standing room only, he said all but three or four people were either employees or spouses of the district.

"We are one of the largest taxing entities on the people of Golden Valley and it was sad to not see more people interested," he said.