Golden Valley Fire District directors censure colleague, demand resignation

Golden Valley Fire District Board Director Rhonda Brooks listens during a special meeting Wednesday as Board Director Curt Hardy reads the allegations of wrongdoing made against her.

Golden Valley Fire District Board Director Rhonda Brooks listens during a special meeting Wednesday as Board Director Curt Hardy reads the allegations of wrongdoing made against her.

GOLDEN VALLEY - The Golden Valley Fire District Board of Directors voted 4-1 Wednesday to censure member Rhonda Brooks and also asked for her resignation.

The action came during a special meeting called to review allegations of Brooks' disruptive behavior and to discuss the formal complaints lodged by GVFD employees against her.

Brooks voted against the censure and refused to resign from the board.

Allegations against Brooks were lodged by at least two employees. They allege that Brooks:• Attempted to cause a rift between employees and upper management;

• Caused a considerable amount of time to be wasted by employees in order for them to answer her unnecessary and unwarranted criticisms, complaints and accusations;

• Causes undue tension among office staff;

• Circumvents the chain of command;

• Caused employees to feel increasingly stressful and intimidated by her, and;

• Created an unhealthy working relationship and environment within the district for its employees.

In a prepared statement, Director Steven Robinson said that Brooks had been counterproductive to the fire district and had shown a clear lack of integrity. Robinson also said Brooks had established a pattern of dishonesty, acted outside the purview and duties of a board member, may have caused the fire district to be at risk of serious liability and may have exposed herself to personal liability.

Some employees indicated in official documents that Brooks demonstrated disruptive behavior and conducted an email-writing campaign in an attempt to tarnish an employee's reputation.

They also stated Brooks had made it known in public on more than one occasion, since she was sworn in as a director, that she believed the district would be better off without Thomas O'Donohue as fire chief.

One of the complaints alleged that some of Brooks' emails accused the fire chief, staff and the board of directors of gender discrimination.

There were allegations that Brooks claimed minutes of previous meetings had been modified, that board members were conducting secret meetings, that she sent inappropriate and offensive emails, and that O'Donohue was trying to turn the board against her.

Brooks also allegedly accused staff of purposely drafting inaccurate minutes and even accused the fire district of posting the proposed budget "too high on public bulletin boards" so she couldn't read them.

In an email from O'Donohue to Brooks, he stated he believed there was an ever-widening gap in what should be a professional working relationship between her and the employees of GVFD.

"To date, you have not responded to me regarding this request," he wrote. "Since that request, and despite my endeavors to discuss fire district business, that gap seems to have grown to the point where it is making me even more uncomfortable and stressed in my position as the fire chief."

Brooks refused to defend her actions.

Prior to closing the special meeting, Chairman Mark Vanik directed Brooks to meet at least once a month with O'Donohue just as the other directors do prior to the regular monthly meetings.

Brooks has previously refused to meet with the fire chief refarding fire district matters.