Brooks rejects reconciliation with Golden Valley fire chief

Defiant GVFD member says she won't be a reliable vote for O'Donohue's proposals

Rhonda Brooks

Rhonda Brooks

GOLDEN VALLEY - A 16-month long censure on Board Director Rhonda Brooks almost came to an end at the Nov. 19 Golden Valley Fire District board meeting, but was swiftly tabled after a brief discussion and Brooks defiantly speaking out against Chief Tom O'Donohue.

The board meeting was the first under a settlement agreement between the Golden Valley Fire District and the attorney general. The board violated open meeting laws earlier this year, and as a result the board will conduct meetings with legal counsel present for the next six months under sanctions from the AG's office.

Bill Whittington will be that legal counsel, and presided over the meeting on Nov. 19.

Brooks was censured by the board in July of 2013 in response to allegations of her attempting to cause a rift between employees and management, wasting employees' time by forcing them to answer unwarranted criticisms and complaints, circumventing the chain of command, and creating an unhealthy working relationship and environment within the district.

Brooks was also asked to resign in July, but refused. She also has consistently spoken out against O'Donohue.

She also broke her self-imposed silence by agreeing to speak with the Miner.

"The chief asked me to run (for the board), and little did I know what I was getting into. He loves to have a lot of yes men around and made a mistake with me," said Brooks in a telephone interview.

"That's just business as usual. It's always 4-1, 5-1 with the chief. They routinely set me up to make me look bad."

The censure has prevented Brooks from interacting with fire district employees outside of picking up board packets at the office, and effectively limits her involvement to board meetings.

The board, O'Donohue and the audience discussed the future of the official rebuke at the Nov. 19 meeting.

"In order to promote harmony, I will suggest that this censure be voided," Director-elect Jack Hommell said, starting off a round of comments concerning the matter. Hommell will take office in December.

"I will try to seek resolution. The censure as it stands is decisive and disharmonious and should be dropped altogether," Hommell added during a phone interview with the Miner.

"We all get our information the same way. We should work on the same premise," said Director Paul Gorham.

"In the last 90 days, our staff has been more cordial with Director Brooks. I would enjoy that interaction on a regular basis," added Chief O'Donohue. "If the problem is fixed, the censure should be removed."

About 30 residents were present, with some reacting to the comments by their shaking heads in disapproval.

Before putting the matter to a vote, the board asked Brooks if she would take advantage of the lifted censure and work with the chief on fire district matters.

"I will not sit with the chief outside of a public meeting," Brooks said.

At that, the board agreed to table lifting the censure until the next meeting.

Brooks clarified her statements during the phone interview.

"They wanted me to meet in secret with the chief away from the meeting, and they want me to use company emails, which they've used against me," she said.

"They've used every possible method to destroy me. I do not trust them. There is no way in the world I will ever trust them."

A current attempt for a recall election against Brooks, spearheaded by fellow Director Steven Robinson, was submitted to the Mohave County Elections Office in October with nearly 750 signatures. The signatures are currently under review to determine if they are valid.

Also at the meeting:

• The Nicole Guerrero case was addressed during executive session, and the board proceeded as instructed by their legal counsel to not address it in public.

Guerrero filed harassment claims against both Brooks and O'Donohue in September and is seeking $75,000 in compensation. While action and approval of a settlement was possible during the meeting on Nov. 19 as per the agenda, no action was taken.

The next public board meeting is at 6 p.m. Dec. 17.

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