Kingman Fire Department has a new chief

John Rhoades Jr. will meet the council Dec. 2

KINGMAN - The city has hired an Edmond, Okla., man to lead the Kingman Fire Department once longtime Chief Chuck Osterman retires in December.

City Manager John Dougherty described John "Jake" Rhoades, Jr. as a "strong and dynamic" leader.

His appointment as chief does not come without controversy.

According to several sources, Rhoades resigned from the Edmond Fire Department Aug. 1, four months after three firefighters filed complaints alleging he created a hostile work environment and was guilty of corruption and coercion.

Rhoades was cleared of the charges in July following an independent investigation that determined the allegations were unsubstantiated.

Still, Edmond City Manager Larry Stevens, according to Oklahoma newspaper accounts, disciplined Rhoades and placed him on paid administrative leave pending a resolution.

Rhoades returned to active duty in mid-July, but abruptly tendered his resignation Aug. 1, effective Aug. 4.

Dougherty said Rhoades was thoroughly vetted and that he looked into the allegations.

Dougherty said several people in Edmond were willing to talk to him or other city staffers during the vetting process and defended the chief, who was named Edmond's fire chief in November 2012.

Dougherty said the Oklahoma city's fire department had a reputation of being dysfunctional when Rhoades assumed leadership.

He noted the three complaints came out of a department with a couple hundred employees.

"He was cleared by an independent investigator, yet it continues to come up," said Dougherty in an email. "Did he do everything correctly? By his own account, no, but he learned from those mistakes.

Dougherty said Stevens, his counterpart in Edmond, gave Rhoades a "solid endorsement."

Rhoades responded to the controversy in an email.

"I enjoyed the vast majority of my time in Edmond, but instituting change within this organization proved to be a difficult and daunting task," said Rhoades.

"The allegations that were brought forth were found to have no validity after the investigation was conducted by a third-party investigator hired by the city of Edmond. During the course of this investigation into these allegations, administrative leave was utilized by the city manager to benefit myself as well as the course of the process."

He said he stepped down due to stress.

"My resignation was a necessity for my health and best interests of my family, and came after months of anguish and frustration."

According to FirefighterNation.com, Rhoades is a 21-year veteran of the fire service who holds a master's degree in executive fire service leadership.

Dougherty said the new chief will begin work Dec. 1 and spend one week working with Osterman.

When the week is finished, he will return to Edmond for the Christmas holidays and return with his wife and children Jan. 5.

"It was necessary to break things up because I wanted to give Jake time to work with Chief Osterman and Jake needed time to give his wife, Brenda, and children time to finish out this semester of school," said Dougherty in an email.

Dougherty said Rhoades is excited about coming to Kingman.

He will be formally introduced at the City Council's Dec. 2 meeting.