Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
KINGMAN – Fire Chief Wayne Eder saw the writing on the wall a month ago when two members of the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District board of directors were forced out over conflict-of-interest charges and the board chairwoman resigned her position.
They were his allies, the people who hired him as interim chief in March 2017 and named him to the permanent position a year later.
Now he’s up against Mike Collins and Jim Bailey, the two directors who voted against his hiring, and newly appointed directors Carl Hays and Erik Berg.
“I’m going to get fired,” Eder said as he left Thursday’s tense board meeting in which a special session was scheduled to discuss the fire chief’s employment, the application process for a new fire chief and legal ramifications.
That meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the NACFD Fire Station No. 31, 2485 Northern Ave.
“It is my responsibility as fire chief to point out that there is a continued strained relationship between the board and myself,” Eder read from a memo to the board. “Board members continue to spread gossip and false statements, undermining my authority as fire chief.”
He went through several points of contention, including an allegation by director Hays that the chief was harboring a suspected arsonist, and said he refuses to be the target of “unwarranted attacks and threats.”
Both Eder and his family have been placed under “undue stress” from questionable statements by Bailey and Collins to obtain a criminal indictment through the grand jury, he said.
Eder was dragged into the conflict of interest over a $1,300 fire engine repair at a shop owned by former board member Vic Riccardi, who spent three weeks in Mohave County jail over the Christmas holidays before taking a plea agreement.
He’s been informed that Bailey has offered the job of interim fire chief to Jason Scott, a battalion chief with the fire district, even though Eder’s contract runs until Dec. 6.
“I consider this a threat against my employment and livelihood and a continuation of the hostile work environment perpetuated by directors Collins and Bailey,” Eder said.
The chief also said the directors have refused to meet with him and are constantly in contact with battalion chiefs to get information.
“I feel that you as directors are circumventing my position, creating a morale issue in this organization,” he said.
Eder said he has witnessed a number of open meeting violations by Bailey and Collins, which doesn’t help with the morale issue, and has filed a workers’ compensation claim against the district for stress.
“Your actions are disappointing as I have continuously worked to improve the service delivery and firefighter safety since my return,” Eder said.
He went on to list problems with the fire district since he left as chief eight years ago, including misuse of public monies, lack of training and vehicle maintenance, decreased staffing and nepotism in hiring.
Bailey proposed the Wednesday meeting, and advised Eder not to take any records out of the office, either personnel or financial.
In a requested public agenda item, Michael Boone, a licensed private investigator in Arizona and California, said he’s begun an investigation of the district from 2008 to 2016, including employment of former Fire Chief Patrick Moore, and the appointments of Berg and Hays.