Former fire district board member leads drive to recall current board members
KINGMAN – Former Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District board member Sue Wilkin took out a petition May 22 to recall board members Mike Collins and Jim Bailey for open meeting violations and creating a divisive and caustic board relationship.
Wilkin’s petition alleges that Collins and Bailey engaged in “unlawful practices,” and that the board held “clandestine” meetings with Professional Firefighters Association Local 4191.
Also, the actions of Collins and Bailey have put the fire district and its residents in jeopardy by appointing underqualified people to the board in order to protect their personal interests, Wilkin asserts.
Wilkin and Vic Riccardi were removed from the NACFD board after taking plea agreements for conflict-of-interest charges regarding $1,357 of diagnostic work performed on one of the fire district trucks at a repair shop owned by Riccardi’s son-in-law in Valle Vista.
Board chairwoman Patti Lewis resigned her position after Collins and Bailey overrode her vote and appointed Carl Hays and Erik Berg to the board on May 17. The board then followed with a special meeting on May 23 in which they terminated Fire Chief Wayne Eder’s employment contract.
Wilkin, a 15-year NACFD board member, said she couldn’t stand by and watch Collins and Bailey destroy the district.
“Because it’s not in my nature to let go of a wrong,” she said Thursday about her recall effort. “I try to right a wrong, and there’s a whole bunch of them.”
In a May 25 letter to the board, Eder said the May 23 meeting was conducted in violation of state law, and that his rights as a contract employee were also clearly violated. The next day, the board fired his assistant, Nikki Berry.
All actions by the board after the appointment of Hays and Berg are in violation of the law due to their illegal appointment, he said. Hays listed his district residence as an aircraft hangar at Kingman Airport, and Berg failed to file his oath of office at Mohave County Elections by the required deadline, Eder alleged.
“I expect my salary and benefits to continue uninterrupted, and all personal items remaining in my office to be left unmolested,” Eder wrote in his letter.
He plans on returning to full duty as NACFD fire chief once he’s released from medical leave by the district’s workers’ compensation carrier.
At an informal meeting Wednesday, private investigator Michael Boone laid out strategies for gathering the 892 signatures required for the recall petition within 120 days.
He advised organizers to focus on specific issues, and not have the petition so “convoluted” that everyone loses track of its purpose.
“The cronyism and nepotism at the district is deeper than anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” Boone said. “Sooner or later, people will get sick of it.”
The petition will note that more than 50 firefighters have left the district because of a “hostile” work environment, equipment that’s been in need of repair and maintenance for years, the push to join the firefighters union and resulting higher taxes, closing fire stations and understaffing.
The petition will also highlight Eder’s accomplishments as fire chief over the last year, including the purchase of a new water tender, repairs and updated maintenance records on older trucks, and recruiting and training volunteer firefighters.