ashland.news
June 13, 2024

County commissioners to fill vacancies on non-functioning Fire District No. 5 board

The Jackson County Fire District No. 5 board in a meeting March 5, shortly before three board members abruptly resigned and walked out. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
March 14, 2024

Three of five board members abruptly resigned March 5 after months of turmoil

By Buffy Pollock, Rogue Valley Times

Jackson County commissioners announced Wednesday in a news release that they intend to fill three new vacancies on the Jackson County Fire District No. 5 board of directors.

On March 5, three of five district board members abruptly resigned just before an executive session was set to be held.

The resignations — by Mike Winters, Cary Halligan and Vicki Purslow — came after months of turmoil and union-represented employees’ loss of confidence in Fire Chief Charles Hanley, who is alleged to have tolerated and participated in bullying and harassment of district employees.

The resignations left the board without a quorum and unable to conduct official business.

While vacancies are typically filled by appointment by remaining members of a special district board, “if a majority of the board cannot agree after deliberating at four regular or special meetings, or if a majority of the membership of the board is vacant, the vacancy will be referred to Jackson County Board of Commissioners for the appointment,” according to district policy set by state statute.

The remaining board members — Derek Volkart and Sam Pare-Miller — submitted a letter to the county commissioners Friday asking them to fill just one of the three vacancies.

Commissioners deliberated Wednesday and agreed to fill all three openings. Volkart and Pare-Miller took issue with the commissioners’ statements and sent a second letter, in which they questioned the urgency to fill the vacancies.

“Following yesterday’s … work session, we want to address what appears to be some missing information.

“First, a question arose as to the urgency of the business of JCFD5. We had assumed you were all aware that prior to directors Purslow, Winters and Halligan resigning en masse” — district board members are called “directors” — “the board of directors unanimously voted to authorize an investigation of allegations made in the union complaints,” the letter states.

“We both voted in a prior motion to place Chief Hanley on administrative leave during an investigation. That vote failed with the now-resigned directors voting against it. Our urgency is based on workplace health and safety concerns, a loss of firefighters and the delays caused by the mass resignations, including the delay in hiring an investigator for the authorized investigation.”

Volkart and Miller request that just one vacancy be filled, “allowing the majority of the Board to then appoint the remaining vacancies,” the letter states.

While Oregon Revised Statutes allow for some discretion, the letter states, “the JCFD5 policy reads more clearly and our hope is that you choose to uphold our policies and appoint one director allowing the board majority of three to conduct business, including appointing the remaining two vacancies,” the letter continues.

County commissioner Rick Dyer said in an interview Wednesday that the commission would, in fact, appoint all three seats, rather than just the one needed to reinstate a quorum. Commissioners advertised the vacancies on the county website Wednesday and will receive applications through March 29.

“The responsibility to name board members falls on the commissioners. There are three missing, and the board feels that responsibility was given to us for a reason, so it’s up to us to make the board whole again,” Dyer said.

“What I’m looking for is somebody who has a desire to serve their community and go in with an open mind. … I know there have been some concerns, and there are some issues they’ll have to deal with right away. What I’d like to see of the ones going in is just purely the motivation to serve the community and do a good job.”

Letters of interest can be sent by email, BoC-CAO_Admin@jacksoncountyor.gov, or by mail to: Board of Commissioners, 10 South Oakdale, room 214, Medford, 97501.

For position requirements, visit online.

Reach reporter Buffy Pollock at 458-488-2029 or bpollock@rv-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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