Community’s Message to ALSFD Governing Board was Clear
By Noel Smith
Aptos La Selva Fire Station #1 was the scene of 1-1/2 hours of intense public input on Thursday May 11, 2017 to the Fire District Board concerning the status of current Fire Chief Jon Jones. Since the Firefighters of the district made public their unanimous vote of no confidence in the Chief in a letter to the Board in March, the issue of extending of the chief’s contract by the Trustees for another two years has become the focal point of community concern.
The board may take up the issue of the Chief’s 2-year extension, if he asks for it, at their next meeting on June 8.
Approximately 20 speakers took to the microphone to express their opinions. Their statements included, “Change management,” “Three firefighters have retired early and another resigned because of the Chief,” “The situation is beyond repair, it’s time to change leadership,” “If the board doesn’t take action it will destroy the Fire Department,” “If the board votes to continue the crisis, it could be time for a recall election,” “This has become a toxic work environment and we demand change,” “Get rid of Jon Jones,” “The board shouldn’t use the District’s money to fight the union,” “Change plans, it’s not working,” “The ball is in your court,” “Where do we go from here?”
The March letter from Local 3535 of the IAFF to the Board said in part, “Unfortunately, after nearly three years of failed leadership, a complete lack of communication, the inability to compromise, and the absence of a strategic plan for our future, we have come to the firm conclusion that the only way to save our Fire District is to change the leadership with a new Chief.”
The letter also stated, “Internally our Firefighters’ morale has never been lower. Chief Jones’ management style has alienated our division Chiefs and Firefighters alike resulting in an organization that is in disarray without direction. The threat of discipline is frequently used as a tool for intimidation and retaliation. Lawsuits are now a regular part of our District as the Firefighter Bill of Rights and labor standards are consistently violated.”
On May 8 the State of California, Public Employment Relations Board issued a formal complaint of unfair practices (Case No. SF-CE-1480-M) to the District for which they have until May 28 to respond. The complaint revolves around the union’s calling into question to both Chief Jones and to the Board a 40% pay raise given to Tracy New, the Director of Business Services and Board Secretary. As a result of the union’s actions, Ms. New initiated a complaint against the district for discrimination and the district required that the union members that had questioned the increase were to attend mandatory interviews about New’s complaint or they could be disciplined or even terminated.
Captain Will Wingert, Vice President of IAFF Local 3535 said, “We wanted to avoid a vote of no confidence and tried to communicate with Chief Jones about the issues. We had welcomed him as a new man with a new vision but the work environment began to change and has gotten worse until we were losing good people before they really wanted to leave.”
The current board consists of the following trustees: Jim Abendschan – First Appointed: 2010, Next Election: General 2018 • Joe Foster — First Appointed: 2015, Next Election: General 2020 • Vincent Hurley — First Appointed: 2000, Next Election: General 2018 • George Lucchesi — First Elected: 2016, Next Election: General 2020 • Robert “Bob” Spisak – First Appointed: 2008, Next Election: General 2020
The next board meeting is Thursday, June 8 at fire station #1, 6934 Soquel Drive, just South of Cabrillo College.