Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2005

Rejection of fire chief nomination sparks heat

December 1, 2005

For the second-straight session of the Eudora City Council, Eudora Mayor Tom Pyle's fire chief appointment of Kevin Ganoe failed.

The council's decision leaves Eudora residents without a chief and sends the city back to where it was when the search began in August.

The discussion Monday began with Pyle's announcement of Ganoe as his choice for appointment. Ganoe is a firefighter, emergency medical technician and hazardous materials technician with the Divide, Colo., Fire Department.

"We've looked over his resume, and he's had lots of experience -- 32 years -- and he's the person I'd like to appoint," Pyle said.

The nomination failed 3-2.

Council members Bill Whitten, Scott Hopson and Kevin Miller voted against, and Dan Gregg and Lori Fritzel voted for Pyle's appointment.

Those opposing the appointment focused on how the city ran the previous search and how the two final applicants ---- Ganoe and Linwood resident Dan Shockley ---- were treated.

Whitten publicly apologized to Shockley because he felt he had no chance at the job and the council "wasted his time on that."

Council member Scott Hopson echoed the statement.

"I feel he was the best man and that he was qualified for the job," Hopson said. "I think he was strung along, and I don't think he was going to get fair consideration from the get-go."

Pyle responded by saying Shockley would have been ineligible for the job because of a state statute that requires a fire chief -- or any department head -- to live within city limits.

Shockley withdrew his name from consideration because of what he saw as unprofessional interview practices during the interview process.

"I just wanted people to know that I backed out not because I wasn't capable," Shockley said. "I backed out because what the administration was doing was so severely wrong."

He said he didn't find out about the state statute until late in the hiring process.

Shockley said he didn't believe he was a viable candidate throughout the process.

"I'm not trying to get my job back. When I withdrew from the process, I definitely knew what I was doing," Shockley said. "After watching how it was being done, I realized that it wasn't what I wanted to be part of."

The last job search was to be conducted by a committee of five people, including city administrator Cheryl Beatty, interim fire chief Mike Underwood and council members Gregg and Fritzel.

Of the council members, only Whitten has firefighting experience.

"I apologize for letting the city down for being on the board," Whitten said.

In order to rectify the issue, which the council saw as not having enough knowledge in choosing the best applicants, Whitten suggested the city use a team of fire chiefs from neighboring cities to sort out the resumes.

"I think I learned from my mistake," Whitten said. "I think we should bring in professionals like everyone does and have an educated decision."

The proposal did not gain the immediate support of the mayor.

"That's just going to extremes," Pyle said. "Eudora is a small city. We don't have that type of money to do what the large departments do.

"I think I'm certainly capable of looking and talking to the people and doing the same thing."

Despite Pyle's objection, other council members supported bringing professionals in.

"I know with Mr. Ganoe's application, I was looking at a lot of abbreviations and a lot of tech stuff that made no sense to me," Hopson said. "I'm not a fireman."

Hopson's lack of experience in firefighting didn't prevent his support for Shockley.

"My main belief in Mr. Shockley was that he has been a fire chief, he has been through their ranks, and earned his way to where he is today," Hopson said.

Likewise, when Hopson learned Ganoe was never a fire chief, a red flag went up, he said.

"I sat here and I voted for a fire chief in the past, and I felt it to be a huge mistake in hiring somebody who could learn the ropes as they go," Hopson said. "I will never do it again."

As discussion progressed, Hopson made a motion for the city to adopt a charter ordinance that would have nullified the state's residency statute in regard to Eudora.

The motion -- which would have needed support of four of five council members -- failed.

During the vote, Gregg offered his view.

"I didn't know either one of these candidates for the fire chief. I didn't have any preconceived notions of either one," Gregg said. "I also believe that department heads need to live within the city."

Following that motion, Hopson made another motion to reopen the position of fire chief, re-request applications and use a team of neighboring fire chiefs to sift through the resumes and recommend three candidates.

"I'd still like to see us do the interviews," Gregg said.

The motion passed.

Following the vote, Pyle opened the floor to public comment.

Mary Dahn, an observer who often videotapes council meetings, told council members they might be able to find resources in the fire chief search through the state fire marshal.

Pyle's view on the motion didn't change.

"I think we're making a mistake, but that's alright. It will be on someone else not me, because I've made my appointment," Pyle said.

Although the council agreed on its next step, some vestiges of the contention of Pyle's choice remained.

Hopson said that may surprise some people.

"You and I have been accused of being a good ol' boy thing, and obviously the good ol' boy thing isn't working because I'm not agreeing with you," he said to the mayor. "I'm just trying to make the best decision I can. That's my responsibility. That's all I'm asking for

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