Calif. Mayor, Council Debate Chief's Job Description

July 03--Disagreement over language in a job description for a new Marysville fire chief sparked a dust-up between the mayor and a council member.

The council voted 3-2 Tuesday against a description that says the new chief would report only to City Manager Walter Munchheimer. Council members Mike Selvidge, Dale Whitmore and Chris Pedigo preferred making the chief answerable to both the city manager and council.

The vote came after Selvidge said Munchheimer last November contacted CalFire officials to try and have now-retired Battalion Chief Mike Carr removed from his Marysville duties. The following month CalFire sent a notice of its intention to pull out of its contract with the city.

"Our city manager went through CalFire to try to get him fired," Selvidge said during the meeting.

Selvidge made the connection between Munchheimer's alleged call and the CalFire notice, asking the question of whether the two incidents were connected.

Mayor Ricky Samayoa called Selvidge's comments "hearsay and innuendo." He called it "unfair" and "extremely unprofessional" to bring the matter up in public.

The council last month voted to end its relationship with CalFire, citing increased costs during a time of severe budget constraints. It instead decided to start a new city department that needs to be in place before CalFire leaves in June 2015.

Munchheimer did not respond to Selvidge's comments during the meeting and would not comment Wednesday morning. But he said that delaying the action will hold up the hiring of a new chief.

Since the proposed language failed to win approval, the matter will have to be revisited.

"It is not a good time to delay because we are just at the start of recruitment," he said Wednesday morning. "If we are going to set up our own department, there is some financial urgency to it."

Munchheimer noted the city continues to pay $35,000 a month for CalFire service.

The issue over the fire chief followed unanimous approval for specifications for captain, engineer and firefighter/EMT positions in the new department. The council also approved changes in a vacant administrative services director position also being filled.

But Selvidge complained about language in the fire chief job description and proposed adding verbiage in which the chief also reports to the council.

Samayoa said adding such language will create confusion.

"It becomes muddled on who gives direction," Samayoa said. "This is taking over just basic decision-making from the person we hired to run the city day to day."

Selvidge later referred to Samayoa's comments that he was being "unprofessional."

"When I was elected, I told people I would try to be transparent, and I have tried to be," he said.

Marysville businessman Bruce Buttacavoli, who was present for a public hearing on a planned sales tax measure, spoke in support of Munchheimer.

"All of us out here have more respect for him than the council does," he said.

CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769.

Copyright 2014 - Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.