Archive for Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Firefighters resign from department

June 5, 2002

The turmoil in Tonganoxie's fire department continues.

Two officers have resigned from the volunteer department, on the heels of the dismissal of the city's longtime chief.

Lt. Ron Kampfer and assistant fire chief Pat Morey have submitted their resignations.

Both officers cited former fire chief Charlie Conrad's dismissal and Dave Bennett's appointment as deputy chief training officer as reasons for leaving the department.

"I was just disappointed in the way everything was handled and the way he was dismissed," Morey said of the decision to not reappoint Conrad as chief.

In a letter of resignation, Kampfer also discussed his disagreement with recent decisions.

"I believe the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Chief Conrad and the subsequent appointment of the interim chief was handled in an unprofessional manner," Kampfer wrote. "The surreptitious manner surrounding the petition that was circulated asking for the resignation of Chief Conrad showed a true lack of respect for the office and the man."

Some firefighters signed a petition late last year asking for Conrad's resignation. Conrad refused to resign after 16 years as fire chief.

A mediator was called in to work out the department's disagreements, but on May 13 Conrad was replaced with interim chief Butch Rodgers. Conrad was months shy of working in the department for 30 years.

During the May 28 city council meeting, Mayor John Franiuk presented Conrad with a plaque for his years of service.

"I know the community has looked up to you many times," Franiuk said during the presentation.

Now the city must find replacements for Kampfer and Morey as well as a long-term replacement for Conrad. The mayor has said he would like to find a chief from among the ranks of firefighters.

Franiuk said the department has a system of evaluating its members and is involved with constant training. When firefighters respond to fires, the first person at the scene is the scene commander, indicating the department has capable members who could fill the leadership roles.

"You hate to lose experience," Franiuk said. "It's not the first time we've lost people."

The mayor said it's also possible positions could be filled by outside personnel.

"The department is always actively seeking new recruits, new volunteers. There are certain volunteers who've given a lot of service."

Both officials have had many years with the department. Morey said giving that up was a difficult decision.

"I mean 13 years I volunteered up there with something I gave so much devotion to," Morey said. "It was tough to walk away from it.

"It was tough to do, but they didn't consult me with everything they'd done and I was ultimately second in charge, instead of having me read it in the newspaper."

Franiuk said the two officials had a great deal of experience with the department.

"Both are very competent and highly trained and respected among officers and firefighters," Franiuk said. "It came as a disappointment to see them resign. That happens in organizations, but we will rise and overcome this and find people to fill those fire boots."

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