Pine Fire Chief's Contract Terminated

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Late last month the board of the Pine-Strawberry Fire District voted to end its contract with Chief Paul Coe, but Coe continues to work for the district.

"We're in a negotiation stage," Coe said. "I really can't say any more than that."

Only three board members were present at the Sept. 24 meeting and only two, chair Karen Killen and member Ross Gooder, voted to terminate the chief's contract. Board Clerk Don Smith, who is a volunteer with the fire department and married to one of its employees, abstained. Members Rose Harper and Jerry Eisele were absent.

Killen refused to comment, on the advice of the attorney retained by the board, William Whittington.

The negotiation has to do with the other part of Gooder's motion that terminated Coe's contract, "... without cause, with pay and severance."

"I thought the attorneys were going to work it out," Coe said of the severance package at the Oct. 15 meeting of the board.

Coe has retained C. Benson Hufford of the Flagstaff law firm Hufford, Horstman, Mongini, Parnell and McCarthy, to represent him in negotiating his severance package.

Minutes from earlier fire board meetings show there had been complaints made to the board by employees and volunteers of the fire department. While the record does not state that the complaints led to the board's action dismissing Coe, how they came to the group is a concern of the chief and his attorney.

The complaints -- some solicited by the board -- were made contrary to existing policy, which requires they be made to the chief and if the resolution is not satisfactory, they then go to the board.

Coe told the board he felt that it has focused on only negative criticism and has not done any follow up discussions that would provide positive views of the department.

"We're on hold as much as anybody," Coe said. "I want to get the agreement dealt with so I can get out of here."

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