Former Medford Fire-Rescue Chief Dave Bierwiler says his 24-year tenure with the city came to an abrupt and unceremonious end in March when he was fired by City Manager Eric Swanson.
Immediately after his termination, Bierwiler told the Mail Tribune that he left for "personal reasons."
However, his termination agreement obtained Friday by the Mail Tribune through a public information request showed otherwise.
"I could not talk about what had happened at the time because of a legal agreement," Bierwiler said Friday.
The termination agreement is dated April 30, 2013, and signed by Bierwiler and Swanson.
"The City Manager has informed (Bierwiler) of his decision ... to relieve (Bierwiler) of his responsibilities effective March 15, 2013," the document states.
The termination agreement goes on to say that Bierwiler was put on paid administrative leave until April 30.
A settlement package also was agreed upon, but those details were redacted from the document. City attorney John Huttl has declined to provide any compensation amounts that may have been part of the termination agreement.
The Mail Tribune on Friday sent a request to Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert that she order the city to release the terms of the agreement, saying the public has the right to know how its money is being spent.
"Providing these details to the public guarantees transparency in government and guards against potential abuses," the letter from the Mail Tribune argued.
Bierwiler said he could not discuss the settlement because he signed a confidentiality agreement. However, he said he is not opposed to the information becoming open to the public through an information request made by the media.
Bierwiler, speaking publicly on his departure from the city for the first time, said the firing came as a shock.
"On March 15, I went in for a regular biweekly meeting with the city manager and was told there was going to be a change in the fire department and I wasn't going to be a part of that change," Bierwiler said.
Bierwiler said he was asked to turn in his pager and was escorted out of his office building 15 minutes after his termination.
"After 24 years of service as the fire chief and the longest serving department head in the city, I had expected better when I departed," Bierwiler said. "I was truly surprised at what had happened."
Bierwiler intimated that he was fired because he did not support the idea of Medford Fire-Rescue consolidating services with Jackson County Fire District No. 3.
"It's fairly clear what happened," Bierwiler said. "Others can look at the information and draw their own conclusions."
Swanson denied that Bierwiler's firing had anything to do with a potential plan to share resources with District 3.
Swanson noted that the discussions about working with District 3 began after Bierwiler was let go.
"This had nothing to do with (the firing)," Swanson said. "It's just the product of what I would call an active imagination."
When asked to give the specific reasons for Bierwiler's termination, Swanson declined to expand on the city's reasoning.
Medford Fire-Rescue and District 3 are in the early stages of looking into shared management, purchasing and training. No concrete proposals have been announced by either department.
Bierwiler said that during his tenure, the department had informally looked into consolidating service over the years, but the idea did not appear cost-effective for Medford residents.
"I hope they can figure out a way to make it work to where the city is not paying a higher amount for the same amount of service," Bierwiler said.
Since his firing, Bierwiler has joined his ailing parents in Montana. His father died last week.
Bierwiler is looking forward to teaching emergency services leadership classes and pursuing various hobbies in his retirement.
"I was honored to serve the people of Medford for 24 years," Bierwiler said.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.