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Brown will not accept fire chief position

ASHLAND — The City of Ashland announced Tuesday morning that Devon Brown will not assume the role of Ashland Fire and Rescue Chief under employment with Jackson County Fire District No. 3 as planned. Acting Fire Chief Ralph Sartain continues to provide management leadership for the department.

The City Council and board of directors for District No. 3 approved an intergovernmental agreement for fire chief services and Brown’s appointment Nov. 17. However, “after further discussion and consideration, Division Chief Brown chose to remain with Klamath Fire District 1,” according to a press release Nov. 24.

The council placed Brown as the next Ashland Fire and Rescue chief through approval of the IGA, but Interim City Administrator Adam Hanks on Monday said, “We are working on the Devon Brown component of the agreement.”

“He is not yet employed by District 3 and we do not yet have an expected start date,” he said.

Hanks said Brown’s decision to remain in Klamath Falls was finalized at the end of last week and the information was released one business day after key stakeholders became aware of his decision. No secondary candidate has been identified.

Details of the approved IGA still stand.

The city will prepare supplemental options to fill the role through collaboration with District No. 3 and other regional fire partners, including Ashland Firefighter Union Leadership, Hanks said.

Councilor and Mayor-elect Julie Akins, who voted against passing the IGA and Brown’s appointment Nov. 17, said the best way forward is in a “clear and inclusive way.”

The Ashland Firefighters Local 1269 criticized Akins on Facebook for circulating misinformation about the proposed new chief, including inaccurate salary figures and implication that the vote had come without warning.

The group described Brown’s decision to pull his name from candidacy as a “major setback” from an otherwise positive step forward for public safety that “reflected an understanding of the fundamental lesson the Almeda fire burned into our minds: No one stands alone.”

According to city documents, the concept of a District 3-City of Ashland partnership proposition came before council Sept. 15 and Nov. 2, before taking a place on the consent agenda for approval Nov. 17, when Akins requested to table it pending further discussion. The motion failed for lack of a second and the IGA was approved 5-1.

On Nov. 18, Akins posted to Facebook that the figure reported as the total cost for budgeting the fire chief’s position in the next biennium represented salary alone, which is inaccurate, according to Hanks.

The $225,504 listed for the first full fiscal year of the chief’s employment encompasses salary equivalent to the former fire chief and costs to the employer, such as health care, workers’ compensation costs and other expenses. The IGA requires payments from the city to the district for fire chief services increase by 2.5% annually to account for inflation.

According to the City of Ashland employee salary schedule for 2020-2021, positions in Grade 504 of the pay scale start at $108,312 and max at $138,613 after eight years. The grade includes fire chief, police chief, director of public works, director of electric, director of community development, director of administrative services and director of human resources.

In her post, Akins criticized the two- to three-year service term as a method of spending money to train a “rented fire chief” whose services will eventually transfer to the fire district, and further questioned why the decision wasn’t left to the next mayor and City Council, in the best interest of budget security.

Akins specified in the post and during the council meeting Nov. 17 that she did not harbor ill will against the candidate personally, but wished to see a broader candidate search with a greater focus on diversity.

“Fire season is coming and we need to hire Ashland’s Fire Chief to lead our excellent team of first responders,” Akins said Tuesday. “It needs to be an inclusive process with our stated goal of equity, inclusion and diversity and we need a person with solid experience the council, community and firefighters can support.”

Ashland Firefighters Local 1269 speculated that qualified candidates in the region may be dissuaded from submitting their names after watching the first round of selection unfold in a disjointed manner.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.