LHVFD says WCESD#4 should allow public to be more involved in chief selection
(UPDATED: Dec. 1, 2009)
Commissioners for the Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 announced Nov. 25th that they are seeking public input in writing into the "qualities, qualifications, and experience" of a new Fire Chief. But, a spokesman for the Liberty Hill Volunteer Fire Department's Board of Directors issued a statement today suggesting the ESD Board isn't doing enough to involve the community in the decision-making process.
“This sudden interest in what the public thinks is hypocritical, arrogant, heavy handed and the timing is downright queer,” said Charley Wilkison, president of the LHVFD Board of Directors.
Wilkison called on the ESD commissioners to "scrap this kangaroo proceeding and start all over and allow the public to have real input.”
WCESD#4 President Gene Gatlin said Nov. 25th that "public comment is being solicited now to incorporate thoughtful opinions into the formal interview and selection process." In a press release submitted to Radio Free Liberty Hill, he said comments should be delivered by email or in writing through the US Mail or dropped off at the fire station during business hours. He provided the email addresses of all five commissioners.
Wilkison said the ESD's request that citizens share their views in writing is indicative of a Board that is afraid to open itself up to public hearings. He said previous fire chiefs have been chosen by the community rather than by "political appointees (meeting) in secret."
"The ESD is clearly afraid of the public they serve," he said.
The LHVFD Board filed a lawsuit against the WCESD#4 in September, which is pending in the 368th District Court of Williamson County. (Read the Story)
Wilkison suggested that the ESD should not be hiring a fire chief until the legal issues are resolved. The "outcome and resulting legal appeals will directly affect how the fire department is operated in the future. Once again, they have it all backwards," he said.
The Board of Commissioners had a special meeting Nov. 24th, and although there were several items on the agenda, the Board tabled those and went into executive session to review applications for the Chief position. Commissioners met in closed session for almost two hours, but took no action when they reconvened. A reporter from Radio Free Liberty Hill was the only person from the public in attendance during the open session.
Commissioners have budgeted $90,000 for the Fire Chief's salary and benefits. Earlier this month, Gatlin told Radio Free Liberty Hill that the Board had received 10 applications for the position and expected the search committee (Commissioners Dean Andrews and Dana Ripley) to interview six of them. Andrews said Nov. 24th that they have not interviewed any of the candidates, however, they are looking into their backgrounds and talking with people in their respective communities.
Gatlin invited individuals to communicate directly to commissioners in writing. Comments may be sent by email to commissioners by using the links below, or sent by US Mail to P.O. Box 1256, Liberty Hill, TX 78642; or dropped off at the Liberty Hill Fire Department, 301 Loop 332 in Liberty Hill.