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Document not legally binding, is 'last ditch' effort to get attention of CCFR board regarding leadership concerns

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Firefighter union board issues vote of no confidence in chief.

The Crook County Firefighters Association union's executive board has recently proposed a vote of no confidence in CCFR Fire Chief Matt Smith.

The proposal was revealed after the Crook County Fire and Rescue district filed multiple objections to a ruling by the Employment Relations Board in favor of the union. The objections were filed after the district learned that the union's law firm had hired the adjudicator shortly after she had filed the ruling.

In a Motion to Acknowledge Confidence or No Confidence, the union executive board expressed multiple concerns about Smith's leadership.

"The executive board is concerned that, over the past several years, Chief Smith has demonstrated that he lacks many important leadership skills and that he is unwilling or unable to change or improve his approach to his very important position at CCFR," the executive board stated. "The association has attempted time and time again to work with Chief Smith to address these concerns and we have suggested many different possible solutions to improve the difficult situation we are all in. Unfortunately, these efforts have yielded no meaningful changes."

The document goes on to stress what makes a good leader and how important they feel strong leadership is to the organization and the work firefighters do for the people the district serves.

"Absent strong leadership, it is difficult to provide the highest level of service that Crook County residents deserve and that we all strive for," the executive board stated. "A good leader is firm, fair and consistent in their supervision. A good leader is not only open to input from the public and employees, they actively seek and encourage such input and consider various perspectives in making decisions. A good leader is not threatened or afraid of transparency, they understand that it is vital to the public service. A good leader also understands that the employees that are on the line every day are the face of the organization and their well-being, health, morale, and safety are important to ensure that the organization functions at the highest level possible."

The vote of no confidence includes a list of several concerns about Smith and his leadership. These include an ongoing pattern of anti-union behavior and discrimination against employees for protected activities, a refusal to communicate and collaborate with the union in working toward improved union/management relations and favoring or rewarding district employees who support him.

Union President Chad Grogan acknowledges that the motion is a statement from the employees and does not have any direct impact on whether Smith remains chief. The CCFR Board of Directors determines whether he remains employed or not.

"It is something we have considered for several years," Grogan said of the proposal. "This is our last ditch effort to get (the CCFR Board's) attention."

In response to the proposal, the district's attorney Steven Schuback issued a statement acknowledging that they received the vote of no confidence earlier this month.

"The district board publicly acknowledged the union's notice," the statement reads. "The fire board has decided to find an outside consultant to assess and evaluate the concerns raised and use a committee of fire board members to review the assessment and to report back to the board. The committee has initiated the process."

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