Whatley Reinstated As Fire Chief
Daniel Whatley was reinstated as Bourbon Fire Chief on Monday night following a lengthy closed session by the board of directors.
Whatley was demoted from the position on Thursday, July 11 following a 10-year run.
The vote to reinstate him was unanimous.
Whatley had the support of 15 firefighters who signed a document indicating a slowdown in activities and Bourbon’s training room on Monday was packed with firefighters and patrons.
“I did no wrong here,” Whatley said to the group and board. “I fell on the sword because I was the leader of an organization. I was taught by some of the best and hopefully I have taught people to the best of their abilities.”
Whatley pulled out an email that had given him praise during a dive rescue. He admitted he was using the letter to sing his own praises, but that it demonstrated his leadership ability.
“If I’m that bad of a leader, why am I continued to be allowed to lead a battalion of 30 firefighters or train firefighters,” Whatley said, adding that he has trained firefighters in the Local 2665, which he said board member John Ertl belongs to.
“I thank you for your support,” Whatley said to the group. “I don’t think I did a bad job.”
Board directors were questioned at the beginning of the meeting over their decision to demote Whatley.
On Tuesday, July 16, the board issued a press release announcing Whatley’s demotion, saying it came down to a difference of opinion and the need for a change in direction.
“The Board of Directors of the Bourbon Fire Protection District have decided to make a change in direction for the District,” according to the release. “This Board decision (led) to a regrettable difference of opinion between the Board of Directors and the District’s Fire Chief. In a unanimous roll call vote during closed session, the Board voted to reorganize the District’s Administration. Consequently, Daniel Whatley will no longer serving in this position of Fire Chief.”
The board said that Whatley’s “valuable firefighting skills” would remain available to the community and that they remained confident that Bourbon’s “high quality of fire protection” and rescue services “shall continue unabated and even expand in the future.”
Fire board president Kevin Ware had been reached for comment on July 18, but respectfully declined to speak further until he had an opportunity to speak to the district’s counsel.
Whatley, Ware Clash
Minutes from the meeting where Whatley was demoted did not become available until July 16 following the publication of last week’s issue.
The Independent News also requested minutes from the June 18, 2019 meeting where Whatley and Ware clashed over ISO ratings.
ISO (Insurance Services Office) rates fire departments and their surrounding communities on how well-equipped they are to suppress fires using three areas of criteria.
Some insurers use it to set homeowners insurance.
The best possible rating is a 1 and the worst is a 10, meaning the fire department does not meet the minimum requirements.
Bourbon has lowered its rating from 7 to 5 in recent years.
At the June 18 meeting, Whatley told the board he had contacted ISO official Darin Cabalona in regards to the ISO and training records.
Records were available and Whatley needed to get them into the computer database.
Ware told Whatley he, too, had been in contact with Cabalona after getting no response from Whatley on whether or not the requirements for ISO had been met prior to the deadline.
Ware said he was advised by Cabalona that Whatley had not been in contact and the required documentation had not been sent in.
Ware and Cabalona worked out a plan to extend the deadline to ensure the ratings were upheld.
According to Ware, Cabalona said that documents reflecting training per quarter needed to be sent in immediately to retain rating.
The minutes say “significant differences in opinion” and “heated debate” between Ware and Whatley ensued.
Whatley, according to the minutes, “became hostile by engaging in profanity followed by a premature and abrupt departure of the meeting.”
At the July 11 meeting, Ware motioned to go into closed session at 6:27 p.m. Closed session ended at 6:45 p.m. with the board reporting that Whatley had been demoted.
Whatley left the meeting.
At 7:10 p.m., Boast requested another closed session meeting.
During the session, Boast requested that the board reconsider its decision to demote Whatley.
The board reportedly told Boast they would consider the request, but make no decisions until the next meeting.
The second closed session ended at 7:20 p.m.
Whatley spoke to the Independent News on Monday, July 22 and said he felt the board had circumvented the chain of command by going to Cabalona.
Whatley said it was a matter of putting the training records into one document.
He said there had been a good working relationship between himself and Ware and he admitted to being profane during the June 18 meeting, but did not feel like he was being hostile.
“I apologized at the July meeting,” he said.
Whatley said it was his intent to become chief again.
Firefighters Meet With President
Assistant Chief Jared Boast reported that a group of firefighters met with Ware in an open meeting on July 16.
The situation was described as a “calm exchange of questions.”
According to Boast, Ware was unable to communicate to firefighters that Whatley had been removed due to board policy on personnel.
Firefighters made it clear that they wanted to see Whatley reinstated, but Ware said the board would have to discuss it.
Boast also addressed the slowdown.
“It is important to realize that the fire department is a large family-like network of individuals working towards one goal and that goal has always been and always will be to protect the public in their time of need and help people when they need it,” Boast wrote. “During these times of questions and loss of a highly-decorated and trained leader of the organization, it is important to know that the members of this great fire family may protest internally and fight for what we believe is fair treatment of all individuals involved.”