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Fire board approves giving outgoing chief access to documents

May 23, 2018 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — Rick Southey will get to better arm himself to present his case.

The outgoing Bullhead City Fire District chief will receive some documents related to a probe of alleged mismanagement at the BHCFD under his leadership. The fire district’s governing board voted Tuesday to have reports generated during the investigation forwarded to Southey.

The board made the decision after a closed-door executive session that lasted more than three hours.

Neither Southey nor the board spoke about the nature of the reports the motion concerned.

Board member Heather Petrillo made the motion to forward the reports to Southey “so he can review all of the allegations.”

Southey was called into the separate room in which the executive session took place. While minutes of executive sessions are kept, the details of them generally are not made public.

The probe by Prescott-based Investigative Professional Services was launched after assistant chief Doug Stevens announced his resignation in December, saying that he could not ensure the safety of firefighters or the public. He alleged that the fire department suffered from negligent management practices and an unsafe culture. The fire board placed Southey on paid administrative leave.

The board received the report in executive session at a May 14 special meeting. No statement was made following that session.

Southey, who has been with the department since 1982, announced his retirement earlier this month.

He previously told The Daily News that he would welcome an investigation. He said that there might have been some issues that could have been handled better, but that he generally disagreed with Stevens’ accusations, which included poor planning for equipment upkeep, inadequate training for the BHCFD’s professed capabilities and a management style that hurt the department’s recruitment and retention efforts.

Tuesday, the board voted to schedule a special meeting — with a tentative date of June 1 — at which it will decide what to do about the investigation report.

Also at the meeting, board members approved payouts totaling just over $68,000 to three firms involved in a recent fire district bond sale. Bond counsel Stifel Nicolaus was paid $21,427 and bond attorney Greenberg Traurig, LLP $29,984.22. Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC, which provided bond rating services, was paid $17,000.

The money was included in the bond package, acting fire chief Scott Neal said, but the department has decided not to spend anything from that account before the July 1 start of the upcoming fiscal year.

Neal said the vendors, whose payment is due now, will be paid from the BHCFD’s contingency fund, which will be reimbursed later.

Also approved was an effort by members of a department subcommittee to approach the Bullhead City Parks and Recreation Commission to discuss whether a potential relocation of Fire Station No. 2 to Section 12 land along the Colorado River is feasible.

If such a proposal isn’t dismissed, the subcommittee would work on a more detailed plan to present to a citizen oversight committee reviewing bond projects and eventually to the fire board.

Neal said that the BHCFD has ordered a new ambulance and expects to take delivery of it and a refurbished unit before the Aug. 11 Laughlin River Regatta. He said that he expects the department to have a similar role to what it had when the Bullhead City government ran the event. The regatta is returning after a one-year hiatus following Marnell Gaming Inc.’s purchase of the rights to the event.

Neal said he expects the BHCFD to recoup its costs related to serving at the event.

The board also voted to authorize department leaders to list three surplus vehicles for sale. They are a 2001 Ford Expedition, a 2002 Ford Crown Victoria and a 2006 Ford Explorer.