WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (CBS4)– Three veteran administrators with the Wheat Ridge fire department suddenly resigned Wednesday night in a show of frustration, solidarity and unhappiness over the actions of Fire Chief Steven M. Gillespie.
“‘I was very surprised,” Chief Gillespie told CBS4 after learning he lost three of his four top administrators in one night.
The resignations were submitted at a meeting of the Wheat Ridge Fire Protection District board. The District provides services to portions or all of Wheat Ridge, Edgewater and the Towns of Lakeside and Mountain View.
The fire department has 33 paid firefighters and a dozen volunteers who responded to 2,754 calls for service in 2012 with 78 of those calls being fires. It has three fire stations.
Resigning Wednesday night were Deputy Chief Tim Raub, Assistant Chief Chris Lukosky and Battalion Chief Brian Eberle.
Jerry Cassel, president of the five member board of directors for the district, told CBS4 the three administrators stepped down as a result of ongoing complaints about the leadership of Chief Gillespie.
“Citizens will not notice any difference on the street,” said Cassel.
He said the resignations would not mean any gap in service for residents of the areas served by the department. Cassel said firefighters have had ongoing grievances against the chief which Cassel described as “complaints about treatment and work conditions.”
He said none of the complaints are of malfeasance or criminal conduct. Cassel said the five board members are reviewing the complaints and have scheduled another special meeting for next Wednesday evening to discuss the voluminous complaints.
Chief Gillespie told CBS4 that Deputy Chief Raub, a 20-year veteran, submitted a letter saying he was retiring to pursue other interests.
“The other two cited personal conflicts of interest with me’”, said Gillespie. “It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances.
Gillespie said the resignations would “absolutely not” impact service to residents.
“There will be no decline in service,” said Gillespie.
In his resignation letter Chief Lukosky wrote,”I fear I will be the victim of retaliation for my recent formal complaint filed against Fire Chief Steven Gillespie. I cannot continue to serve as a leader in an organization in which decisions by my supervisor cause me to be in violation of my personal and moral integrity. My physical and mental health have suffered as a result of serving under Chief Steven Gillespie.”
Eberle said he was resigning “with much heartache and pain.” He wrote that staying with Wheat Ridge fire “would compromise my personal and moral integrity.”
Gillespie told CBS4 that he believes firefighters are upset in part because he placed two firefighters on unpaid leave last month after each of them was cited for driving under the influence. Both were arrested while they were off duty.
Gillespie said for one of the firefighters it was a second DUI. He said he placed both of them on unpaid leave until their court cases are resolved, an action he believes rankled other firefighters.
Gillespie called the Wednesday night resignations part of a growth process for his department. All three resignations will take effect later in September.
Additional Resources: Read the three resignation letters here.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com