In front of a crowd that filled the fire hall meeting room to capacity, a letter was read announcing the immediate resignation of the fire board chairwoman. Many in the audience gathered to hear more about payroll problems that were discovered in a recent audit.
Debra Reeves held the chairwoman position on the Tillamook Fire District board of directors and has been on the board since 1991. In her resignation letter, which was read aloud by board vice-chairman Tim Hamburger at a June 10 meeting, Reeves wrote that she felt great regret and great relief in withdrawing from the board.
Reeves cited as the reason for her leaving “the circumstances that have arisen in the past eight months with the unexpected and horrific turn of events starting with the actions of the prior chief” as well as personal attacks on her character from “members of the staff, volunteers and citizens of Tillamook.”
“I have volunteered my time and my life to Tillamook Fire for almost 30 years,” Reeves wrote. She highlighted her service along with other board members in the daily administrative and financial operations of the District – paying bills, signing contracts, purchasing new equipment, pursuing grant opportunities and more.
“The entire District has gone through an upheaval of intense emotion and anxiety since last October and has now taken a turn for the worse as many people affiliated with the District have set their sights on money,” Reeves wrote. “My belief is that once a person moves from offering their services as a volunteer to the community to what they can financially obtain from this service, they no longer have the correct vision of what a volunteer does and is.”
Former Tillamook Fire Chief Rick Adams resigned from the District in a letter that was sent to the board of directors in October of 2018. Adams had served the District since 1975. Rumors have swirled around the circumstances of his retirement.
Reeves wrote that as this “sad turn of events” happened, District officials tried to move forward by hiring an interim chief to assist with operations. She wrote that as more difficulties arose with audit issues, the board tried to resolve what it could by making the best decisions for the future of Tillamook Fire District.
“Now, as this whole fiasco moves into an issue of money and those who feel cheated by past practices, I can no longer be a part of this,” Reeves wrote. “My 30 years of volunteer service to the District has been based on respect, loyalty and a desire to help my community. I no longer feel this way after the personal attacks upon me as one member of a board of five.”
“I do not want to be a part of a staff and volunteer group that sets their sights on a money war,” she wrote.
Allen Burris was appointed to fill the vacant board seat. Burris campaigned for a position on the board but was defeated by incumbent Eric Swanson during the May 2019 elections.
The District recently paid $11,554 to volunteer firefighters who weren’t compensated correctly during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Payroll errors affecting career staff have also been discussed at recent meetings. At the June 10 meeting, the board directed Interim Fire Chief Dale Kamrath to calculate what might be owed to paid staff within the statutes of limitations.
Read more about this developing story in the next edition of the Tillamook Headlight Herald
Two tense meetings have transpired since Tillamook Fire District revealed payroll and volunteer stipend discrepancies found in an audit of the…
Reviewing a recent audit, Tillamook Fire District directors discussed a lack of accounting safeguards during a three-hour long April board meeting.