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Fire department misconduct charges fly

Board meets to decide whether to open investigation after the Forest Grove chief refutes Web allegations

New allegations of misconduct at the Forest Grove Fire Department went live this week on a Web site run by a former firefighter, spurring an open letter calling for a thorough investigation and a refutation of the allegations from Forest Grove Fire Chief Robert Mills.

The letter was written by Dale Wiley, a member of the Forest Grove rural fire board's budget committee. It was sent last Wednesday to rural fire board directors, the city and news media.

In it, Wiley asked that the rural board and the city appoint an outside investigator to flush out the veracity of a host of charges made on the Web site, www.thetruthaboutforestgrovefire.com.

'I am particularly distressed by an allegation by former Lt. Steve Vanderzanden regarding tires on a fire engine,' Wiley wrote. 'As a member of the Forest Grove Fire District Budget Committee, I specifically remember approving, in the last two budget approvals, line item amounts of $ 4,000 and $5,000 respectively for tire replacement.'

Mills, the target of many of the Web site's critiques, said Monday that the allegation that he prevented firefighters from replacing bald tires on the department's engine was 'completely false.'

'It's just like everything else (on the Web site). It's blown way out of proportion,' Mills said. He added that he pulled the maintenance records for the months in 2004 the Web site seemed to refer to and found nothing out of the ordinary.

The board met Tuesday night - after the News-Times went to press - to discuss the possibility of initiating an investigation.

'Public allegations deserve to be addressed to determine validity,' Wiley told the News-Times in an e-mail Monday.

'If there are found to be valid complaints, the District is a risk for a civil lawsuit that could wipe out reserve funds.'