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CRFR divison chief retires amid investigation

Ron Youngberg, a 25-year veteran, opted for early retirement as probe neared end

YoungbergA 25-year Columbia River Fire and Rescue division chief announced his retirement last week amid an internal investigation into complaints of misconduct filed by the firefighters union against him.

During the course of an internal investigation, Ron Youngberg submitted a notice of his retirement on Monday, Jan. 25. His retirement was made effective Monday, Feb. 1.

Youngberg was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 11 in the midst of an investigation into a complaint filed against him by the St. Helens Professional Firefighters Association in late December.

Fire Chief Jay Tappan determined that, with Youngberg’s retirement, the investigation into the misconduct allegation was essentially over.

Tappan said he met with the firefighters union Friday, Jan. 29, to conclude the investigation.

Representatives from the firefighters union previously declined to comment on the investigation, stating the complaint against Youngberg was “not a union issue.”

Those early comments from union officials conflict, however, with Tappan’s explanation for not being able to discuss the specifics of the investigation or any resultant findings due to the union’s involvement.

Tappan had earlier reported to the Spotlight that he he could not disclose the nature of the allegations against Youngberg and said placing an employee on leave during an investigation is standard practice when sensitivity issues arise.

Tappan said Youngberg had discussed retirement before the investigation began in late December, and was potentially considering retiring in the summer at the same time as Tappan, who announced his pending retirement from the fire agency earlier this year.

The announcement made last week came with short notice, Tappan said, but many of Youngberg’s duties were already being covered by various staff during his paid leave.

Tappan said those duties, which include the oversight of fire crews on a daily basis, will continue to be covered by staff, particularly Division Chief Eric Smythe, who oversees emergency medical services.

During an interview Monday, Feb.1. Tappan expressed congratulations to Youngberg for his more than 33 years of service with the fire district.

Youngberg was hired May 2, 1982. He has served as division chief since 1990.

Attemps to contact Youngberg for comment about the investigation or his retirement were not successful.