Paying large lump-sum severance package leads Sandy Fire into transition

SANDY FIRE CHIEF EMERITUS GARY MCQUEENSandy Fire Board Chairman Len Tobias used his pocketknife to ceremoniously open a sealed envelope at last Thursday’s board meeting.

Inside were two copies of a five-page legal document titled “Settlement and Release Agreement,” already bearing the signature of Fire Chief Gary McQueen.

Tobias passed the two copies to the other board members, who each quickly glanced at one or two pages of the document and passed it back.

A moment later: a motion made, a second, a roll-call vote taken. Bill Trimble, Joe Barnett, Ron Berglund, Andrew Brian and Tobias all voted yes.

Without any public discussion or questions, the district board members had severed all of their ties to McQueen, who had served the district for 37 years in several capacities — including the past 13 as chief.

Included in the agreement, with all of its legal language, was the statement that the district must pay McQueen a lump-sum settlement of more than $105,000.

In the next moment the board was presented with, and accepted, a contract from its Wilsonville consulting firm, Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI), which would provide an interim fire chief for a minimum of four months or as long as needed, Tobias said.

Another unanimous vote was taken without any questions or discussion. Tobias stated that ESCI would assist the district in locating candidates for the open position.

Ten minutes after the meeting had been called to order, it was adjourned. And each board member had only said yes twice.

ESCI is providing Interim Chief Mike Hansen, who will serve the district a minimum of 24 hours a week. Assistant Chief Phil Schneider will remain in charge of operations.

Tobias, speaking to The Post after the meeting, said he was speaking only for himself, not for the board.

“We expect to conduct a large search (for another fire chief), but we have nobody in mind at this time.”

Tobias was asked if the fire department was headed in a different direction than McQueen wanted to take it, but he declined comment.

“The plan at our workshop at the beginning of the year,” Tobias said, “was to have Gary McQueen implement the changes from the survey we did last fall.”

McQueen told The Post on Sunday there was nothing in the survey that he objected to, and he believed one of the main purposes of the survey was to help the district develop an external communications plan.

“I have always believed that when the public takes the time to give you an opinion that you should listen to them,” McQueen said. “The district (now) has to decide how to proceed with that (survey) information.”

Tobias said the district’s board is trying to implement the desired changes that ESCI garnered in the survey.

“We are listening to the patrons of the district,” Tobias said.

According to the release agreement, McQueen will remain on the district’s roster as chief emeritus for “four years or until he gains employment as a chief officer at another fire department.”

Hansen will serve in an administrative position and staff support.

He retired from the Douglas County Fire District in 2011 after moving through the ranks of division chief, assistant chief and, beginning in 1991, fire chief.

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