Concerns about possible misconduct in the Davis Fire Department are being addressed as the city of Davis continues an internal investigation.
The Davis City Council voted Tuesday night to send a letter responding to a Yolo County Grand Jury investigation that raised serious questions about practices and policies within the fire department.
According to the letter, the city is re-examining its promotion processes and anticipates making changes.
“I think it’s important to show that we’re going to improve our processes and that we’re going to review them,” said Davis city councilmember Sue Greenwald. “It doesn’t say they were right, it says we’re going to improve.“
The report released by the grand jury, an independent investigative body, found that city facilities were being used to house intoxicated off-duty firefighters overnight. The grand jury also found inconsistent promotion practices due to the local fire union’s relationship with Fire Chief Rose Conway.
Though city staff are in the middle of an investigation into the accuracy of these findings, the city was legally required to respond to the grand jury’s findings in writing within 90 days.
The biggest disagreement between the city and the grand jury is on the grand jury’s recommendation that the next fire chief come from outside the Davis Fire Department and have no personal connections to the local firefighters union.
Davis city manager Bill Emlen said the recruitment and selection processes cannot be changed to only hire outsiders.
“Our obligation obviously is to be fair to everyone, whether it’s internal or external,” Emlen said. “I understand the issues that they’re raising, but we did not agree with that.“
Emlen said the investigation would continue even though the response to the grand jury has already been made. The city’s internal investigation will be complete by the end of October, he said.
The council did not vote unanimously to approve the letter. Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor voted against sending the letter as originally drafted, saying that it incorrectly implied that there was a problem with the fire department’s policies.
“I haven’t seen the results of the city’s review of these issues yet, and I don’t want to be premature in saying that there would be actions taken prior to understanding what the nature of the circumstances were,” Saylor said.
Saylor said he is supportive of the city’s investigation and will be comfortable taking further action when it is clear whether there is a problem.
The city’s investigation is being conducted by Bob Aaronson, who also serves as the city’s part-time police ombudsman. Aaronson is being paid an amount not to exceed $35,000 for the investigation, which began in July.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.