Brookfield Trustee Dan Suttles said he is pained by the recent cluster of volunteer fire department retirements and resignations, some brought on by policy changes made by Fire Chief David Masirovits.
But, Suttles said, he supports the decisions Masirovits has made.
When Masirovits, who took over Oct. 1, was hired, Suttles said one of things he told the new chief was to review the department’s policies and procedures, and Masirovits has instituted a number of new policies and revamped those that existed, Suttles said.
One of those changes was a restructuring of the department, which meant that volunteer Assistant Chief Kenny Johnson was named a captain and volunteer Capt. Cliff Elliott was named a lieutenant. Both men considered the changes to be demotions, something Masirovits said wasn’t the case.
“I have to agree with the chief,” Suttles said. “I don’t consider them demotions.”
He also agreed that the changes will help remedy potential confusion, especially at fire scenes, where the paid staff, regardless of rank, has authority over the volunteers.
Criticism of a respiratory control policy that outlaws full beards by firefighters overlooks superseding government regulations, Suttles said.
“That’s an OSHA regulation,” he said, referring to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Suttles also supported Masirovits’ decision to end a burgeoning K9 search and rescue team that the volunteers had approved. Suttles said he didn’t understand how such a program could be instituted without the trustees at least being “in the loop.”
Suttles said Elliott had asked him in October if the department had liability insurance and if the insurance would cover a dog, but never reported that the volunteers had already accepted a dog and handler into the ranks.
Suttles said he talked to Elliott and Johnson about some of the changes, and Elliott said Suttles told him he would initiate a meeting with Masirovits.
Because that meeting never happened, “As far as I’m concerned, Dan Suttles lied to me right to my face,” Elliott said.
Suttles acknowledged he had agreed to set up a meeting, but added that he wanted Johnson to attend and Johnson said he would talk to Elliott. Johnson ended up not wanting a meeting, and Suttles said he assumed Johnson had spoken to Elliott.
“Maybe I should have called Cliff,” Suttles said. “I went through Kenny.”
Johnson and Elliott are “very competent” and “well-respected” within the department and the community, and their departures will have a “long-term effect,” Suttles said.
“There is going to be a void with them gone,” he said.
But, Masirovits is making changes that are being made by other departments and addressing issues that he inherited, Suttles said.
“In many ways, he’s trying to do what we (trustees) said we wanted when we hired a new chief,” he said.
Messages left with Trustees Ron Haun and Gary Lees for comment on this story were not returned, but they have offered public comments of support for Masirovits.
“(The) conversation I had with you Friday (Jan. 4) was enlightening to say the least on some of the things that you’re instituting,” Haun said at the Jan. 7 trustees meeting. “We had a great fire department before. You’re making this fire department even greater with the things you are doing.”