HAZELWOOD, Mo. – The newly elected Robertson Fire District Board of Directors fired the fire chief and decided to sue the chief and the union.
Jennifer Guyton, the new head of the board, would not discuss the termination of Chief Todd Phillips, but she did talk about the lawsuit.
Guyton led the group Citizens to Save Hazelwood and Fire Services, which recalled the former board members. She said the old board, along with the chief and the union, made changes to the agreement the day before the election that made it harder for the new board to govern.
Guyton said it impacts who they can hire and fire. Among other actions, the Board of Directors voted to cut their pay from $900 a month down to about $600. They also decided to cut off free medical care for board members and their families, which will save around $60,000.
Guyton said there are a lot more cuts to make. The board will hire a forensic auditor to investigate spending problems. They said they may bring in the Missouri State Auditor.
The Citizens group mounted a campaign against the fire district more than a year ago. They decided on the idea of trying to recall all the board members while they were still able to run for their jobs. The old board was ousted, and citizens took their places in running the fire district.
A spokesperson for the union, International Association of Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665, released the following statement:
“The Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Mo. Local 2665, are still learning about the developments at last night’s Robertson Fire District Board meeting. Our singular focus is on the members that may be affected by these decisions and the residents of the Robertson Fire District. The termination of Chief Phillips is extremely disheartening. The firefighters and paramedics of the Robertson Fire District have been dealt a big blow to their morale by his unexpected termination.
We currently have a three-year collective bargaining agreement (bargained in good faith)… that apparently this board does not intend to honor. We have reached out to the board to open discussions and are waiting on a response. As many families in the St. Louis area are preparing for the holiday season, the men and women of the Robertson Fire District are currently worried and uncertain about the security of their careers.”