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Posted: 10/23/13

A CHIEF DECISION. At right, from left, Bruce Township residents and fire chief committee members Dave McIntyre and George Rouhib explain their reasons for recommending an external candidate to serve as the new Bruce-Romeo Fire Department chief. The Board of Trustees voted down two motions for hiring a new chief to replace Floyd Shotwell on Oct. 16.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Bruce trustees split
on hiring new fire chief

Observer Staff Writer
      Two failed motions by the Bruce Township Board of Trustees resulted in no new appointees for the fire chief position.
       At the Oct. 16 board meeting, a motion to hire current Bruce-Romeo Fire Department interim chief Bob Stankiewicz failed 2-2, with Supervisor Richard Cory and Susan Brockmann dissenting.
       A second motion to hire external candidate Ken Staelgraeve failed with a 2-2 vote, with Treasurer Deborah Obrecht and Trustee Mark Falker dissenting.
       Trustee Paul Okoniewski abstained from both votes, saying he has familial connections with the wife of Stankiewicz.
       Floyd Shotwell, the former chief, retired on July 31, ending a 41-year career as the department's chief. Brockmann said no system or past practices existed for selecting a new chief, so a committee was appointed to find a candidate. The committee consisted of Cory, Brockmann and residents Dave McIntyre and George Rouhib. Both men have prior experience with emergency services.
       McIntyre said 16 questions were posed to all candidates as a way of determining whether they had the necessary qualifications.
       "That is how you take the politics out of it, you make it comprehensive, you make it extensive," he said.
       The committee unanimously recommended Staelgraeve to be the new chief. McIntyre, the Macomb County Emergency Management Program coordinator, admitted that Staelgraeve currently works for him, but added he knew five of the 11 candidates through previous experiences.
       "My professionalism and my dedication to this community and to this process is a very high standard, and I take it very seriously," he said.
       Obrecht made a motion to instead hire Stankiewicz, the former assistant chief, saying she wanted to support an internal hire because it shows the board believes in the training of its department.
       "This individual has earned the trust and respect of all of the full-time firefighter paramedics and paid-on-call firefighters," she said. "That is huge, they put their lives on the line, they have to believe in this individual."
       She added that she believed McIntyre should've abstained from the process since one of the candidates was his employee.
       Falker supported the motion, saying he believed an internal candidate was the way to go.
       "I felt that way since the beginning of all this," he said.
       Obrecht made a similar motion to appoint Stankiewicz in July, which resulted in a failed 2-2 vote with Okoniewski abstaining.
       Tensions rose as the board discussed the motion. Obrecht challenged Okoniewski's abstention, saying there needs to be a financial impact for him to do so. He accused Obrecht of doing what leans "toward what supports or helps her interests."
       Cory made a motion following the vote to hire Staelgraeve as the new chief, but this also failed.
       Brockmann said the issue was muddled by personalities and politics, and didn't understand why the board formed a committee only to disregard its recommendation.
       "If you already knew who you wanted, I don't know why you form a committee," she said after the meeting.
       Cory said he didn't expect there to be two failed votes, and that the board needs to determine what the next step will be for choosing a new chief.
       "This is the American way, people have a right to vote the way they vote and that is what we saw tonight," he said after the meeting. "When you vote things happen, and things don't always go the way you want them."
       Residents spoke against the decision to hire an external candidate, saying they either didn't know enough about the hiring process or outright didn't like the process.
       Richard Wiegand said he recommended Stankiewicz, but when he found out external candidates were considered he applied. He said he was disappointed since McIntyre was the boss of the recommended candidate.
       "You didn't keep the personalities out of it, that is why you have this community in an uproar," he said.
       Glenn Polley, a resident and firefighter of 29 years, said when a chief isn't appointed internally it is risky and insults the personnel.
       "You automatically send a message to the rank and file that those people are never going to have a chance to become chief," he said.

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Retrieved 7/31/2015 at 1:26:09 PM.
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