Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority
Darlene Packard (Clerk)
Julie Pettit (Chair)
Central Yavapai Fire District
Chino Valley Fire District
On March 14, 2017, Central Yavapai Fire Chief Scott Freitag took the highly unusual step of submitting a formal complaint to the Darlene Packard, as the Chairwoman of the Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD). The complaint was regarding another CYFD board member, ViciLee Jacobs.
Jacobs also had unspecified items of concern to bring to the Board.
Packard promptly brought the issue to the full board at the March 21 meeting. The Board unanimously voted to discuss the issues in Executive Session.
Agenda Item 6B read: "Legal Advice Pursuant to A.R.S. §38431.03(A)(3) Re: Items of Concern Raised by Board Member ViciLee Jacobs”
Agenda Item 6C read: "Legal Advice Pursuant to A.R.S. §38431.03(A)(3) Regarding Formal Complaint Submitted by Chief Freitag"
They voted to go into Executive Session at 3:37 PM, they reconvened at 4:51 PM.
When the CYFD Board returned to public session, they declined to take any action on the concerns raised by Jacobs. But, regarding the complaint letter by Chief Freitag, they voted unanimously (including Jacobs) to instruct counsel to locate and retain an independent investigator to conduct an inquiry “…as we discussed.”
See CYFD Board minutes here.
Next up was the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority (CAFMA) Board meeting. CAFMA is the 1st Fire Authority in the State of Arizona, formed through an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between Central Yavapai and Chino Valley Fire Districts. As a Fire Authority, it combines the services and resources of CYFD and the Chino Valley Fire District. The CAFMA Board is made up of 3 members of the CYFD and 2 members from Chino Valley Fire District. CYFD Chair Packard is also on the CAFMA Board, serving as the Board Clerk. The CAFMA Board is chaired by Julie Pettit. Jacobs is not a member of the CAFMA Board.
The items of concern by Jacobs and the Chief’s letter of complaint was also on the CAFMA Board agenda, slated for yet another Executive Session. Jacobs was invited to attend the Executive session to address her concerns and the Chief’s letter.
The Executive Session started at 6:56 PM, and ended at 8:08 PM. The conclusion of the Executive Session was quite similar. No action on the concerns raised by Jacobs, and direction to the Board’s attorney, Nick Cornelius. These instructions were a little more specific:
“Chair Pettit provided direction for Attorney Cornelius to obtain a third party investigator and to unsure [sic] there are no conflicts of interest associated iwth the Phoenix Police Department or other interested parties that are located here in northern Arizona."
See CAFMA Board minutes here.
April 4, 2017
Fast forward a couple of weeks to the next meetings.
In the CAFMA meeting, they went into yet another Executive Session, and returned to vote to make the complaint by Chief Freitag public. They did not vote to make the concerns of CYFD Board Member Jacobs public.
“I just want to be clear that I have authority to disclose that report to 3rd parties, including the AG’s office, insurance carriers, whatever necessary,” Attorney Cornelius stated for the record.
Chairman Pettit agreed, “That is correct, you are clear to do so."
They also voted to add an addendum to Chief Freitag’s contract, “…which includes an indemnification clause and legal fees,” said Chairman Pettit. The motion was unanimously agreed upon by the four CAFMA members in attendance: Jeff Wascowicz, Matt Zurcher, Darlene Packard and Julie Pettit.
Afterwards, Attorney Cornelius affirmed that he was still under the directive to find an investigator to look into the issues raised by Chief Freitag.
Although the Freitag complaint has been released to the public, any response by Jacobs has not.
When called, Jacobs explained that she wanted to consult with her attorney before responding publicly. Although she provided the number of her attorney, Carol Pilch, this reporter has not yet had a return call from her. We are also waiting to speak again with Attorney Cornelius.
In the meantime, according to Jacobs, her attorney has not been given an official copy of the complaint letter.
The release of this complaint is just the beginning of this issue. There are many questions to be answered - such as:
- What happens next?
- What exactly is the investigator supposed to investigate? What specific laws are they claiming were violated?
- What is the desired endgame? Removal of Jacobs? Wouldn’t that require a recall election? Who pays for that?
- Why does Freitag need legal fees and indemnity?
- What will all this cost the taxpayer?
- Who is Attorney Cornelius actually representing? Is it CYFD, CAFMA, individual board members, such as Jacobs or the fire chief? At what point does his representation of one entity conflict with his representation of another entity?
- How can CAFMA even look at the issue, when the letter was written to Packard as the Chair of the CYFD Board? Isn’t there a separation under Executive Session laws? Or, does the fact that it was cc’d to the CAFMA Board offer an opportunity to consider the issue separately?
Here is the letter from Chief Freitag: