For the Keizertimes

Chairman Randy Franke of the Marion County Fire District No. 1 board of directors spoke further Feb. 16 about a December 2010 incident involving Fire Chief J. Kevin Henson.

The board voted 4-0 Feb. 7 to reprimand Henson for driving 20 miles per hour above the posted speed while responding to a fire call; the vehicle he was driving rolled over, and he was slightly injured. Also at the Feb. 7 meeting, the board rescinded permission for Henson to carry a firearm on duty.

Such permission had come from the Willamette Valley Fire and Rescue Authority (WVFRA) board, which consists of the District No. 1 and Turner Fire District boards, in 2009 because the chief had received threats and there had been break-ins to his home.

After saying that throughout his 24 years as a Marion County commissioner, he had always explained his votes, Franke said because he was “speechless” over the behavior of a former district director at the Feb. 7 meeting, he had waited until the Feb. 11 meeting to discuss his vote.

The former board member was Randy Brown, who said the board should have dealt severely with Henson.

Franke said the board “should have put a review period of time” on its permission for Henson to be armed.

Turning to the accident, Franke noted that the allegation that Henson was not wearing a safety belt had been “discussed at length.” The chairman said the “black box” in the vehicle, which provides evidence of circumstances of an accident, is not infallible. He said there was “physical evidence to the contrary” of the black box indication that Henson was not using the belt.

Franke added that despite a blog referring to three eyewitnesses that the left turn signal of another vehicle in the accident was on, the report of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office indicated that only one of seven witnesses thought the turn signal was on.

There were several comments from the audience that the incident showed Henson was not to be trusted. Kris Boyer, president of the local firefighters’ union, said the union’s investigation of the accident was still in progress.