Firefighters of the Willamette Valley Fire and Rescue Authority have become more vocal in calling for Fire Chief J. Kevin Henson to resign.
The latest action, which included pickets outside the meeting place of the WVFRA board of directors March 10, accuses Henson of falsely reporting that his seatbelt was fastened when his vehicle flipped Dec. 31, 2010, on the way to a fire.
About 15 pickets carried placards with such messages as “Accountability” and “Chief, resign” just before the board meeting.
Kris Boyer, president of Local 2557, read a statement at the meeting accusing the board, as well as the boards of Marion County Fire District No. 1 and the Turner Fire District, of not following WVFRA policies at a joint meeting Feb. 7 when they declared the matter closed after reprimanding Henson for speeding and rescinding permission for the chief to carry a firearm on duty.
Boyer quoted from the District No. 1 standard operating procedure that “a company officer or shift commander shall suspend driving privileges for … any instance in which a Fire District 1 apparatus accidentally goes off the road, is damaged or damages another vehicle or property due to unsafe or negligent operation, excessive speed, etc.”
He referred to an SOP provision that all drivers of district vehicles must comply with the Oregon Basic Rule, and to a reference in Henson’s employment contract to a state statute on “illegal operation of an emergency vehicle.” He asked why the SOP and contract provisions were “not included in the scope of the internal investigation when they are required for employment.”
Boyer also contended that the internal investigation of the Dec. 31 accident made inconsistent observations on the question whether Henson had his seatbelt fastened.
Randy Franke, a WVFRA board member, produced copies of his public statement referring to evidence that Henson was using his seatbelt at the time of the accident. He referred to written statements from Salem Hospital personnel – chaplain Todd Pynch, trauma nurse Angie Haynes and Dr. Ken Pak – that bruises on Henson were consistent with wearing a seatbelt.
Boyer showed copies of a report by Matt Stroud, a Seattle-area master diagnostic technician who had been asked to participate in the investigation “as a neutral third party,” that digital photographs of the seatbelts after the accident showed the belts not to have been in use when the vehicle crashed. Stroud cited his experience with seatbelt pretensioners as evidence that Henson was not belted at the time of the accident.
Franke and other board members said it was too early for them to respond to Boyer’s comments and Stroud’s observations at the meeting. They agreed to have a response ready for the April 14 WVFRA board meeting, which will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Cordon Road station.