Chino Valley Fire board member Winn Williams said he will not take part in an investigation approved by the board May 30 for an independent investigator to fact-find 10 allegations made by district staff that he created a hostile work environment. 

Mr. Williams, who was elected to the board in November, said the investigation has nothing to do with a hostile work environment.

“It’s whether Winn said something we didn’t like, or said something in a manner we didn’t like, and I’m not going to play along,” he said. “I’m not going to participate in an investigation where the allegations have nothing to do with the stated scope of hostile work environment. This is a joke.”

Fire board members voted 4-1, with Mr. Williams voting no, to hire Encinitas-based attorney Debra Reilly for $325 an hour to write a report of her findings and conclusions and email them to board president John DeMonaco and vice president Harvey Luth. 

The report will be given to the district’s legal counsel, who then could provide the board with legal advice or recommendations on what to do next. 

It’s not yet known if the report will be made public.

The district will pay Ms. Reilly $425 an hour to review “expert witness” files and preparation for and travel to court, and $495 an hour for testimony at trial, according to a fire district staff report.

Some of the allegations include:

Mr. Williams allegedly pressured a secretary on Dec. 18 to make photocopies for him for personal purposes after she advised him that she could only make photocopies if they are related to fire district business.

Mr. Williams allegedly told the secretary that even if it was against board policy to make copies for personal use, that sometimes he was going to ask the secretary to make copies and he didn’t want any problems. 

On Jan. 7, an allegation was made by Fire Chief Tim Shackelford that Mr. Williams used foul language during a conversation stating, “Who the (expletive) told (fire district attorney Jeff Ballinger) to send the letter” and “This is about (expletive) copies, who told Ballinger to send the (expletive) letter.”

Other allegations include Mr. Williams showing an aggressive demeanor to Mr. DeMonaco on Jan. 8, Mr. Williams pressuring Chief Shackelford on Feb. 11 to provide him confidential personnel information about a firefighter and asking if the chief knew anyone who might want to buy his unused Vicodin.

Mr. Williams was also alleged to have threatened Chief Shackelford’s employment if the chief did not tell the board in a closed session meeting that he mishandled the situation involving the two copies. He also wanted Mr. Ballinger to write him a letter of apology. 

On Feb. 13, Mr. Williams was alleged to have told a Champion reporter “I can’t believe you (expletive) wrote I am a disgruntled employee.”

On April 17, Mr. Williams was alleged to have recorded a conversation with a fire district employee without first notifying the employee or obtain consent. 

An allegation made by Mr. Williams that Chief Shackelford lied when he read a March 13 statement regarding allegations against Mr. Williams will also be investigated.

According to a district report, the independent investigator would receive the factual veracity of allegations made and discussed during public board meetings over the last several months, including interactions between board member Williams and district staff, and board member Williams and Fire Chief Shackelford.

Mr. Williams said it is a complete waste of taxpayer money to pay an attorney $325 hour to determine if he said something critical of Chief Shackelford.

“In fact, that’s exactly the role of the board members that are doing their job, to oversee the department and the chief. He’s not immune from criticism, as he seems to believe,” Mr. Williams said.

 

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