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Rohnert Park fire commander says agency is in crisis

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Rohnert Park Public Safety Department is in disarray, its fire division commander said Monday.

The division lacks support from managers and the City Council, it is hampered by senior officers resistant to change, and it is beset by low morale, Fire Commander Jack Rosevear said.

Jack Rosevear

“The department’s in crisis,” said Rosevear, who took over the fire division in June 2008 and plans to run for City Council this year. “I’m not exaggerating. It’s not a matter of perspective, it’s the truth.”

Rosevear, who has said he will retire in August partly to save the jobs of younger firefighters facing potential layoffs, made his concerns known in an unusually public manner, delivering a statement to The Press Democrat and the weekly Community Voice newspaper.

He said his motive is to shed light on problems within the department — which provides both police and fire services — and lay the groundwork for necessary improvements.

“I’m not after payback, retribution, vengeance, anything like that. I’m after success,” he said.

City officials unanimously rejected the substance of Rosevear’s concerns, but were varied in their reactions, expressing responses ranging from irritation to bewilderment to praise of his performance.

“This is all a personnel issue that he’s putting in public,” said Mayor Pam Stafford. “This council doesn’t deal with disgruntled employees, that’s not our purview.”

Public Safety Director Brian Masterson, Rosevear’s boss, said, “Jack did a good job for us…he made some positive changes and I would say he was supported by all the members of public safety.”

He added: “I’m a big believer that people have the right to express their opinions however they want to do it and certainly Jack has voiced his.”

Vice-Mayor Gina Belforte said, “I can honestly say I don’t know what he’s talking about…I haven’t had any reason to believe there’s been a problem with fire.”

In his statement, Rosevear said the city’s firefighters and police officers are “the finest and most courageous” he’s ever worked with, then laid out a blistering catalogue of charges. They include:

– “A small group of senior police officers” have tried to undermine him through a steady whispering campaign because they resent changes he made that reduced their overtime;

– City leaders and Masterson prioritize police services over fire services;

– Budget-related decisions or proposals — particularly related to layoffs — made by city leaders and supported by Masterson have contributed to low morale within the division.

Rosevear said younger firefighters have left or are planning to leave the department because they fear being laid off. And he said he was told twice since June 2009 that he would be laid off, which firefighters opposed because they thought it would hurt the division.

He said Masterson supported that proposal by then-City Manager Dan Schwarz, illustrating how police services are favored over fire services.

“At Rohnert Park, law enforcement is the dominant arm. Everything comes secondary to that, including fire,” Rosevear said. “So if there are decisions to be made, law enforcement staffing would be weighed first before fire.”

Masterson disputed that on several counts.

“I didn’t support laying off anybody,” he stated, while also saying that layoffs were an understandable recourse for a city teetering on bankruptcy.

Masterson said he transferred police officers to the fire division in early 2009, a plan implemented with Rosevear’s support. Since then, more police officers have been laid off than firefighters, he said.

“We’re not in a crisis,” Masterson said. “We were in a state of flux last year because we weren’t sure what was going to happen. It was stressful for everyone.”

Asked whether Rosevear’s statements surprised her, Stafford suggested the fire commander was playing politics.

“You know, he’s running for City Council, of course,” said Stafford, who is running for re-election.

“If there was not a council seat open I would be speaking out in this same manner,” Rosevear said. “I’m only running because I see a pending disaster, and I have been personally caught up in the disaster as an employee and as a resident.”

Stafford said Rosevear is alone in his concerns.

“Personally, I don’t think his position reflects the department, I think it reflects him,” she said.





13 Responses to “Rohnert Park fire commander says agency is in crisis”

  1. Graeme Wellington says:

    Except the state didn’t pay as promised. Did the state pay for the new trucks? Did the state pay to man the fire stations 24/7? Does the state pick the participants in the strike teams or task forces? Why do the exact same grape juice drinkers get the big overtime checks?

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  2. THE MCLOVIN says:

    Hey @Graeme Wellington, auto aid and mutual aid is free. The Welch grape juice drinkers (whatever that is supposed to mean)being sent to Modoc county, thats called a strike team. And when Rp fire or any other fire agency sends its units on a strike team, the state pays for it. And any equipment that might get broken from being on a strike team, the state pays for it. Manning stations and training made no difference? So, in a job where minutes can make a difference between someones life or from a fire spreading and destroying someones property, your saying having someone respond within minutes dosent help? I dont think so. Training made no difference? I think its good to know how to use your equipment, but hey thats just me.

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  3. Graeme Wellington says:

    Auto aid and mutual aid are not free. RP still has to pay overtime when they send a cadre of Welch grape juice drinkers to Modoc county and come back with tales of adventure involving sleeping in the truck and waiting for someone to give them an assignment. It’s always the same Welch grape juice drinkers getting the $13,000 paychecks.

    Every bit of Rohnert Park’s financial problems can be laid at the feet of Rosevear and his progenitors who listened to squeaky wheels and spent millions to make it look like the fire department improved. Manning stations and training and overtime made no meaningful difference. You can’t spend all the money to protect against a potential harm when real harms must be addressed immediately. 100% of the millions was wasted. Rohnert Park would be solvent and thriving had they ignored chicken little.

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  4. The truth 2 says:

    First of all, it’s a good thing Jack said something. Going to the Press Democrat, eh, not a great idea, but now that it’s out there, address it. Rohnert Park DPS suffers from a system that does not work anymore. Probably why there aren’t many police/fire combination departments anymore. Two or three in all of California. There is far too much training for both police officers and firefighters for one person to perform both roles and be proficient and maintain a SAFE industry standard at both. As a previous employee, I can tell you for a fact that the police side takes precedence. It is “un-cool” to be excited, interested in, or try and make positive changes to the fire division. Police is the number 1 priority there and that will not change until a person who has a firefighting background takes the helm at RPDPS or, the firefighting side completely separates from the law enforcement side.

    Second, Pam Stafford, you have completely missed the mark. Again. An employee is trying to reach out for help and you slap him down like he is a child. You claim he is making “political” moves and you aren’t responsible for employee issues. Lady, you need to wake up and smell the coffee. As a council person it IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to foster a good working environment for ALL city employees. Lead by example. I know that is difficult for you. I hope you can figure things out there because I see failure in your future. What’s next? Sheriff Department and CDF providing services for Rohnert Park? Good luck with that.

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  5. Nancy T says:

    Since they are actually PAYING BIG BUCKS for two City Managers you would think they could figure out how to manage a budget.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  6. NOTUTOO says:

    Wait, did I read that right?? He’s leaving employment where he was part of the top brass and now complaining that it’s in disarray?? Good Job?

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  7. The truth says:

    I think the fire commander may have been stung by killer bees. Or perhaps he was bitten by a weasel. Either way, RPPD has some serious problems. I suspect that when the city finally goes bankrupt and the union has a voided contract and no power, things may change. Until that day comes, just hope your house doesn’t catch fire. For that matter, you should REALLY hope that you don’t ever tangle with any officers for any reason. Even if you are the victim of a crime. Most are probably decent people, but some are completely wicked….And you don’t get to choose who shows up when you call.

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  8. The truth says:

    He is right…..And it will never change.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. THE MCLOVIN says:

    Hey @Graeme Wellington, where do you get your information from? First,Rohnert Park dosen’t spend more helping out other agencies fight wildland fires than they do putting out the occasional dumpster of kitchen or dryer fire. Its called auto aid and mutual aid. Why dont you look it up. Second, it makes sense sending both a ambulance and a fire engine to a medical call. Would this make sense; someone is having a heart attack and the ambulance shows up with two people. One of them starts chest compressions and other begins ventilations…now your two people are taken up and cant do everything else that is required to do. Third, whats this Cadillac service you say everyone wants? Of course the RP residents want a good service. You think layoffs are good? Lets look at Oakland and see how those 80 layoffs is working for them…not so good.

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  10. John Doe says:

    Rohnert Park is not on the verge of bankruptcy because of Jack Rosevear. The blame for that can be attributed to an incompetent City Council, City Manager and Mayor that do not have the slightest clue how to manage a city.

    Jack Rosevear was caught up in dirty politics in an attempt to legitimize Rohnert Park’s Fire Division and bring it up the speed with the rest of the county. He has nothing to do with Rohnert Park’s budget woes.

    Fire the current City Council members and start fresh with competent, educated people willing to engage the big picture of the financial situation of the city and not just take a slash and burn approach by layoffs, benefit reductions and pay cuts.

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  11. Graeme Wellington says:

    He’s pretty vague on the details of the problem. If it’s a crisis, what’s wrong? A morale problem? What does that mean? What is the reason? Fire isn’t prioritized? Rohnert Park has spent millions and is pushing bankruptcy cowering to squeaky wheels demanding Cadillac fire protection. Rohnert Park spends more helping out other agencies fight wildland fires than they do putting out the occasional dumpster of kitchen or dryer fire – all of which are easily preventable. The medical function of the fire department in RP is completely redundant. The ambulance crews pretty much disregard any efforts the firefighters make on scene and start over on those rare occasions the fire crew beats the ambulance to the scene.

    Rosevear has to be specific and provide the proof when he sounds such an alarm. Everyone will listen if he has the goods. If things aren’t being run his way (spending a fortune on fire – city tax revenues disregarded) then that explains it. Everyone in Rohnert Park desires to provide Cadillac service and is frustrated because it can’t be paid for.

    But you don’t get more for less. You get less for less. We need someone running fire that makes the best out of what is actually available rather than bemoaning that more could/should be done. RP nearly bankrupted itself trying to do it the way Rosevear wants and even still literally no improvement was made other than public perception.

    Is he a leader if no one will follow him? Blaming a “senior officer” conspiracy is pretty lame. Who is the leader here? Who makes the decisions? Blame the guy in charge for not leading. Rohnert Park’s problem is and continues to be a lack of leadership. Rosevear is a prime example. He does not lead. No problem is ever fixed until the boss first decides to fix it.

    Across the board at all levels of leadership Rohnert Park is rudderless. All Rohnert Park’s problems could be solved by simply deciding to solve them. But there is no one willing to make the decision and make it happen.

    Vote out every incumbent at the next election. Rosevear is a failed leader and likewise should not be voted for. His past performance is the only reliable indicator of future performance. He’ll fail as a council member as he did as a fire commander.

    Do we have to pull Bob Dennet out of retirement? Or Pete Callinan? I just can’t have much sympathy here. It’s not enough to make accusations or ask questions. Give us answers, facts, details, solutions and the problems can be addressed. As is, Rosevear is just another gadfly.

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  12. SueJ says:

    Of course the city council is going to ignore his comments. Because to actually listen to them might require some action on their part. They would rather sit back and spend money they don’t have and make everyone pay for their incompetence. But the sales tax increase is suppose to save the city. Right? Not. Feedback is a gift, so they should listen but they would rather dismiss it.

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  13. @Jack says:

    Police SHOULD be a priority over Fire.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 19

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