Fire chief of embattled Mo. district submits resignation

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — The chief of the embattled Monarch Fire Protection District has resigned, a board official said Tuesday.

Tom Vineyard, who has been the chief of the Monarch district since January 2012, submitted a letter on Friday saying he was quitting, said board member Jane Cunningham.

Vineyard may be going to O’Fallon, Mo. Neil Bruntrager, attorney for the O’Fallon Fire Protection District, said officials there had offered Vineyard that agency’s fire chief job. He has yet to accept or decline.

The resignation letter did not offer a reason for Vineyard’s departure or mention his future plans. It did say his last day with the district will be May 9, Cunningham said. He earned $133,193 last year as chief.

Vineyard could not be reached for comment.

In recent months, Monarch has been embroiled in controversy, pitting union firefighters against board members who had pledged reform.

Controversies have erupted over several issues, including:

Placing the union logo on pink T-shirts the firefighters wore during October, breast cancer awareness month.
Disclosure of a plan to line part of the board room with bullet-proof vests for the safety of fire officials.
The use of a firefighter Twitter account to deliver information that the board said was “skewed and sometimes completely inaccurate.”
The O’Fallon Fire Protection District has been marked by its own controversy in recent months.

Ten top officers were offered buyouts last fall in an effort to trim an organization that board members said was top heavy.

Five of the 10 officials who were targeted answered the board’s request with a lawsuit in early December that asked a judge to ensure they’d get severance pay if they were fired in a cost-cutting move.

Then on April 21, two of those officials — Chief Mike Ballmann and Division Chief Randy Sanders — were placed on paid administrative leave.

The two officials have until May 12 to make a decision on a termination offer.

Bruntrager said hiring Vineyard for the chief’s position before Ballmann and Sanders make their decision presented no legal problems for the district.

He said he could not disclose the details of the offer made to Vineyard since he has not yet accepted it.

Vineyard could take a pay cut if he accepts; Ballmann’s base salary was $109,000 in 2013.

Steve Koslovsky, attorney for Ballmann and Sanders, declined to comment on the latest twist in the situation.

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