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March 21, 2013
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Consolidated Fire Board chair formally deposed


Former Chairman of the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Board of Directors Keith Grueneberg voted against accepting his own resignation letter Thursday night.

“I didn’t want to resign,” he said during a break at the regular meeting of the board. “I resigned under duress.”

Grueneberg declined to comment further on the matter saying he was constrained in what he could talk about.

Directors David Hanson, Warren Knox, Mark Bass and Bob Rhodes voted to accept the resignation.

Directors Tom Carrington and Bill Habblett opposed the motion to accept the resignation.

“Keith Grueneberg is a man of honor, and I take umbrage at the way he was treated,” he said.

Carrington also did not elaborate after the meeting.

The four directors who approved the resignation did not explain the rationale behind their vote.

Wyatt Howell, president of the Local 3800 at Consolidated Fire, said the firefighters overwhelmingly support Grueneberg as president.

“Losing (Grueneberg’s) leadership will likely be detrimental to the tax payers, the employees and the entire community,” Howell said.

Linda Chaplin, who ran unsuccessfully for a positon on the board and routinely attends board meetings, said she supported Grueneberg stepping down.

“In all the years I have been coming to meetings, the last two years I have witnessed more negativity than all the years prior,” she said. “You have done damage to the good name of this district.”

Knox was nominated as chairman and approved by a majority vote with Grueneberg and Carrington dissenting. Bob Rhodes was elected as vice chairman.

Knox served as chairman last year as well.

Grueneberg came under heavy scrutiny recently for receiving and sending an email with a subject title “Hooked on Ebonics,” which protrays an African-American substitute teacher mispronouncing common names at a white suburban school.

The body of the email, which was sent to Howell, reads: “Hey Wyatt, you need to watch this, it is like talking with our administration!!!”

Critics of Grueneberg maintain the email is offensive and inappropriate for dissemination at a public entity.

Grueneberg said the video represents communication issues between rank-and-file firefighters and the administration. He further said he forwarded it to a private email, and it was not intended for dissemination on public emails.

Knox delivered a statement in front of the board during an agenda item that dealt with possible “sensitivity training” for district employees.

“The video in question by itself has the potential for being perceived as derogatory due to its racial and disparaging slant, and the suggestion that the video is just satire is no excuse for ignoring its potential impact on others,” Knox said. “In addition, the added comments targeting a specific group of individuals within our organization can, without question, be perceived as disparaging and offensive. Finally, the racial overtones to this video have specific potential to offend individuals throughout the district.”

Knox further called upon senior management to “review the actions of individual employees to determine if disciplinary action is warranted.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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The Union Updated Mar 21, 2013 11:48PM Published Mar 23, 2013 09:34AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.