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September 30, 2013
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Effort to recall Consolidated director fails


The effort to recall Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Director Keith Grueneberg has fallen short, according to a press release issued by former Consolidated Fire Human Resources Manager Lisa LaBarbera on Monday.

LaBarbera said the effort to collect the 4,388 signatures needed to force a special election fell short by 718 signatures.

Recall proponents would have had to collect all the signatures by 5 p.m., Oct. 1, according to the Nevada County Elections Office.

“While Grueneberg might feel that we failed, we see our efforts as a win,” LaBarbera stated in the release. “Along with the 2013 Grand Jury Report, we have proudly brought to light (many of the known truths) regarding Grueneberg and his good old boys.”

In the release, LaBarbera said she will redirect her efforts toward ensuring Grueneberg and “other select board members are not re-elected in November 2014 should they decide to run …”

The effort was hampered by the fact that organizers had to discount about 500 signatures due to participants living outside of Consolidated Fire’s jurisdiction, LaBarbera’s release stated.

Grueneberg said he believed recall proponents fell short by an even greater amount than they claimed, and the effort was carried out by “small-minded, short-sighted people.

“I threatened them by asking too many pointed question,” he said.

Grueneberg has long maintained he was the subject of LaBarbera’s ire because he began questioning whether she and other members of the administration were managing the fire district effectively, soon after he assumed a chair on the board in 2010.

In her latest release, LaBarbera said that Grueneberg micromanaged the district, undermined the fire chief, distributed a racially offensive email and lacked fiduciary responsibility by acting as the lead negotiator for the board, despite cultivating a close personal relationship with Local 3800 Union representative for Consolidated Fire, Wyatt Howell.

LaBarbera attributes the factual basis of her assertions to a 2013 Nevada Grand Jury report, which scathingly indicted Grueneberg and the other six members of the board of directors as “dysfunctional.”

While Grueneberg acknowledged problems at the district, he said he was unfairly singled out by a former employee with a vendetta.

“It was retaliation against me,” he said.

“When you put her facts under close scrutiny, it would never pass the truth test.”

Grueneberg is not the only individual to cast aspersions on the purity of LaBarbera’s motives.

Earlier this year, Howell and Consolidated firefighters Randall Gross and Patrick Mason provided The Union with documents that they claimed prove LaBarbera was acting inappropriately as HR director. They claimed she indelicately publicized personal employee information and improperly steered employees toward health insurance plans that financially benefited the district but were not necessarily in the best interest of individual firefighters.

LaBarbera fired back, contending the firefighters only grew unhappy with her after their wallets took a hit when the district’s budget became constrained and she was placed in the unfortunate position of messenger.

LaBarbera could not be reached for comment Monday.

“The only thing I am happy about is the district not having to spend money on a special election,” Grueneberg said.

Some estimates predicted the cost of a special election to hover in the $50,000 range, while offering $16,000 as the most conservative calculation.

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


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The Union Updated Oct 1, 2013 10:41AM Published Oct 1, 2013 04:36PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.