Fire Safe Council puts Joanne Drummond on administrative leave | TheUnion.com

Fire Safe Council puts Joanne Drummond on administrative leave

Joanne Drummond, executive director of the Nevada County Fire Safe Council, is on administrative leave with pay.

The council's board of directors learned at its Thursday meeting that its executive committee placed Drummond on leave. She'd been on medical leave, which ended Sunday. The executive committee then opted for administrative leave after hearing from its attorney, said Dennis Cassella, council chairman.

The council in March opted to renew Drummond's contract for a year. In April it rescinded that decision after an investigation showed a hostile work environment at the council's office, Cassella has said.

Drummond's contract ends June 30. She couldn't be reached for comment.

"I have the greatest respect for Joanne Drummond, but my responsibility is to protect the organization over time," Cassella said before Thursday's meeting.

The announcement came on the same day a handful of people expressed disappointment over Drummond's leave, and urged the council to provide more transparency and visibility in the community.

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Kent Rees, chairman of the Coalition of Firewise Communities, said his organization voted Monday to take no official position on Drummond's departure. Instead the coalition wants its firewise communities to build relationships with the Fire Safe Council. It also wants better communication. Rees suggested regular email updates from the council to firewise leaders.

"Most of these people that come to the meeting Monday night are concerned that we are going down the tubes," Rees said.

Rees, an associate member of the Fire Safe Council, chairs an organization composed of 46 firewise communities. Firewise is a national program that encourages community involvement and disseminates information about reducing wildfire risk to homes.

Nancy Gilbert, another attendee to Thursday's council meeting, said she's also concerned over what she called a lack of transparency. She wants more information on the council's website — http://www.areyoufiresafe.com — on how the organization functions.

"We literally are in the dark, except for a few small pieces of the puzzle," Gilbert said.

Changes

The Fire Safe Council has suffered setbacks in the past month. Cassella in a release states the council "is up and running after a brief time needed to reorganize the Fire Safe Council's office."

Its defensible space chipping program was suspended for a month, but returns today. A retired police officer will run the program, Cassella said.

Additionally, the council's annual fire season guide is nearing its publication date.

Cassella also pointed to an AmeriCorps group that will help residents with tree trimming and vegetation clearing through July.

However, the insurance verification program — which had some success assisting homeowners secure insurance — is defunct, Cassella said.

"We're looking for somebody," he said. "We're always looking."

The council also is looking at its job descriptions for two top jobs.

Cassella said the council will split its executive director position. It will have someone who focuses on writing and getting grants and another person to handle running the office.

According to Cassella, Drummond worked long hours, including weekends and holidays. He approached her after becoming chairman earlier this year and asked what duties the council could contract out.

Drummond, who indicated she'd quit if her job description changed, in March made accusations that led to an outside investigation. That investigation found no basis to the allegations, but did discover a hostile work place, Cassella said.

The council on April 26 then reversed its March decision to renew Drummond's contract, records state.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.