Father Superior Absolves Former Novato Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief of Their Sins

Posted by Sherlock Pwahrow on March 30, 2017 at 10:05 PM

In October 2011, a Battalion Chief with the Novato Fire Department filed a $6,000,000 claim against the former Chief, the Deputy Chief and the Novato Fire Protection District (NFPD). In this claim, the officer alleged that hostility directed toward him in the work environment by the chief and deputy chief had escalated to an intolerable level.

The claimant further alleged that he was retaliated against, harassed, threatened with demotion and disciplined with punitive actions by the two commanding officers. The Grand Jury was told by members of the department that the command staff was in a constant state of fear and intimidation. The claim filed by the Battalion Chief against the former Fire Chief and Deputy Chief contained serious allegations about both officers.

The NFPD Board of Directors (BOD): Director Tomas Kaselionis, Director Farhad Mansourian, Director Jim Galli, Director Lj Silverman, and President Brad Beedle voted to settle this claim for $250,000 and the officer resigned from the department. The investigation into this claim cost the NFPD an additional $100,000 in legal fees. On the face of it this might seem to have been a good deal for the NFPD BOD.

By paying out $350,000 they saved $5,650,000.00 over potentially losing the lawsuit. Basically, by paying out hush money to the Battalion Chief they confirmed that they knew and acknowledged that the disturbing charges against the former Fire Chief Marc Revere and Deputy Chief Eric Nickel were true. The question is what additional hostility; harassment, punitive actions and threats were leveled against the claimant in order to force him to accept such a truncated settlement as $250,000 and to crawl back quietly into the woodwork when he was demanding six million?

When BOD member Farhad Mansourian was asked for comment from the press about the serious allegations against these two high-level Novato Fire Department officials, public employees whose supervision, as a member of said NFPD BODs was his responsibility, and whose grossly inflated pay was rubber stamped by himself and the other docile members of that elected body, he refused to answer the question and quickly changed the subject. But special pleading is usually a sign that the books are being cooked.

Both the former Fire Chief and former Deputy Chief who were the subject of the damning law suit received extensive overtime pay, rubber stamped by Mansourian’s BOD, despite the fact that both positions are exempt from the requirement of overtime under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) law, and there is no provision in District Policy, Memorandum of Understanding or other agreements that provide for the issuance of overtime to these officers.

The Chief and Deputy Chief had traditionally received Administrative Time Off (ATO) in lieu of overtime pay and were expected to respond to emergencies and attend night and weekend trainings and workshops as part of their responsibilities. In 2011, the former chief was paid $16,364 in overtime, and the Deputy Chief received $11,7913.

A member of the Board stated that, even though he and the rest of the BOD voted unanimously for the questionable overtime payments and grossly inflated salaries, the BOD yet somehow did not know how much overtime or special pay the former Chief and former Deputy Chief were making. When asked to comment upon the serious charges against the Fire Chief and his Deputy Fire Chief the Director would only state that, "This is the Novato Fire District, which operationally is superior." Mansourian said.

Leaving the press scratching their collective heads trying to figure out how grossly overpaying their fire department officials, fostering a workplace environment that numerous sources reported to the Grand Jury had reduced morale in the Novato fire department to an all-time low during the years the former Chief, the subject of the law suit, had run the department, could be somehow interpreted as “operationally superior”.

The Grand Jury was told by members of the department that the command staff was in a constant state of fear and intimidation. The former Deputy Chief was the highest paid public employee in the County in 2011: $407,661. • The six highest paid firefighters in the County in 2011 were all top officers of the Novato Fire Protection District. Yet Board members still expressed surprise at how much their own top staffers were making when these salaries were published online by The Mercury News, even though they again had unanimously voted in favor of them.

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