Five Cities Fire Authority should reconsider hiring Lieberman
November 20, 2014
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
In light of the change in political winds in the South County it would be prudent for the Five Cities Fire Authority (FCFA) to suspend its hiring process for a new fire chief. In spite of the recent press release and local press coverage announcing a Chief has been chosen, a public hearing on the employment contract have yet to come to the board for final action.
Lame duck board members, Arroyo Grande’s Joe Costello and Grover Beach’s Bill Nicolls, should be replaced before the adoption of a $127,000 contract occurs. Oceano Community Services District replaces its committee representatives each January, so even Karen White is a lame duck in this context.
In May, the FCFA Board hired a consultant to perform an extensive search for a new fire chief. The applicants were screened by the consultant and just four were selected to be interviewed by the board.
On October 17, the board interviewed three candidates and landed on longtime Grover Beach resident Steve Lieberman. The board directed legal counsel to draft and negotiate an agreement with Lieberman who was a very outspoken proponent of the failed FCFA assessment district.
Lieberman is no stranger to FCFA, having served the City of Grover Beach Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter/emergency medical technician and police dispatcher from 1995 to 1998.
He was then elected and served on the Grover Beach City Council (2000-2008) as both Mayor and Council Member. In his capacity as a council member, he served on the League of California Cities Public Safety Policy Committee and was deeply involved with the formation of the FCFA. His resume also reflects more than 10 years working in Business Development forSprint Nextel and as a sales manager for Verizon Wireless.
Lieberman has worked these last three years as public health manager for the Division of Emergency Medical Services within the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department. Lieberman made the assumption that he already has the job at FCFA and in late October announced he was resigning from his county job effective Nov. 14.
Under FCFA Board Chair Costello’s leadership, FCFA spent nearly $200,000 pursuing the failed assessment. Costello was asked in a campaign interview on the Oct, 30 by Dave Congalton, “What is Plan B?” referring to the FCFA failed assessment district.
Costello answered, “We’re leaving that up to the new chief.” Costello lost his seat by nearly 10 percent to newcomer Barbara Harmon who has pledged to look into FCFA’s funding deficiency.
Earlier this month, Lieberman was interviewed by a local newspaper and was asked about the failed assessment. He answered, “the organization needs to move forward and work within its means.”
Lieberman also suggests he’s still in the process of refining and finalizing his plans for FCFA, and they are “not quite ready for prime time.” Statements like these reflect few ideas on how to overcome the funding shortfall.
Without a fully vetted contract and a fresh new FCFA board’s eyes, it’s too early to say whether Lieberman is a good choice as chief. The choice thus far appears to be political in nature, one made by the status quo – just more of the same.
You will have the opportunity to hear more and make your comments at the FCFA meeting on Friday, Nov. 21st at 2 p.m. at the Grover Beach City Council Chambers, 154 S. 8th Street, Grover Beach.