Five Cities Fire Authority should reconsider hiring Lieberman

November 20, 2014
Julie Tacker

Julie Tacker

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.


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12 Comments

  1. MikeR says:

    Lieberman is a good choice. The process was thorough and they found their man. I don’t see a very strong case made here that Lieberman isn’t qualified. Julie lifted a few short phrases out of in-depth interviews.

    Yeah, Lieberman hasn’t articulated a plan for FCFA, but he has unique experience and knowledge of the situation. He knows what he’s getting into. I feel confident in this hire.

    (-10) 22 Total Votes - 6 up - 16 down
  2. Stunned says:

    He’s way too immersed in the county system of draining the public dole in my opinion plus he has no viable firefighting experience for many years. That was as a volunteer. Any way to promote from within?

    (11) 29 Total Votes - 20 up - 9 down
  3. HarryMalone says:

    If not Lieberman for the top fireman post then why not Tony Ferrara?

    Tony now has the time and he has experience handling a hose.

    Because he’s been hosing the people of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano for years!

    (7) 31 Total Votes - 19 up - 12 down
  4. SloHeadInTheSand says:

    Once again, Los Osos resident Julie Tacker knows what’s best for the Five Cities.

    Ms. Tacker’s own description of Mr. Lieberman’s employment history makes him more than qualified.

    “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 for Sprint Nextel and as a sales manager for Verizon Wireless”.

    Mr. Lieberman is deeply rooted in the Five Cities area and has a proven track record that everything he is involved with is a success.

    Steve Lieberman is not one of the ‘good ole boys’. Steve Lieberman is a good man.

    Even though his specific plans may “not ready for prime time” his statement,
    “the organization needs to move forward and work within its means.”
    is a refreshing change in the right direction.

    You simply will not find a more qualified and capable man than Steve Lieberman period.

    (-17) 41 Total Votes - 12 up - 29 down
    • Julie says:

      SloHeadInTheSand,
      The point of my opinion piece is that the board is changing. The new board should make the appointment, not the old board.

      (0) 28 Total Votes - 14 up - 14 down
      • SloHeadInTheSand says:

        Julie Attacker

        At least be honest. It is obvious the point of your story was the new board should not pick Lieberman otherwise why would you throw in statements like:

        “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.”

        And

        “The choice thus far appears to be political in nature, one made by the status quo – just more of the same”

        It’s an opinion piece and you have a right to your opinion, but in the words of Judge Judy “don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining”.

        I’ll see if I can get the new board to show a vote of confidence for Mr. Lieberman indicating they would make the same choice. Wanna bet?

        (11) 23 Total Votes - 17 up - 6 down
        • Julie says:

          Just wait the hire for a month and we’ll know if you are correct.

          (-6) 22 Total Votes - 8 up - 14 down
    • analyticone says:

      Sounds like this one was written by his good buddy John Shoals. Lieberman failed…to pass the Charter in Grover Beach…to properly fund the Five Cities Fire Authority when it was created…to pass a measure to fund it last year.

      (1) 15 Total Votes - 8 up - 7 down
  5. Gordo says:

    Lieberman sounds like a gadfly; a dispatcher, volunteer fireman, one time salesman and short term county bureaucrat with a background in municipal elected government. Has he actually ever managed a fire company or acted as an incident commander at a major fire/disaster. What does he bring to the table besides a lot of flim flam? This appointment sounds like another good old boy job. Get him in as chief and when FCFA finally has to fold and contract with Cal Fire maybe he can lateral over as a battalion chief..

    (17) 43 Total Votes - 30 up - 13 down
    • SuperDave says:

      Gordo has nailed it here. Get in now, take a plum job with Cal Fire!
      Find a Chief that has CURRENT experience, not a volunteer from yesteryear.

      (2) 20 Total Votes - 11 up - 9 down
  6. MaryMalone says:

    As usual, Julie makes solid points in her op-ed.

    I agree that Lieberman appears to be not ready for primetime. If he hasn’t even bothered to investigate what needs to be done so that he has some idea of the directions he will follow if approved, he is simply not what we need to straighten out the FCFA mess.

    (10) 42 Total Votes - 26 up - 16 down
  7. falconbh says:

    I agree with your position on this issue 100% !

    It is time for Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande and the Ogren Community Services District to step back away from some of these important last minute lame duck decisions and place the needs of the people first.

    A lot of heavy lifting needs to be done regarding the Five Cities Fire Authority , South County Sanitation District , Automatic Rate Increases and local budget management.

    (18) 42 Total Votes - 30 up - 12 down

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