At least six Beulah firefighters have quit the mostly volunteer department since Jan. 1, questioning the leadership and background of new Beulah Fire Chief Bryan Ware. Ware, 37, was named chief this year by the new Beulah Fire Protection and Ambulance District board. The paramedic and former Ohio firefighter now heads the 35 member department, but is facing a rash of resignations as well as gripes about two arrests and convictions while he worked in Ohio.
"I have to believe the reason some of these firefighters are quitting is sour grapes," Ware said Tuesday. "I fired one (longtime) firefighter and five others resigned. Now I find myself having to rehash my past, questions I thought we'd resolved 18 months ago."
Steve Douglas, chairman of the fire board, said Ware's background was hashed out at a community meeting in July 2011 and he defends the board's decision to hire him as fire chief late last year. Douglas and the former ambulance board hired Ware to head the Beulah EMS service in the summer of 2010.
"We are comfortable that
Bryan has given an adequate explanation of his past," Douglas said. "We didn't choose him to be chief blindly."
Karl Potestio, a 10-yearveteran volunteer, said Ware moved equipment off the department's trucks so that firefighters didn't feel safe battling brush fires. Potestio acknowledged he was fired by Ware, but he estimated eight other firefighters then resigned in protest.
"He doesn't listen to our concerns about safety," Potestio said.
Ware came to Colorado after serving a year's probation in Huron, Ohio, for a 2009 misdemeanor where he sent a photo of male testicles to a group of recipients, including a minor -- a player on a high school soccer team that Ware helped coach. Ware called the incident a joke and bad judgment -- a view shared by the Ohio state licensing board's examiner. Still, Ware's license was suspended because a minor was involved.
The other conviction -- which Douglas and the fire board didn't know about in 2010 -- was a 2006 incident in Huron. Ware was cited for providing alcohol to minors at a party. News reports at the time claim he also tried to hide the underage drinkers from police, but Ware denied that he gave the minors drinks or tried to hide them from police. He received a three-day suspension from the Huron Fire Department.
Asked why he didn't tell the fire board about the 2006 episode when interviewing for the Beulah EMS job, Ware said that incident had been expunged from his record by that time.
Those episodes were apparently debated at a fire board meeting in July 2011, which about 50 community members attended, according to Douglas. He said parents at the Beulah School had seen Internet reports on the Ohio incidents and questioned the board. Douglas said he conducted a more thorough background check on Ware about that time.
"I read the Ohio reports, I even talked to the prosecuting attorney," he said.
Douglas noted the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University was unfolding at the time.
"We took our responsibility very seriously," he said.
Potestio countered that he is leery of Ware's background and past incidents with minors.
Written by The Pueblo Chieftain
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix