Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Firefighters Say Suspended Chief Must Go

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Firefighters Say Suspended Chief Must Go

Article excerpt

Lake Saint Louis Fire Protection District firefighters so strenuously object to Chief Richard Shoaf's style of leadership that they are ready to walk out. They want him fired.

The board suspended Shoaf Jan. 20 because he had hit a firefighter at the district's Christmas party. Shoaf is expected to return to duty March 20. A firefighter who asked to remain anonymous said that all 23 volunteer firefighters have said they will take indefinite leaves of absence beginning March 20, rather than continue to serve under Shoaf.

That would essentially leave the district without a firefighting force. Only four firefighters, including Shoaf, are paid.

Bill Stone, president of the board, and Board Secretary Roger J. York, both declined to comment on the issue. Director Ralph C. Clark Jr. could not be reached for comment, nor could Shoaf be reached Thursday.

Assistant Chief Vic Dubrowski, a volunteer, acknowledged only that the volunteers and the paid firefighters have had many meetings since late December to express their concerns and that they had expressed them to the board.

The firefighter who did not want to be identified said the Christmas party fight had been the catalyst that brought other concerns to the surface. The board hired a consultant to meet with firefighters and the board. The resulting report enumerates the complaints of firefighters.

The report by Judith A. Tindall, consultant and psychologist, dated Jan. 15, says that firefighters criticize the chief's leadership style for:

Intimidation and threats.

Fear tactics, such as "better watch your back."

Put-downs.

Dictatorial methods

Different rules for everyone in the department.

After another meeting with firefighters, Tindall said in a report dated Jan. 24 that if the chief comes back, 50 to 75 percent of the firefighters will leave. "Those that are left will be a group of people that are not truly a team, which could result in a danger to the community," she said. …

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