Former fire chief Keith Crady spoke for fifteen minutes during the special fire trustees meeting.
Fire Trustees Affirm Vote00:00 AM April 18, 2018
Almost one year to the day of his one week suspension for a letter he wrote concerning a candidate for the board of trustees, Prophetstown Fire Protection District Chief Keith Crady was officially replaced as head of the district.
The board had voted to replace Crady on April 9th, but the vote was deemed invalid due to the nature in which it was carried out and forced the trustees to call a special meeting to correct the error. After initially publishing an agenda for the special meeting it was changed twice, moving the public forum portion of the meeting form the beginning of the meeting to the end and then back again.
The move indicated the amount of public interest in the meeting after the board made its initial decision to remove Crady, who served on the department for 35 years and 12 as chief. The trustees faced a crowd over 80 people including district personnel and citizens.
Trustee President Gary Gerber began the meeting by apologizing for the mistake in the vote the previous week. “I am the chairman of the board I know how to do this and for whatever reason it didn’t happen.” Gerber then asked for those wishing to speak to limit their comments to three minutes. 12 people addressed the board including Crady.
Ambulance director Julie Pope who has asked the board to find a replacement for her position said, “I’ve been with the department for 20 years and I’ve never seen it like this, it is ridiculous. We are here for one reason (to serve the public) but lately that’s not the case.”
Prophetstown Mayor Steve Swanson said, “Keith has done a great job and I’ve never heard any complaints before. I do think that if Gerald, names his brother Lyle as Assistant chief, I think is going spread the district apart, like throwing gas on a fire.”
Firefighter Connor Littrell, who has been on the department for 18 months said, “I don’t understand people saying were here for the community, so why is she (Julie Pope) stepping down then? Because Gerald is being appointed? Is it a buddy system? I don’t understand.” Pope responded by saying that there is a deep divide among the board members and, "I don’t believe things are going to resolve themselves." Trustee Bill Jacobs later responded by saying, “If you don’t have a divided board there’s something wrong with your board. We don’t try to be a divided board, but it will happen at times.”
Crady was the last speaker clarifying that he was not behind calling a special meeting saying he would have abided by the trustees’ original decision even though it was not done correctly. He pointed out several things he has done for the district during his tenure including obtaining $850,000 in grants, free storage of the district’s boat, and organizing a prom disaster drill every four years. “I feel I did no wrong.”
Crady then asked trustees Mike Fisk, Rick Woolums, and Bill Jacobs what he had done to not get their support. Fisk and Woolums declined to answer saying they would answer at the end of everyone’s comments, but Jacobs did respond. “I can’t see that you did anything wrong, but we need to change, and I appreciate what you’ve done for the district.”
Crady also criticized the board for their handling of the change in leadership saying if board felt they wanted a change they should have called him into executive session to tell him. “I feel you guys did me wrong on that, I really do.” Crady then went on to give his theory as to why there is such a division within the department. He cited firefighter Lyle Armstrong for causing many of the issues by becoming involved in the Board of Trustees election when he was not a candidate. He also cited examples of Armstrong working against him over the past 10 years. He concluded his comments by saying, “I resign, I’m done and I don’t want anybody quitting because of this.”
Lyle Armstrong responded to a request for comment about Crady’s statements, from Aroundptown.com with a written statement. “No matter what I say in response to comments from Monday night, people will always think what they want. Those that know me, know my love and compassion for the fire service and know I would never do anything to bring dishonor to it. We as a district will move forward in a positive direction under our new chief, officers, and continue to do our best for the taxpayers. One person does not make a fire district, it takes all the dedicated men and women past to present to achieve this. “
Trustees then took a voice vote reaffirming their decision to name Gerald Armstrong as chief with Fisk, Woolums, and Jacobs voting in the affirmative. Armstrong was then asked who his choice for assistant chief would be and he named his brother Lyle. The trustees then voted to go into executive session with Chief Armstrong to discuss the matter. After twenty minute session the members came back and by a 3 to 2 margin voted against Lyle Armstrong as assistant chief. Trustees Gerber, Wilson, and Jacobs were the dissenting votes.
Gerald Armstrong then asked the trustees to consider firefighter Arian Landeer for assistant chief and he was quickly nominated and elected unanimously. he will begin his term on May 1st.
Armstrong said, "I am here for the district," when asked to comment after the meeting.