Questions as to Brown’s almost two-week leave still linger
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
Fire Chief Scott Brown returned to work April 9 after almost two weeks’ absence amid mounting speculation as to why he was even placed on administrative leave in the first place. Battalion Chief Kevin Kuhlman stepped in to run the fire department in the interim as acting fire chief.
City Manager Allen Parker originally confirmed on March 29 that Brown had been placed on administrative leave. The reason is still unknown at this time. However, in the city’s April 9 press release announcing Brown’s return, Parker stated that Brown’s “leave was not disciplinary in nature,” but rather to give both Brown and Parker “some time to reflect on the team-building training for the Fire Department’s management and supervisory personnel and to determine the best method for leading the department into the future.”
“Scott Brown has my full support as the city’s fire chief, and we have developed a framework for making policy decisions that emphasize collaboration, communication and mutual respect for the authority of both our offices,” concluded Parker’s statement.
Brown told the Chronicle in an email, “I am glad to be back. It truly is an honor to serve. Our strategic focus continues to place emphasis towards improving our fire department, providing our firefighters the appropriate tools and equipment to get the job done safely, and ensuring operational reliability of all of our fire department functions, both emergent and non-emergent. Key to this long-term strategy will be fiscal sustainability. We must live within our means, embrace technology and data, and continue our collective efforts towards evolving and improving our emergency response model. That is and will be our team’s focus – our community deserves no less.”
The newspaper called the Hemet Fire Department on April 4 to obtain a comment from Kuhlman while he was acting fire chief, but was directed to contact Parker’s office.
Several department’s were contacted to confirm Kuhlman as acting fire chief, including the fire department and the city manager’s office. Not one of the departments was able to assist because they simply did not know who was designated as the acting fire chief.
The city manager’s office transferred The Valley Chronicle’s call to Human Resources, where confirmation was finally received.
No comment has been made by the Hemet Fire Fighters Association, Local 2342 (HFFA).
HFFA confirmed Brown’s leave by Facebook message Thursday, March 29, stating, “We were advised late last night [Wednesday], we will have a statement regarding this matter soon.” HFFA later sent the following statement: “Unfortunately, at this time we do not have any comment. At some point in the days following, if we do have a comment, you will be our first call.”
The newspaper reached out again on April 9 for comment on Brown’s return and HFFA responded that they did not have a comment then either.
According to Brown’s Facebook page, he was named fire chief April 15, 2015 after serving as the city’s interim fire chief. Since he was named chief, Brown has been a proponent of rebuilding the fire department while maintaining fiscal responsibility.