Salem Lakes to advertise for interim chief candidates; make selection by end of month

The Salem Lakes Fire Commission did not name an interim fire chief Wednesday, but it did set out a process to come up with one by the end of the month.

The commission plans to advertise for interim chief candidates with an application deadline of Nov. 24, commission President Allen Thennes said. Then the board expects to consider those candidates at its Nov. 27 meeting and have an interim chief by Nov. 30.

The interim chief is needed in the wake of the resignation of James Lejcar as chief on Monday.

Lejcar and fire Marshall/Inspector Steve Ptaszynski had come under scrutiny earlier this year when two local businesses — Wilmot Stage Stop and Auto Truck Equipment — filed formal complaints about inspections they alleged were unreasonable and not in compliance with fire code and that constituted harassment of their businesses.

Ptaszynski resigned Sunday.

The complaints were scheduled to go through a formal hearing process before the Fire Commission in October, but those hearings were cancelled after a stipulation agreement designed to resolve the situation was drafted. The Fire Commission voted to approve the stipulation, and an attorney for the businesses said they were on board but all parties did not sign off.

Interim chief may not be a fleeting role for the selected individual. Thennes said finding a permanent chief may take as long as one year.

Village attorney Remzy Bitar gave a quick outline of the process of finding a chief after a closed session at Wednesday’s special commission meeting.

He noted that the commission will have to identify priorities and criteria for candidates, likely over a series of meetings.

Bitar also pointed out chiefs are, by state statute, hired by the commission, with the chief hiring subordinates within the department with commission approval.

Chiefs cannot be hired on a probationary basis, Bitar said.

“When you hire a chief, you want the right chief,” Bitar said.

Commission representatives have worked out an arrangement with neighboring departments to provide command leadership on calls when needed while the interim position is still open.

Bristol Fire and Rescue will assist in the area east of Silver Lake, Town of Randall Fire Department will assist in Silver Lake and areas west and Paris Fire and Rescue will assist in the northern part of Salem Lakes’ coverage area, Thennes said.

“They said we’ve got your back,” Thennes said. “They are more than happy to help us out.”


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