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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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11/26/2013 6:00:00 AM
Ex-Central Yavapai Fire District chief to get $175,000

Scott Orr
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT VALLEY - Former Central Yavapai Fire District Chief Paul Nies will receive $175,000 to settle "certain legal claims and damages," but the public may never know what those claims were, according to the settlement agreement.

Nies was hired in May 2011. Throughout much of 2012, he backed a plan that would take CYFD's dispatching out of the hands of the Prescott Regional Communications Center (PRCC).

For months, the CYFD governing board discussed the plan to leave the PRCC, which is owned by the City of Prescott, and build its own $500,000 dispatching facility. Nies claimed the PRCC sent fire crews to wrong addresses, failed to warn them when a call could be dangerous, and that the computer system it used did not always send the closest fire engines to a call.

The board went so far as to serve notice that it would be leaving the PRCC in one year.

But residents and Prescott Valley town officials opposed the change on the grounds that it could lead to higher taxes. Two monthly board meetings were packed to capacity with unhappy residents.

The plan was ultimately set aside.

By May 2013, two of the five board members, Debbie Horton and Steve Rutherford, were giving Nies poor marks on an evaluation. Rutherford said he believed Nies did not demonstrate a strong connection to the community and said Nies did not make an effort to foster a working relationship with him, among other issues.

Horton rated Nies poorly on virtually every point of the evaluation because, she said, the lack of completion of a strategic plan, goals and objectives hampered his ability to do his job. In August, Nies offered to resign, but the motion not to accept his resignation died when Horton and Rutherford voted against it, members Bob Gardiner and Bob Page were in favor, and member Tom Steele abstained.

Another vote, held during a September meeting, went 3 to 2 in favor of keeping Nies with Steele joining Gardiner and Page.

In October, Nies said he'd hired an attorney to help settle "claims" against the board, which he said he could not specify publicly.

"I either negotiate with the board to settle my claims, or I get to litigate," he said.

He added that a board member, whom he would not identify, asked him, "rather forcefully" to quit, which was what triggered his decision to hire an attorney.

The board settled with Nies on Oct. 28, but the agreement only became available Monday pursuant to terms of the settlement.

The settlement agreement admits no wrongdoing on the part of either the board or Nies, and said Nies would be paid $175,000.

It also includes, by stipulation, a letter of recommendation by the board for future employment. The letter makes no mention of the situation surrounding Nies' departure.

While a confidentiality clause prevents either side from discussing the terms of the agreement or what legal claims it covers, one section of it does indicate that Nies, 54, will "release the district... of any and all claims arising under the Age Discrimination Act of 1967."

The board on Nov. 5 appointed Assistant Chief of Operations Scott Bliss interim fire chief.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: Harold Hancock

I can hardly believe this is true. The five board members (who work for us, paid by us, answers to us, employed by us, the American tax payers, we are their bosses) want to fire someone that they think is a bad employee. Thank you for doing your job. Now you need to answer to us (your boss) why you are giving a bad employee, $ 175,000 dollars, there is no wrongdoing, and to top it off a letter of recommendation for being a good employee. Your answer to us (your Boss) is a confidentiality clause, because we donít need to know why you gave a bad employee all this. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!! YOU THINK YOU CAN TREAT YOU BOSS LIKE AN IGNORANT FOOL. WELL LET US TELL ALL FIVE OF YOU GET OUT YOUR FIRED!!!!!!! Iím so disgusted, ashamed of me, of us we let our government turn into this.

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: wayne lebowski

Is it even possible today for an average tax paying American to not feel like he is subject to a 24 /7 enema?

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: Pay Dirt

To settle that fast for that much money for such a lightweight little issue means somebody from that board really stepped on it big time. Nice little Christmas bonus from their insurance company.

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: 60 Grit

@ peter principle:
There was no wrongdoing on the part of the board, which is why they don't mind paying the money.

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

CHA CHING BABY! Leave it to some hacks serving as board members on the lightweight fire district board basically as volunteers to booger up some open meeting law violations (most likely) and get pegged with a 6 figure settlement. These people couldn't find their rear end with both hands, they gave some attorney a nice new Porsche. LOL.

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: Congratulations Prescott've officially and permanently joined the California Club, where public servants hold the taxpayers ransom and get huge secret payoffs approved by your own elected officials. Thanks, but I'll pass-go on AZ and settle on New Mexico as a destination.

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: Collin Smith

Take the money and go.

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: District Citizen

Does anyone find it odd that Nies brought in his buddy from the Valley to work for him, who was also an attorney. Then a few months later things start going bad and Nies was put under the gun. Then Nies had poor evaluations based upon failure to complete a strategic plan and other things as cited in the article. It sounds to me like this whole thing was a setup to take money from the hard working citizens of the district. It is about time this organization gets a rude awakening. I wish the town of PV would take over fire service. It may not make it better, but at least they will have to answer to someone. I also hope the board takes their time in finding the right leader for their organization from out of state this time so no more good ol boy I'll hook you up with a well paying job circle. All you supporters out there please attack me it fuels my fire.

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Article comment by: peter principle

so let me get this straight. inappropriate. and possibly illegal actions by the board result in tax payer compensation to nies?

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