Modesto Regional Fire Authority board votes to keep fire chief

02/05/2014 2:09 PM

02/05/2014 10:37 PM

The Modesto Regional Fire Authority has decided to keep Randall Bradley as its chief, ending weeks of speculation about his future with the authority.

MRFA’s board of directors voted 3-0 on Wednesday during a special board meeting to retain Bradley, who was hired seven months ago to lead an agency with a $31.9 million budget and roughly 160 employees.

Wednesday was the fourth time since November that the board had met in closed session to discuss Bradley’s job performance, even though his contract calls for him to receive annual reviews. Board members and Bradley have declined to say why he was the subject of the meetings. But Bradley said he was glad the matter has been resolved.

“I’m extremely pleased that the board voted unanimously to allow me to continue to provide the leadership needed to move the organization in the right direction,” he said. Bradley added that he has not done anything wrong as fire chief.

As in past meetings, several dozen firefighters attended the meeting Wednesday in a show of support for Bradley. They said he has increased morale, strengthened ties with neighboring fire agencies and saved MRFA money through cost-saving measures. They also said Bradley has the respect of firefighters from neighboring fire departments.

“We support Chief Bradley and what he has brought to our fire department,” Modesto City FireFighters Association President Tim Tietjen told the MRFA board members before they entered their closed-session deliberations.

Bradley, 51, came to Modesto after four years as chief of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District in Contra Costa County. He also was chief of the Lawrence Livermore Fire Department for six years and deputy chief of the Alameda County Fire Department for two years. Bradley has been MRFA’s chief since July and earns $157,000 annually.

MRFA was formed in 2011 when Modesto, the Stanislaus County fire warden’s office and the Salida Fire Protection District entered into a joint-powers agreement. Its board of directors consists of one representative from each agency. The MRFA board members are Modesto Councilman Dave Lopez, county Supervisor Bill O’Brien and Salida district board member Mark Brubaker.

Some of Bradley’s supporters have said he was undermined by those who supported another candidate for fire chief. The supporters have said Salida and the county wanted Dale Skiles, who served as acting chief last year, for the top job. O’Brien has said those claims are not true.

Skiles – who was appointed county fire warden and assistant director of the Office of Emergency Services by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors in August – has not returned emails and phone messages seeking comment.

MRFA faces challenges as it moves forward. Modesto provides about 80 percent of MRFA’s funding, but the city is considering cutting $500,000 of those funds in the current budget year, which ends June 30. If enacted, that reduction would amount to $1 million over a full budget year.

The MRFA board also will look at what officials are calling governance issues. For instance, Lopez has said one concern for the city is that it provides most of MRFA’s resources but has only one of the three votes on the authority board.

The Salida Fire Protection District is formulating plans to provide fire protection services to its community in the event MRFA dissolves. But Bradley said he does not expect that to happen.

“I don’t think MRFA will go away,” he said, “but it could change. We are probably going to look at everything, and work with the board and the parent agencies to make adjustments that will allow for sustainable growth.”

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