Wills Point board member speaks after VFD chief dismissed, firef - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Wills Point board member speaks after VFD chief dismissed, firefighters resign

WILLS POINT, TX (KLTV) -

Wills Point leaders are speaking up after several volunteer firefighters resigned following the dismissal of the fire chief.

On Wednesday, Joe Arnold, president of the board for Van Zandt County Emergency Services District 4, released a statement on the decision to dismiss Chief Ed Leipply, saying the move was not a "knee-jerk reaction" but instead was based on a long history of his managerial choices.

Arnold also addressed the firefighters he said opted to leave the department, saying the board was disappointed and that the board did not ask for or want that.

Arnold said an interim chief will be in place by the week's end.

KLTV has reached out to some members of the fire department who resigned, but they declined to comment.

See Arnold's full statement below.

"The vote resulting in the dismissal of Chief Ed Leipply is not a referendum on the entire WPVFD. Also, this was not a knee-jerk reaction to any one incident.

Over a long period of time, the managerial choices of the chief regarding budgetary accountability, equipment readiness, and safety of our firefighters raised concerns of board members. We understand frustrations exhibited by the WPVFD.

Legal counsel for  VZCESD4, Ken Campbell of the law firm Burns, Anderson, Jury and Brenner, LLP of Austin, advised the board to not share specifics of the dismissal at the meeting, pending an opportunity for the chief to choose to go through an appeals process. 

Yes, we were disappointed the entire VFD chose to express their desire to quit serving the community. VZCESD4 will have an interim chief in place before the week is over. We hope and expect some of the former volunteers to return to service. Several expressed a true desire to serve the citizens. 

Even though the resignation of the VFD voids the contract presently in place between the WPVFD and VZCESD4, we expect to welcome volunteers, both new and returning, into the WPVFD, and resume serving the tax papers and protecting citizens under a new agreement. 

The board of directors of Van Zandt County Emergency Services District No. 4, remains focused on seeing that the citizens of our district have consistent and top quality fire service. We regret that the Tuesday meeting was contentious. Because some of the information involved personnel matters, the board is prohibited by state law from disclosing such matters.

The board understands the emotional issue of any leadership change. However, the board did not ask for any volunteer firefighter to resign. The firefighters who walked out in loyalty to the fire chief did so of their own volition.

Some of the heartfelt, even angry, comments condemned the board members for putting the citizens o ESD4 at risk. However, it was the volunteers who walked out in resignation and protest. The board did not ask for that, nor did the board want it.

So who exactly is putting the citizens at risk?

Some members of the VFD took to social media to condemn the board for "disbanding the fire department." The board did no such thing. Some commented that "obviously the board members don't live here." Again, not true, as board members are required by state law to live within the district they serve.

The ESD4 has a contract with the Wills Point Volunteer Fire Department to provide fire service to the district. Over a period of several months, the terms of that contract were not being kept by the VFD so the board asked for a change in leadership.

The mass walkout of the firefighters puts them squarely in violation of that contract.

Plans were and are in place with other ESD's and surrounding towns as part of our mutual aid agreements for fire service. The Wills Point Police Department is aware of the issue as is Van Zandt County Dispatch which handles all 911 calls."

Copyright 2017 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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