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Darien firefighters want chief to take action against troublesome employee

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Kayla Bunge
August 27, 2008
— Five firefighters who resigned from the Darien Fire Department say officials are being too slow to take action against First Assistant Chief Dan Boss, whom the firefighters say has for years overstepped his authority and caused unrest in the department.

“Nobody wants to listen,” said former Second Assistant Chief James McKinney. “Nobody wants to cross this guy because he’ll make some type of threat. And the chief is dragging his feet. He doesn’t want to cause waves.”


When reached this morning, Boss said the fire department is operating smoothly and any comments on the department’s operation should come from the chief.


Fire Chief Dan Nickels said the department is vetting the firefighters claims, but “the things they accused (Boss) of doing are wrong.


“There are different personalities that are going against each other,” Nickels said, “and instead of trying to work it out, they’re trying to dig at each other. We’ve got to work together.”


McKinney, who had been with the department for more than 10 years, and former Capt. Dale Morgan, who had been with the department for about 20 years, said they are representing five firefighters who resigned.


They believe there have been a number of problems with Boss over the years, but the way he handled a recent emergency convinced them to resign, they said.


The Darien Fire Department on July 29 responded to a cut gas main on Madison Street.


According to a written statement from the five firefighters:


Boss radioed for all units to stop what they were doing until he could get to the scene. He said he was eight minutes away.


After arriving, Boss left in an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens activated to get his personal gear. He did not get extra gear available at the fire station one block away. He also neglected to delegate command to another firefighter in his absence.


While on the scene, Boss failed to respond to radio communication from other emergency personnel, including Walworth County Emergency Management and the Darien Police Department.


The fire department board met in closed session Aug. 4 to discuss the incident, and representatives of the town, village and fire department met to discuss it Aug. 12.


Nickels said the department is working to resolve the problem.


“We’ve been doing it in closed session,” he said. “I don’t know why these guys are going to the papers. They should be coming to (the fire department board).”


Nickels said the department will take up the issue again at its meeting Tuesday.


McKinney and Morgan said the firefighters are looking for action so that no more firefighters leave the department.


Nickels previously told the Gazette that 21 paid, on-call volunteer firefighters remained on staff, but according to the written statement from the five firefighters, only 16 remain.


“Why not lose one guy instead of the five?” McKinney said.


McKinney and Morgan said they wanted to retire from the Darien Fire Department.


“I didn’t want to go out this way,” McKinney said.


What would it take for the firefighters to rescind their resignations?


“Boss would need to be gone completely,” Morgan said.


McKinney said his optimism is waning.


“If this goes on much longer, I plain won’t go back,” McKinney said. “It’s getting to that point where I feel like I’m not wanted there.”



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