VONC presented to the JCFPD Board

November 14, 2017

Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District Board of Directors,

After four years of failed leadership and poor results we, the vast majority of the Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District Firefighters, have come to the firm and unfortunate conclusion to submit this letter of our vote of “No Confidence” in Fire Chief, Rick Marinelli.

We want to make it clear, this is not a decision we took lightly and it is not a personal attack. We have an acute understanding of the significance of this action but due to Chief Marinelli’s actions, and lack thereof, we are left with no other choice. He has been filling the position of our “fire chief” but has not performed in the capacity of one.re now for fear of discipline and retaliation. Chief Marinelli has made comments to members of this department that he “knows people in high places,” inferring that he could affect their careers or the careers of their family members. He also told a member of the department, after being corrected on a policy issue during a meeting, “This is the kind of stuff that chiefs remember about employees when they need a recommendation.” We know this action may ultimately cause the punitive results we fear. At this point we feel it is imperative we take the risk. If we do not speak out the chief will continue to dismantle our organization until there is nothing left.

It is crucial that JCFPD has a fire chief that is committed to the citizens whom we serve and not his own private agenda, the agenda of the JCFPD board president or the political agenda of the County of San Diego. Our leader must have the drive and commitment to carry out the vision of the organization. Instead he publicly and privately rallies for the county proposal even after the board has voted to remain independent. This is in direct contradiction to the board’s current mission and obstructs the possibility of its success.

The chief has made derogatory statements about our board members – the same members he stated publicly he “handpicked.” He openly states the board’s decision to remain independent is foolish and called those members who voted for it stupid. He even recently resorted to using scare tactics by reaching out to the San Diego Union Tribune warning the people of San Diego, who enjoy coming to Julian as tourists, that our level of service as of January 1, 2018 will be drastically reduced due to the loss of the County Fire Authority paramedic engine.

A leader of any fire department must lead by example, be dedicated to the team, to its cause and to its goals. Chief Marinelli demonstrates regularly that he is unwilling to function as a team member let alone be a mentor for those he leads. He recently left a duty officer who was responding to an emergency call in a department vehicle that broke down, stranded on the side of the road to fend for himself rather than pick him up or take the emergency call himself.

He calls the volunteers “nuts” and has stated he would never do what we do for free. He takes extended periods of time off, even though he only works part-time, and even through this critical period for our department. He is unavailable to us on his days off and after 4:00 p.m. on the days he is at work. Chief Marinelli has left town, on numerous occasions, without passing command, which is an abandonment of his post and a clear violation of our SOPs. In the past four years, he has only responded to a handful of emergency incidents and refuses to respond even when notified which is another violation of our SOPs,

He has not once instructed any classes, participated in our numerous academies and does not support our fund-raising or community outreach programs. He states that the community outreach and fundraisers are a waste of time. He says the outreaches do not provide any revenue and the fundraisers do not provide “sustainable” revenue. We have explained to him that these events are not about the money but are about building the strength and unity of our community. He still refuses to support them.

An effective leader has the ability to demonstrate respect and genuine concern for his members. Chief Marinelli, instead, is detrimental to morale and reveals his true feelings toward his subordinates by fostering a work environment that is aggressive and hostile. He is contentious and demoralizing. He regularly bullies, ridicules and humiliates our personnel. He makes disparaging comments regarding their height, weight, age and other physical attributes in front of others. He has made jokes regarding the “presumed” sexual preference of one of our members and repeatedly refers to him and another male employee as “lovers.”  When some have tried to express concerns about his behavior the chief has said things like “If you do not like what you hear, there’s the door” and “I don’t care, I’m the Fire Chief.”

Members of our organization have left the department due to the dysfunctional working environment he has created and there are members of the community that refuse to join the department for the very same reason.

Good leaders advocate for and show pride in their organization. Chief Marinelli demeans our department. He attempts to damage our credibility and our status with other fire agencies and the general public. At zone-chief meetings he has said the volunteers of Julian were inept and incapable of assisting other agencies and even called us “backward hillbillies”.  He publicly contends that the volunteers could not pass a physical or background check to become “real” firefighters. He has stated that in an emergency situation he would not want a volunteer “working on him or his family.” Recently, at our local post office (and after repeatedly asserting to all of us that he is 100% committed to the board’s decision to stay independent) he boisterously belittled our volunteers. He stated we were not competent to serve the citizens and that anyone who believes we are is stupid. He has damaged and is continuing to damage our reputations both personally and professionally. It is painfully obvious how Chief Marinelli feels about us, this department, and the members of the board who voted to remain independent.

Leaders lead with honor and by example. Chief Marinelli uses the power of authority and the threat of discipline to intimidate individuals to do what he wants. He has, clearly for self-serving reasons, told members of the department to keep their mouths shut at board meetings and forbidden us to speak to the public regarding the county proposal. Previous to these orders, at a board meeting the EMS Director (who was asked by a board member to provide this information) countered erroneous statistical data provided by the county regarding our ambulance response time. A report of the history and revenue generated by a backup ambulance on busy weekends was also provided. Chief Marinelli chose to state the backup ambulance lost money and was financially not advisable even after it was shown to be profitable. Several years ago this report was provided to Chief Marinelli who has refused to continue running the backup ambulance stating “it’s against our ambulance contract with County EMS.” He has been untruthful about the revenue generated by a second ambulance. As a result of these reports, the EMS coordinator has been threatened with disciplinary action, banned from attending any board meetings while on duty and has been forbidden to address the board in any future meeting.

A leader resolves conflict. He unites his personnel and is able to build trustworthy relationships with them. Chief Marinelli instead is intent on destroying our solidarity and has created division and duplicity. He has attempted to isolate members of the department to get them to buy into the county proposal. He has pitted members of this organization against one another asking some to spy and report their findings back to him. He has shown favoritism to the few members who are covertly “on his side” by making inexplicable changes in duty assignments, including them in communications and decisions while severing communication and withholding pertinent information to key members of the department who have expressed opposition to the county takeover.

He has closed-door meetings with the board president on a regular basis but refuses to speak to and delays requested information to another board member who voted against the county. These types of deceptive, insincere practices have alienated him from almost everyone in this department.  This has resulted in an organization that is in a constant state of confusion, uncertainty and without direction.

Leaders have a clear vision for the future of their organization and a strategy to get there. We believe Chief Marinelli’s sole vision is, and has been for quite some time, to turn the department over to the county. He makes biased decisions without having all the facts or ignoring the facts and without any of our knowledge or input. He has stalled promotions – there have not been any promotions since 2013.

The public and members of this department have also presented him with many viable ideas to staff our organization and provide additional income, all of which have been met with a resounding “no” or “can’t.”

I think it is clear that Chief Marinelli does not have our fire department’s or the community’s best interest at heart. Through his actions, we feel he has neglected his duties as our District Chief. His repeated lack of leadership, vision and open communication has unquestionably demonstrated he does not possess the characteristics necessary to empower the men and women of our department and lead the organization in a positive direction.

Lastly, we believe Chief Marinelli is not fully qualified to be the chief of a fire department whose primary mission is to provide structure, EMS and traffic collision incidents. His training is solely in wildland fire. He has not sought out or participated in any training venues that would qualify him in these areas of deficiency.

We know that our residents are at risk of being shortchanged.

Our fire department is under attack both externally and internally. Those involved are using unrelenting devious maneuvers to succeed in a hostile takeover even though the board has already voted 4 to 1 to remain independent. This department must reestablish its transparency and trustworthiness and we cannot do that while Chief Marinelli continues to secretly conspire with the board president and the county to dissolve our 35-year-old fire department.

We implore the Fire Board to carefully, and without bias, listen to and investigate our concerns. You share the responsibility of evaluating the chief’s competency to lead this organization – not just for our sake or the department’s sake, but for the sake of all the residents and visitors of Julian and Lake Cuyamaca.

We would like to reassure the citizens of this community and all that work or visit here that our commitment to you and your safety is still unwavering and will not be compromised. We will continue to provide you with the exceptional, compassionate service we have provided for 35 years, no matter what conditions we are faced with.

We the members of JCFPD ask ourselves who Chief Marinelli supports and stands behind. Unfortunately, the answer is not JCFPD. We respectfully request the immediate removal and replacement of Fire Chief Rick Marinelli before he causes any further damage to the operations of this department.

Thank you for your careful consideration of our position on this critical issue.

Respectfully submitted by the members of JCFPD