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City Manager and Fire Chief
Not In Agreement?
Loveland - August 16, 2008

In 2005, when City Manager Don Williams appointed Mike Chard as Loveland's fire chief, Williams made an interesting
comment.  He was quoted in a City of Loveland press release stating, “Mike is appreciated and well respected for his emphasis
on operations, his efforts to build efficiency without exceeding resources and his creative, most-bang-for-the-buck approach."  
To many, the statement appeared to say more about his ability to follow directions than to lead an important organization within
the City of Loveland.

Nine days ago Chard resigned his position after being placed on administrative leave August 1, 2008.  While the reasons behind
his resignation have not been released, the interim fire chief said something equally telling.  Merlin Green, who is filling the
position temporarily, was quoted in the Loveland Connection August 16, saying, “We were all shocked at the announcement,
but our focus is to maintain a positive image."   

It is curious that when Chard arrived to the position of fire chief and when he left it, the city's public announcements focused on
either financing or public image but not public safety.  This might provide some hint into the issues culminating in his resignation.  
According to information received by LovelandPolitics the better question is "why didn't he resign sooner?" given the very
limited authority he was allowed by the city manager.

Plan To Reduce Public Safety
A few years back Chief Chard did something unusual if not impossible for most city fire chiefs.  Chard recommended to the
Loveland City Council that the city's 5 minute response requirement for fire emergencies be changed to a 5 minute "goal" since a
number of newer developments are arguably now beyond the 5 minute response time of the existing fire stations.  His
recommendation was unusual since a fire chief usually recommends maintaining or improving the quality of emergency services.  
Instead, Chard was recommending reducing the response requirement instead of expanding the number of fire stations to
accommodate growth that had occurred in the city.

Chard was said to have shared with one member of Loveland's City Council in private his frustration at making the
recommendation in public.  In summary, he was said to complain at that time that Don Williams told him to make the
recommendation and there wasn't very much wiggle room allowed for disagreement in the city's senior management ranks.  
Councilman Glenn Rousey, a regular contributor to this blog, argued against the lowering of the standard and later met with
Chard to discuss the issue.  Rousey has stated the standard was not lowered by the city council despite the recommendation.

In most cities the fire chief acts as an advocate for public safety and is allowed to buck horns occasionally with city management
when they don't agree on funding issues.  In Loveland, the city manager keeps a tight leash on senior managers and public
dissent is not often tolerated.

Misappropriating Public Safety Money
City Manager Don Williams also angered fire fighters by raiding the "CEF's" (Capital Expenditure Funds) last year that were
intended for fire and rescue services.  The CEF's are the monies paid by new development and set aside to fund large one-time
capital expansion costs like building fire stations or acquiring new emergency vehicles.  Don Williams has been using these
monies (considered sacred in most cities) like million dollar gambling chips on the table to
buy land near I-25 to be annexed into
Loveland in competition with Johnstown.   The law doesn't allow the city to actually use CFE funds for land speculation
therefore the city manager "borrows" the money from the CEF's and pays it back like a loan over time.
see LovelandPolitics archived story regarding the money taken from Fire Safety funds for William's land

In the meantime, Loveland fire and rescue service has not grown commensurate with Loveland's increasing population.  This has
placed an extra burden on emergency service personnel especially when trying to respond to areas of the city (like east of I-25)
that stretch personnel too thinly.  The city does have a long term plan to add additional fire stations in the future and personnel
but in the meantime, that money has been invested in land speculations along I-25 to aid future development.

Why Did Chard Resign?
LovelandPolitics cannot answer this question as the city has kept that information private.  However, Loveland Connection has
confirmed that many of the last emails traded between the city manager and Chief Chard involved issues regarding infrastructure
according to information provided by the Loveland City Clerk.  Loveland Connection has done a brilliant job of trying to
wrestle the truth out of city hall through "freedom of information" requests.

So far the City of Loveland is holding on to 54 emails claiming they cannot be released without somehow creating harm to the
city.  In this case, this claim may only be half right - the one they could harm not be the city but instead its manager.  And that is
not a legally sufficient reason to ignore freedom of information requests.

City Employees - Encouraged To Post
Are you close to these events and don't agree with our story?  Correct the record or provide your own version anonymously on
our blog by
clicking here. The LovelandPolitics blog does not reveal your email address and cannot identify the person
blogging.  Please blog responsibly!
Did you know?

Loveland's city manager has long
argued that his authority to hire
and remove subordinates means
he doesn't need to report his
decisions or actions to the city

What he conveniently forgets, is
that he reports to the city council
and they have the right to provide
official  oversight on everything
he does.

While personnel management
must be executed by an individual
and not a committee, it doesn't
give him license to ignore his
obligation to the city council or to
keep them informed.

It would be the equivalent of a
private sector CEO telling his
board of directors "it isn't your
business" whenever asking about
personnel matters.