3 Fire District #5 Board Members Resign Leaving No Quorum And Claims Of Collusion

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. — Mere minutes into a meeting on Tuesday, over half of the Jackson County Fire District No. 5’s 5-member Board of Directors resigned abruptly. The resignation of three members follows months of turmoil with union-represented employees’ loss of confidence in Fire Chief Charles Hanley- who allegedly tolerated and participated in bullying and harassment of employees in the district.

Read: Rogue Valley Fire Department Staff Exodus: Unfair Practices By Management Alleged


Board Members of Fire District 5 Resignations

Announcing that an agenda item dealing with tax revenues for the district would be moved up and debated before the scheduled executive session, Board Chair Vicki Purslow kicked off the meeting at 3:30 p.m. in the Phoenix fire station, after the board stood for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Board member Derek Volkart advised the board in a written statement that he intended to call for an investigation into Purslow for conducting business outside of board meetings and speaking on the board’s behalf, allegedly without authority. A brief discussion ensued and Volkart indicated that he intended to call for a vote to place Chief Hanley on administrative leave amid a host of union concerns about an alleged culture of harassment and bullying at the district. A similar motion from Volkart failed at the board meeting on February 20.

Chair Vicky Purslow indicated that Volkhart’s grievance would be heard after the executive session to which board member Sam Pare-Miller responded, raising a motion for board consideration. Purslow would not hear the motion, indicating that it had to be raised before a board meeting to be on the agenda. She then said that the meeting would convene in executive session and offered her resignation. Purslow left after telling board member Mike Winters: “You’ll be chair for the day.”

In reply, Winters tendered his resignation, saying that he saw this coming, and board member Cary Halligan also tendered his resignation, with apologies. As the meeting then lacked a quorum, it was adjourned.


Lack Of Quorum Delays Misconduct Investigations

Volkart later said that the resignations delayed a necessary investigation into allegations against Hanley and Purslow. As the lack of a quorum leaves the remaining board members unable to conduct business, the concerns raised by the union over alleged misconduct that was reportedly ignored remain unaddressed.

Delivering fire protection to 120 square miles in southern Jackson County, the district’s 3 fire stations include Phoenix and Talent as well as unincorporated areas surrounding Ashland to the California border. State law, under ORS198.320, directs that if the majority of a board membership is vacant, vacancies are referred to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for appointment.

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