Embattled Monarch Fire Department hires new assistant chief

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CHESTERFIELD, MO (KTVI) - Controversy continues in the Monarch Fire Protection District over the appointment of a new assistant chief. Relations between the board members and unionized firefighters have been on thin ice ever since an April election changed the board’s makeup.

The assistant chief for this west St. Louis County fire department stepped down on March 9th. Since then, Monarch board members have quickly worked to replace him. But Monarch firefighters are deeply concerned about two candidates they claim are on the list. They say both were fired from previous posts.

One was terminated from Wentzville’s fire department; the other was a deputy chief fired from Monarch over gender discrimination.

Monarch Fire Captain Chris Gelven says, “One of the big concerns is that two of the females that were harassed still work here at the district, and they’re considering hiring this person who created a hostile work environment.”

Gelven, who serves as a union shop steward, says firefighters are also upset that no internal candidates made the final rounds: “We have several guys who applied who have many years of experience, over 35 years of experience each, and I know for a fact that they didn’t get to any final interview, from word of mouth from them, and that’s a shame.”

When it comes to the candidates, Monarch Board President Robin Harris will neither confirm nor deny who applied: “Only the HR officer and the board were aware of the list of applicants.”

But Gelven insists, “Anything around town gets around, when somebody’s doing an interview, people talk.”

In a closed session before Wednesday’s public meeting, the board chose the new assistant chief, but his identity won’t be released until he officially accepts the job. “Certainly not later than Monday evening, we’ll have the answer,” Harris says.

As for the firefighters, Gelven adds, “I guess our hope is that whoever is picked, it’s not a political appointment, and it’s somebody that we can work with and move the district forward in a positive manner.”