A firestorm of news ignited this week after the Craig Rural Fire Protection District board bashed its President Byron Willems for asking the public to boycott local businesses that supported fire board candidate Bruce Timberg.
Timberg lost the May 6 fire board election and board members John Forgay, Chris Nichols and Tony Maneotis were re-elected.
The issue with Willems came Tuesday when the fire board addressed him about a post he made on his Facebook page after the elections, allegedly asking the public to shun businesses for having Timberg campaign signs on their properties.
We think the board did the right thing by holding Willems’ feet to the fire, per se. What’s outrageous about the situation is that Willems — who has been on the fire board for 12 years and has been president for eight of those years — stood behind his Facebook statement at the Tuesday public meeting and did not apologize for his actions.
Therefore, we think Willems should make a public apology — not only to the community for trying to allegedly sway his Facebook friends to hurt local businesses but also for his unprofessional conduct.
Renee Campbell, newspaper representative
Noelle Leavitt Riley, newspaper representative
Sheli Steele, newspaper representative
Hal Glanville, community representative
Jobeth Haydon-Tupa, community representative (absent)
Eldon Holland, community representative
Not only do we think he should apologize, but we also call for him to step down from the fire board — a request that the board also made at its Thursday night meeting.
No elected official, and in particular one in a position of protecting the public safety, should be allowed to do anything that would result in him or her being perceived as wanting to "get back" at residents who supported another candidate or who criticized his official actions or behaviors.
Another concerning factor is that Willems' business, Craig Fire and Safety, provides firefighting equipment to Craig/Fire and Rescue, which can be seen as a huge conflict of interest when a public official is in a position of potentially having inside information on bids or making decisions on taxpayer-funded purchases from his business from which he would see financial gain.
Significant care should be taken to counteract that conflict of interest or any perception of a conflict, and in this case, that seems impossible to accomplish, given his business interests. Having a business that supplies firefighting equipment to the fire district and serving on the fire district board is a conflict of interest that cannot be set aside regardless of how ethical or careful the official or the fire district board is in their purchasing procedures.
Eight years as board president is an incredible service and commitment to the community. Hats off to that kind of commitment and service. The board, however, needs to set term limits and have standards of conduct.
We hope Willems will set aside his personal agenda and apologize for his mishaps.