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Perreira appeals fire chief selection, says process wasn’t ‘fair and transparent’

The acting fire chief who was passed over for the permanent position is appealing the Fire Commission’s selection process.

Deputy Fire Chief Robert Perreira served as acting chief following former Chief Darren Rosario’s retirement Nov. 1. The Fire Commission chose Battalion Chief Kazuo Todd as the new chief. Todd was sworn in April 15, and Perreira retired from the department April 30.

In his April 30 appeal, Perreira charged the Fire Commission with not conducting a fair and transparent process for the selection of a new chief. He could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.

A March 10 vote by the commission raised questions when it was taken in executive session and then ratified in open session. The commission redid the vote April 14, having it in open session, with commissioners submitting handwritten ballots.

Commissioners Shon Magsalin, Wesley Mattos, Corey Luke, Daniel Paleka and Benjamin Agdeppa voted for Todd while commissioners Gregory Henkel and Kyle Keamo voted for Perreira. Gene Nakashima was the lone vote for Battalion Chief William Bergin.

With the minimum five votes necessary garnered, the selection was ratified in open session and Todd was again picked to be fire chief, effective immediately.

The Merit Appeals Board took up the issue Wednesday, questioning whether it even had the authority to rule on the complaint. The board, on the advice of Deputy Attorney General Amanda Furman, scheduled a July 12 hearing to hear oral arguments from both sides on whether the board had jurisdiction.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Kaena Horowitz, who advises the commission, said he’d prepare the briefs the board requested. He declined immediate comment.

Human Resources Director Bill Brilhante, responding to questions from the board, said he thinks the county charter gives the Fire Commission the authority to evaluate candidates and hire a chief. He thinks it’s outside the purview of the Merit Appeals Board and outside the purview of the HR department.

“In my opinion, unofficially, I think the proper adjudication of this matter is through the legal process,” said Brilhante, who is also an attorney.

The five-member Merit Appeals Board is charged with hearing cases relating to recruitment and examination, classification and reclassification of a particular position and other employment actions, including disciplinary actions for failure of the employees to meet performance requirement. The board considers only those cases relating to employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The fire chief controls an annual budget of $52 million and oversees 470 employees. In fiscal year 2019-20, the department responded to 26,101 calls for assistance, of which nearly 18,000 were for emergency medical services and 900 for fires or explosions. The career position paid about $153,096 in 2020.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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