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CAL FIRE Chief Testifies About Promotion Scandal

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio
 

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

The head of California's state fire department says he's reformed how the agency hires and promotes officers.
 
An investigation by the State Personnel Board found CAL FIRE promoted employees to captain without considering other candidates, demoted them when that was revealed, only to promote them again a month later.

CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott told the board that won’t happen again, because now a new division checks all hiring decisions.

"Before any offer can be made, the documentation goes to the hiring review unit in Sacramento," Pimlott says. "It is really the checks and balance point."

Pimlott said the review board had stopped 14 hires from going through, more than 10 percent of all those proposed.

It was a largely-amicable meeting, but Personnel Board Vice President Lauri Shanahan suggested CAL FIRE needs broader changes beyond new processes.

"This is no small problem. I know you know that and you’ve acknowledged that and you’re here in good faith trying to fix that. But it is more than checking boxes. It is more than doing forms," Shanahan says. "I mean, your house blew down because the foundation wasn’t strong."

Investigations into CAL FIRE the past two years—sparked by a murder—found widespread academic cheating, drinking on the job, and sexual misconduct.

Governor Jerry Brown put $4 million in his latest budget proposal to add what’s essentially an internal affairs unit to the department.