Fire Chief terminated without cause

During a brief 10 minute meeting on May 16, the Mesquite City Council cast a split vote to terminate Fire Chief Kash Christopher “without cause.” Three councilmen, David Ballweg, George Rapson and Brian Wursten, voted in favor of the action. Councilman Rich Green voted no and Councilman Geno Withelder voted to abstain from the proposal.

Christopher was placed on unpaid administrative leave May 4 by City Manager Andy Barton following a contentious period that erupted in late April. Alleged employee dissatisfaction with Christopher and allegations of sexual misconduct between management and employees in the fire department were part of the mix. According to sources, Christopher was not part of the alleged misconduct. However, employees allege he did not do enough to stop or prevent it.

Concerns were raised as far back as May 2016 that Christopher was not complying with a clause in his contract that required him to live within 15 miles of Mesquite. Christopher was renting a condo in Mesquite from Mayor Al Litman and insisted this was his local residence. However, his family continued to live in North Las Vegas and he split his time between the two locations.

Litman read a prepared statement when the meeting began saying he was completely opposed to terminating Christopher’s employment. “I have never been presented with any evidence of any wrongdoing by Chief Christopher or any member of our fire department. If Chief Christopher is not supported by his staff, I have seen no evidence of that,” Litman said.

Litman addressed concerns that Christopher did not live in Mesquite as required by his contract. “I am prepared to testify under oath that he was here as a resident approximately five days a week. Recent articles in the local press said he split his time between here and Las Vegas. This is untrue as most days were spent in Mesquite as well as many nights,” he said. Litman did not disclose that Christopher was renting a condo that Litman owned.

“The actions today by this city council will only serve to create another black eye and will accomplish nothing to better our city,” Litman said.

Christopher addressed the mayor and council saying “Two weeks ago in a conversation I had with Mr. Barton the council was seeking my resignation or termination because they didn’t feel I did enough after an investigation I conducted in the fire department in November. I advised the captain [who was allegedly at the center of the investigation] to seek union representation regarding another investigation. And, my wife’s residency in North Las Vegas. Are those the reasons?”

Litman answered, “I believe so.”

“This is a witch hunt,” Christopher said. “I’m not going to spend all day talking about it. Because it is a witch hunt. The third reason is what I’m going to talk about. If my wife wants to lay her head in Mesquite, North Las Vegas or if she wants to go back to Honduras to live, that’s her business. It’s nobody else’s business where my wife lives.”

One other public comment was made in support of Christopher by Mike Benham, who heads the Civilian Emergency Response Team. “I like Chief Christopher. He’s been good to me. I’m really upset.”

No firefighters attended the meeting.

Withelder was the only councilman who made comments during the meeting saying he was shocked to read the headlines in the newspaper about Christopher’s potential termination. “I’m not happy with the outcome of what’s been transpiring. I thought Chief Christopher did an absolutely marvelous job in the short time he’s been here. I’m sorry to see it come down this way. I guess it’s too late to mend any fences or patch up any holes.”

Ballweg made the motion to terminate the chief without cause meaning that Christopher was eligible for three months’ severance pay plus accrued vacation. Had the chief been fired with cause he would not have been eligible for any compensation.

Christopher was hired as the Mesquite Fire Department Chief in June 2014 and was given a 20 percent pay increase in 2016 bringing his current salary to $112,794. He will receive approximately $28,000 in severance pay.

Barton affirmed to the Mesquite Local News that an investigation will be conducted in the alleged misconduct in the fire department by an outside source. He would not provide any specifics beyond that.

Comments

  1. mike benham says:

    I understand the reason no firefighters attended the meeting was they were asked not to by kash. Christopher. yes I am upset he has done a great deal for this city the CERT team was just about done he got me to take it over. the only reason I did not pack it in is because of the fine people in mesquite .but I will tell you I came close. the EEOC Swift water team was started by him. this is the third chief that has gone.

  2. Walter B. Wilson says:

    Does anyone else see a “Conflict of Interest” in Mayor Litman testifying in behalf of the terminated Fire Chief when he is receiving $$ from him in rent money because the Chief rents the Mayor’s condo??? And Litman can testify that the Chief “resides” in Mesquite how?

    • Al Litman says:

      I disclosed at two separate council meetings that the chief rented a condo i owned. he paid fair market rent. He terminated his agreement with me when he was placed on leave. It has since been rerented for the same market rate rent. There was no conflict of interest, I only stated the facts. The chief voted in Mesquite and spent his working days and nights here. The condo, by the way, has been a rental until for the past six years that I owned it. There is no conflict of interest in renting to anyone as long as there are no favors given.

    • Steve Clutterham says:

      No I don’t think anyone else sees a conflict of interest here. Mr. Litman disclosed this from the beginning. Who better to verify that Kash was living here than the man he pays rent to. The by laws do not say his wife has to live here.

  3. Dennis Cournoyer says:

    An odor continues to billow from city hall. Back stabbing and in-fighting has been normal business practice in our city government since the city build the current edifice for their grandiose pleasure. Have you, the tax payer, ever looked at the list of monthly expenditures for the shining building and its occupants? I have and I’m shocked by how much money is wasted by the occupants of our very own white house. Please don’t take my word for it, do a little research of your own, you will also be shocked..

    • Al Litman says:

      Could you be a litle more specific in the issues with city expendatures? All records are open to the public, and I mean all.

    • Steve Clutterham says:

      The only shock will be how much it actually costs to hire quality people and run any business today. And the running of a city is just that, a business. An expensive one. The city was recently audited by an outside company and found to be at or below comparable local cities and businesses.

  4. What has happened is truly sic…Many of us who had the honor of experiencing your caring ways will miss you, Chief Chris. Chief was targeted in public because of his position as the Fire Chief. The individuals who created the sexual harassment problem – they get sheltered? As for his residency? He has been here since 2014, living in a rental and all of a sudden it became an issue???

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