Members of a committee to recall all five board members of the Los Pinos Fire Protection District have held four public meetings this week in Ignacio and Arboles to inform residents of their concerns and ask them to sign recall petitions.
In addition to recalling the five board members, the recall committee would like to see the board expand to have seven members. Ideally, new board members would include women and Southern Ute Tribal members who haven’t served on the board in the past. Kevin Ratzmann, a member of the recall committee, said about 51 percent of the district’s calls are made to tribal lands.
“We need more representation” of the community, said Kathy St. Germain, a recall committee member who attended a public meeting Tuesday night at the Ignacio Community Library. “We’d like to encourage more people to get involved.”
Ratzmann is the district’s former deputy chief. He was fired Nov. 19 and is filing a lawsuit against the district, claiming wrongful termination and retaliation for presenting concerns about Chief Tom Aurnhammer to the board. Aurnhammer is currently on vacation and will retire at the end of the year. Former chief Larry Behrens is returning to the district to serve as interim volunteer chief.
“We’re still doing our job,” one firefighter said, but added that several are looking to find jobs in other districts.
Another firefighter said employees were told not to attend meetings of the district’s board of directors and not to discuss any concerns with board members.
Los Pinos employees serve the people of the district, not the board of directors, one of the firefighters said. They also have concerns about going on calls without having a supervisor to oversee the scene and make sure employees are safe.
Ratzmann said the district plans to return a $120,000 state grant he obtained for emergency systems, including an ambulance. “This is equipment we desperately need,” one of the firefighters said.
To force a recall election, the committee needs to gather 300 verified signatures for each board member. The La Plata County clerk will verify petition signatures.
Members of the recall committee are Kevin and Melissa Ratzmann, Bernie Cuthair, Craig Fisher, Tyrun Harris, Kathy Kent, Mike Olguin, Ellie Seibel, Kathy and Rene St. Germain, and Seth St. Germain.