The Seal Rock Rural Fire Protection Board of Directors shouldn’t need to worry about canceling future meetings due to lack of a quorum, as it appointed a fourth member during an emergency meeting held Monday, with a fifth to be appointed next week.
With some members calling into a special meeting Monday afternoon, the board voted to appoint Karl Kowalski, who has previously served on the board, to fill the empty seat left by former board member Dustin Joll, who resigned in October.
The district’s previous meeting was cut short without a quorum due to the sudden death of board chair Al Anton days prior and the absence of board member Tina Fritz, who couldn’t attend the rescheduled meeting due to a conflict.
Another board candidate, Skip Smith, applied for the position, but as he could not attend the Monday meeting in person, he will instead be considered by the board to fill Anton’s empty seat at another special meeting currently scheduled for Jan. 6.
The board agreed to a request by Fritz to post notice for the vacant seat left empty by Anton’s passing before the Jan. 6 meeting and to schedule an orientation for both new members once the board is back at full force.
In addition to filling its empty seats, the board agreed to hold a special meeting on the first Thursday of every month to discuss the district’s ongoing search for a new fire chief. To that end, the board also approved the formation of a hiring committee.
As this was a special meeting, several outstanding issues at the district were not addressed, such as discussion of the district’s intergovernmental agreement with Central Oregon Coast Fire & Rescue and the possible termination of acting chief William Ewing. Those issues should be discussed at the board’s next regular meeting, usually scheduled for the third Thursday of each month.
Ewing’s employment at the Seal Rock Fire District has been a controversial subject due to pending domestic violence charges against him for assaulting his wife in September. On Nov. 22, Ewing pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree assault charge for domestic violence and entered into an agreement with the Lincoln County Circuit Court to drop the other associated charges, menacing and strangulation, provided he follows certain requirements over the next year. That agreement involves Ewing refraining from possessing alcohol or marijuana, refraining from entering a bar or tavern, not possessing a firearm and avoiding other violations of the law for a full 12 months. Additionally, Ewing will be required to attend a series of domestic violence classes during that time.
Compliance hearings for Ewing’s agreement are scheduled throughout the next year, with a final sentencing hearing set for Nov. 28, 2022.
The scheduled discussion regarding Ewing’s potential termination stems from a complaint filed by Fritz, who claimed Ewing became aggressive toward her during interactions between the two. The board planned to review Fritz’s letter and consider any action during its December meeting, before it was rescheduled due to Anton’s passing.
Ewing was hired by the fire board in October with an understanding that he would be employed on a “second-by-second” basis, with the eventual outcome of his court case to be taken into consideration. The board has yet to discuss the current status of his case during an official meeting.