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Pendleton firefighters speak against Ciraulo’s departure

Union representative says fire chief improved morale and productivity
Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on May 16, 2018 1:40PM

Last changed on May 16, 2018 1:46PM

Pendleton Fire Chief Mike Ciraulo read the book “Let’s Meet a Firefighter” during career story time in November 2016 at the Pendleton Public Library. Ciraulo retired unexpectedly in April.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Pendleton Fire Chief Mike Ciraulo read the book “Let’s Meet a Firefighter” during career story time in November 2016 at the Pendleton Public Library. Ciraulo retired unexpectedly in April.

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The Pendleton firefighters union made its first public statement following former Fire Chief Mike Ciraulo’s abrupt retirement at a Pendleton City Council meeting Tuesday.

Representing the union, firefighter/paramedic Jared Uselman was literally backed by a full room of plain clothes fire department staff and purple-clad workers from the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, the organization that represents non-public safety employees for the city.

Standing at the podium, Uselman told the council that Ciraulo had boosted productivity and morale during his tenure at the fire department, qualities that remain after his departure.

And although he stopped short of suggesting the city take a specific action, Uselman said the firefighters union was opposed to Ciraulo’s retirement.

“We were not expecting this to happen, and we as a (union) are not here to seek repairs or amends to the recent changes,” he said. “Nor are we here to find answers to our questions. We are here based on a system of values and integrity, a system that represents the core values of our city. We are here to say that we as a (union), did not, and do not, support the departure of Mike Ciraulo from our department.”

Ciraulo left the fire department on April 23, announcing his retirement and departure on the same day.

Ciraulo’s separation agreement with the city includes an anti-disparagement clause, and he has declined to comment on the reasons behind his sudden departure multiple times.

But the former fire chief’s employee evaluations revealed that there was some tension over Police Chief Stuart Roberts continuing to supervise Cirualo as the city’s public safety director. Roberts also took issue with Cirualo going over-budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year and the way he handled a personnel investigation.

Although Uselman avoided criticizing the city, Ron and Penny Gavette didn’t pull any punches during the open comment period.

“Mike Ciraulo’s abrupt leaving is a tragedy that we can all learn from,” Ron Gavette said.

Ron Gavette’s wife, Penny, said she was “pissed off” about Ciraulo’s departure, noting the contributions Ciraulo and his wife Gilda have made to the community.

“Mike does not deserve this,” she said. “And you know what? Maybe we don’t deserve the Ciraulos. We suck.”

Penny Gavette questioned why the Ciraulos would buy a house, start a business and lead a fire station bond effort if they didn’t plan to stay longterm. She called the frequent turnover at the fire chief position “an embarrassment” and “shameful.”

The couple ended their comments by requesting the city rehire Ciraulo.

Mayor John Turner told the Gavettes that he and the city council couldn’t comment on personnel issues. After the meeting, City Manager Robb Corbett also declined to comment.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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