On May 24, a public meeting was held at the Sonoita Fire Station that included an executive session to consult with the Sonoita Elgin Fire District (SEFD) attorney Donna Aversa on several issues. Upon reconvening the public meeting, a motion was unanimously approved to deny a $10,000 claim submitted by Peter Potoski alleging withholding of public records. 

On a second agenda item, Board Chair Chris Johnson stated that the Board’s attorney had contacted the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s office regarding the unauthorized payments made to former Chief DeWolf and potential recovery of such payments. 

The County Attorney suggested that SEFD contact the local Sheriff’s office; however, no decision to do so has been made at this date. Johnson also stated that the board intends to submit additional information on their insurance claim by June 1 to attempt reimbursement for costs associated with DeWolf’s salary and benefits overpayment and subsequent costs for attorney and investigation services. 

The board unanimously approved an IGA for contract services for a part-time Fire Chief’s position and ad hoc administrative services from Palominas staff. The IGA will be sent to Palominas for approval soon. Proposed compensation is $1,625 per week for the part time Chief position, and $200 per day for administrative services on an ad hoc basis until the administrative assistant vacancy is filled. 

Three fire district residents had submitted applications for the remaining SEFD Board Member vacancy. Peter Potoski failed to appear for the interview and Julie Firos, a previous candidate, withdrew her application stating she was committed to another non-profit project. Russ Kolsrude was interviewed and unanimously approved for appointment to the Board. 

Kolsrude, an attorney familiar with open meeting laws, conflict of interest, and confidentiality, has been in and out of the community for the last 19 years.

“I am always looking for a challenge and want to make a contribution,” said Kolsrude. 

The current Board Members pointed out the urgency to clean up residual issues stemming from the former Chief’s tenure; balancing the public’s right to know with open meeting laws and protecting people’s privacy; confidentiality, to include not sharing information with friends; and limited resources; but Kolsrude was up for the challenge, saying, “Solving problems is my greatest strength, along with getting consensus from people who often do not agree on things.”