The Sonoita Elgin Fire District (SEFD) Board of Directors held a special meeting on Monday, January 4, 2021. Following a 90-minute Executive Session, the Board unanimously voted to terminate Chief DeWolf for cause effective January 5 at 5:00p.m. They then unanimously voted to have the Board’s attorney, Donna Aversa, engage the Board’s auditors, Walker and Armstrong, to perform a forensic audit of DeWolfe’s payroll and benefits since the start of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the Palominas Fire District.
The removal for cause stems from an ongoing investigation of allegations of a hostile work environment at SEFD. In the course of this investigation, the Board was made aware of IGA payments to Chief DeWolf that increased his compensation from $700 to $1,000 per week, dating back to November 2018. According to Board Director Chris Johnson, there is no record of Board approval for the additional payments which resulted in unauthorized overpayments to DeWolf totaling upwards of $30,000. A forensic audit will be conducted to determine the exact amount.
Johnson also stated that the Board intends to file a claim with their insurance company to recover the overpayments and possibly the cost of related investigations.
DeWolf was afforded the opportunity to respond to the removal by providing documentation of Board approval for the increased compensation by 5 January 2021 at 5:00p.m. which could prompt the Board to reconsider their decision to terminate him. Otherwise, the termination will be implemented.
As well as the forensic audit to be conducted on payroll and benefits, the investigation on the hostile work environment allegations has yet to be concluded.