COLUMBUS — The city’s search for a full-time fire chief took a step backward last week.

Because of a clerical error, the Civil Service Commission will conduct a second set of interviews with seven candidates for the position instead of moving forward with the three finalists selected earlier this month.

According to the city attorney’s office, Columbus Human Resources Director Mike Oglevie sent a memo containing 13 of the 17 interview questions to six of the seven candidates prior to the June 6 interviews with the Civil Service Commission, leaving one candidate off the list of recipients.

“Through inadvertence and mistake, the Secretary/Liaison did not send the memo of questions to one of the seven candidates,” Thursday’s memo from the city attorney’s office states. “The candidate in question is aware that the other candidates received the interview questions and he did not.”

The city attorney’s office notes that this misstep may violate state statute as well as the “simple concepts of fundamental fairness.”

Interviews scheduled for last Friday with the finalists were cancelled at the request of the city attorney’s office and a second Civil Service Commission meeting will be held to re-interview all seven candidates — or at least those willing to take a second crack at it.

A date for that meeting has not been set, according to Mayor Jim Bulkley, who plans to fill a vacant Civil Service Commission seat before it’s held.

Fred Bellum recently left the five-person board and Bulkley has appointed Jack Gutierrez to replace him. The city council is expected to vote on that appointment during the July 3 meeting.

Oglevie, who left Wednesday for a family reunion in Kansas, before the issue came to light, has not contacted the candidates to see if they’re all interested in re-interviewing. That will happen after he returns to Columbus on Tuesday.

“We’ll give them a shot at it,” Oglevie said Saturday morning in a phone interview.

About 20 people applied for the fire chief position with that list narrowed by testing before the initial Civil Service Commission interviews in early June.

The three finalists previously selected are:

• Daniel Miller of Yutan, who is a battalion chief with the Omaha Fire Department and runs his own business, Training Under Fire, which teaches firefighting, technical rescue, command and leadership skills.

• Aaron Anderson of Ralston, who is a captain with the Papillion Fire Department and adjunct firefighter and hazardous materials instructor at Southeast Community College.

• Joseph Grainger of Fredericksburg, Virginia, who is the assistant fire and EMS chief and chief of operations with the Stafford County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia.

The finalists who emerge from the second Civil Service Commission meeting will be interviewed by Bulkley and City Administrator Tara Vasicek, with city council members and representatives from the police and fire departments invited to sit in, before the mayor submits his selection for council approval.

City council members voted in April to create the full-time fire chief position to oversee the department of 15 career firefighters and rescue personnel and 55 volunteers.

Dean Hefti, who has been with the local fire department for 45 years, including 25 as the volunteer fire chief, plans to retire in January.



Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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