Chino Valley Fire District Board Pulls Up Short Of Censuring Williams A Third Time

The Chino Valley Independent Fire District Board on August 14 declined Board President John DeMonaco’s motion to slap Board Member Winn Williams with what would have been a third censure.
Williams, a former fire captain employed by the district who previously served a two-year term on the board from 2004 to 2006, was returned to the board by voters last November. After he retired from the district as a firefighter in 2002 following an extended leave following an injury on the job in 2000, Williams in 2008 initiated an effort, at the age of 59, to be rehired as a firefighter, asserting he had by that point recovered from his injury. When the district declined to rehire him, he engaged in a series of three legal actions to be reinstated as a firefighter, two in state court and one in federal court, all of which were ultimately unsuccessful.
Almost immediately upon Williams’ swearing in in December 2018, tense relations developed between him and other members of the board and some district staff. Williams maintains the hostility in the district against him is unjustified and is an outgrowth of his having unseated longtime board member Ed Gray, with whom he says the other members of the board had a chummy relationship. The other members of the board, including DeMonaco, Harvey Luth, Sarah Evinger-Ramos and Mike Kreeger, have indicated that working with a board member who has thrice sued the district and has not yet come to terms with his having failed to rehire with the department after he had injured himself and reached an advanced age, has put the district in an awkward position. They say Williams is not on the board to represent the district’s constituents but rather to get even for what he wrongfully believes was a slight by the district he suffered more than a decade ago.
By February, little more than two months after Williams had assumed office, he was censured by a vote of his colleagues.  That censure was based on the contention that Williams was unduly harassing district employees and making use of district assets for his personal use. Williams denied the allegations.
Censures of elected officials are exceedingly rare, and usually are a move of last or near-last resort by members of a governing board against a colleague with whom they do not get along. The February censure of Williams appears to be the most rapid application of the censure process against an elected official in San Bernardino County history. Four months later, in June, the board censured Williams a second time, on that occasion for his having disregarded the expectations of his comportment set out in the February censure.
DeMonaco this week sought a third censure, which he asserted was appropriate based on an incident that occurred after the conclusion of the fire board’s meeting on July 10. According to DeMonaco, Williams “touched” him on the back and neck as they were engaged in an intense argument.
DeMonaco contacted the Chino Police Department on July 12 about what had occurred, and filed a complaint.
While Williams acknowledges that he had casual contact with DeMoaco during the July 10 encounter, he maintains that DeMonaco was mischaracterizing and exaggerating a gesture that was made as he voiced a sincere appeal to see if the contretemps between him and the rest of the board could be resolved.
The fire board, by taking up the board president’s request for another censure, gave currency to DeMonaco’s assertion that the incident was another of a series of actions by Williams that are out of keeping with the decorum that the board should maintain. Ultimately, however, the board decided against making a further official public rebuke of one of its members. The ongoing back-and-forth between Williams and the other board members has garnered considerable publicity that in the opinion of some does not reflect positively on the district.
Board Vice President Harvey Luth, who has been sharply critical of Williams in the past, spoke for the balance of the board when he stated that he was not in favor of lodging any further censures against Williams unless Williams’ action went beyond a threshold of negligence or wrongdoing that would involve the district in civil or criminal liability.
Williams, irascibly, referred to DeMoanco’s motion as both “stupid” and “crazy.”

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