Excerpts from the NWHerald.com:

As the dust settled on months of infighting throughout the Harvard Fire Protection District, Harvard Fire Chief Steve Harter and Deputy Fire Chief Don Davidson were slapped with suspensions. The punishment stemmed from a letter sent in June that called the recent conduct of trustee and board secretary Joe Clarke unprofessional and hostile.

After talking in closed session at the Harvard Fire Protection District Board’s regularly scheduled November meeting, trustees voted without opposition to suspend Harter and Davidson for 36 hours, with the suspensions to be served in December at times approved by the board. 

In a letter sent June 19 to the board president, Harter and Davidson said it has become apparent that Clarke has waged a vendetta against the chief and other officers at the part-time fire district. “The actions within the last few months have been very unprofessional and have no place in an open meeting,” the letter read. “The belligerent, threatening and overbearing treatment has been escalating to hostile levels of attack.”

On July 21, Clarke said in an email to the other trustees that the letter demonstrated a significant level of insubordination. He also called into question a number of insufficiencies within the district. “Being queried on failure to conduct preventative maintenance on apparatus, missing fire incident reports, improperly handling an investigation into a vehicle accident involving EMS apparatus and the subsequent employee discipline, missing security box keys, secretive promotional process, insufficient response to request for job descriptions and policy changes, etc.,” Clarke wrote. 

In response, Clarke said the chiefs should be held accountable and disciplined accordingly, and he would support any decision reached by the other four trustees.

At the board’s June 12 meeting, Clarke called into question Harter’s credentials, such as whether he was a certified fire officer and what education in fire service management or fire science technology he has.

When pressed by the board, Clarke questioned the promotion process, which he would later call unethical during the board’s next meeting.

In August, the board hired a Naperville-based law firm that represents more fire protection districts than any other firm in the state – to conduct an investigation into employee misconduct, which Clarke said was because of the chief’s letter.

Between Aug. 14 and Nov. 28, the district paid the firm $3,240 for its services.
A FOIA request for documentation showing any findings or rulings from the investigation was denied on the grounds that the correspondence was intended for the purpose of assisting the board on how to discipline district employees.