Galt fire district directors are scheduled to adopt an agreement tonight to hire a new fire chief to succeed Jim Templeton, who plans to retire in February.
In a decision that has divided the five-member board, directors will hire Rocklin Fire Chief Tim Mrozinski at tonight's meeting, which will begin at 6:30 at the main fire station, 229 Fifth St., Galt.
Mrozinski, who has served as Rocklin's fire chief for two years and was assistant chief before that, was unofficially endorsed for the Galt job by Directors Guy Rutter, Bill Dufur and Rick Haas.
Rutter said in a phone interview last week that a majority of the board unofficially selected Mrozinski at a special closed-session board meeting Oct. 23, but it won't be official until tonight.
Rutter acknowledged that he and Dufur attended a meeting of fire captains Oct. 27 to announce that Mrozinski will be the new chief. The fire chief's position was never advertised, Rutter said.
"We were expecting a somewhat formal search process, but they got some very good recommendations about this guy," Fire Capt. Steve Denton said.
Barry Cooper, former president of the Galt Firefighters Association, said, "The association doesn't have a comment on that. I don't have an opinion is one way or the other. Without speaking to the association, I couldn't comment one way or the other."
Details such as Mrozinski's starting date, his salary and other legal details have yet to be ironed out, Rutter said. They may be addressed at tonight's meeting, he said.
"We explored the possibility of filling it from within the department, which is what I believe in, but it didn't seem like a doable thing," Rutter said.
Templeton has been in hot water with the board since Rutter was elected for the first time last November. Haas is Rutter's son-in-law.
"I know they've made his life so miserable, he wants to go," said Dale Templeton, the chief's brother who has served on the Galt board more than 20 years.
Jim Templeton has been on vacation for two weeks and unavailable for comment.
Dufur said in a July interview that directors had informed Templeton they would not renew his contract, which expired June 30 of this year.
However, directors decided at a July 8 board meeting that Templeton would continue for a few more months until a board-hired consultant, Mark Cooper, completes an evaluation of district operations.
Cooper, an assistant chief of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, is scheduled to report his findings at tonight's board meeting. He is being paid $60 per hour for up to 100 hours.
Corey said Jim Templeton got into trouble as fire chief because he disregarded the board's direction at least a couple of times. Templeton didn't follow the board's direction on personnel matters, and he didn't survey residents on a bond measure on last year's election ballot, as the board instructed, Corey said.
Dale Templeton said he opposes Mrozinski's selection on the grounds that the fire district didn't advertise the chief's position. He added that Rutter, Dufur and Haas appeared to have already decided on Mrozinski before he and director Joseph Corey knew about it.
"This is not how you do things," Corey said. "The funny thing about it, we had just had a (regular board ) meeting the day before. We decided we would start advertising, beat the bushes and maybe hire a head hunter to look into it."
Corey said he showed up at the special closed-session board meeting on Oct. 23 without even knowing that any candidates would be interviewed.
Mrozinski was interviewed and selected in a straw vote, Corey said.
Just like that.
"I was really impressed with him," Corey said. "If he's going to be the chief, I think he's going to be a fine chief. But this is not the way you do things. Let's interview a few more people before we make a decision."
Dale Templeton said, "I wasn't happy with the way it's transpiring. I can't do anything to change the vote, but it is my job to inform the electorate."
Jim Templeton announced on Aug. 27 that he planned to retire from Galt Fire, effective Feb. 1, after 31 years with the fire district. He was assistant chief for 11 years before being named chief in June 1998.
Mrozinski met Rutter in 1990 after Rutter joined the former American River Fire Protection District. They worked together for year at the district's Rio Linda station before Mrozinski left to become deputy chief in Rocklin.
Mrozinski declined to comment on his status because the Galt board hadn't voted on hiring him. He also hasn't told people in Rocklin about becoming chief in Galt.
Nevertheless, Mrozinski said he has discussed with Galt directors about becoming the new chief. He also visited Galt and talked to firefighters there last weekend.
"My intent is to assist the (Galt) board in its administrative needs until an official statement can be prepared," Mrozinski said.
A story in the Placer Herald newspaper on Oct. 22 indicated that Mrozinski was merely retiring.
"His retirement blueprints remain a mystery," the Placer Herald article says. "But those who know him agree that Mrozinski will do something that benefits people."