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East Lake fire chief agrees to payoff deal

EAST LAKE — The East Lake Fire Commission will give fire Chief Jeff Malzone almost half a million dollars to leave the small department, enabling commissioners to get the chief they want and, it turns out, a new commission member, too.

At a busy meeting Tuesday night, the Fire Commission voted unanimously to pay Malzone $350,000, plus $110,000 he is owed in vacation and sick pay.

The commission initially offered the chief, who was under contract until the end of 2014, only $147,000 and the vacation and sick pay. Malzone, 53, countered that he was owed $951,220.86.

The agreement reached between the commission and Malzone also forbids either side to make disparaging remarks about the other and prevents Malzone from pursuing legal action against the fire district.

In March the commission put Malzone and Deputy Chief Steve Rogers on paid administrative leave, saying they were considering ways to cut administrative costs in the department.

In April, commissioners laid off Rogers, who was a 23-year department veteran and made $92,000 a year. The commission also began negotiations to buy out Malzone's contract.

On Tuesday, with Malzone out, the commission voted to elevate division chief Tom Jamison to fire chief, effective June 1. Jamison has served as interim chief while Malzone was on leave. He will be paid $92,500, with an opportunity for another $2,500 in incentive pay.

But that wasn't the commission's only hire Tuesday.

One of its own, Commissioner Tom May, resigned from the board during the meeting and was immediately hired as assistant fire chief at a salary of $85,000. May, 53, retired from the East Lake Fire Department in 2009 after a 28-year career. He was just elected to the Fire Commission in November.

To fill May's seat, the fire commission appointed former commission Chairman Tom McKone, who was immediately sworn in. McKone left the commission to run against state Rep. Peter Nehr for the House District 48 seat last November, but received only 38.5 percent of the vote. McKone will have to run for the commission seat in the next election.

"This is the best thing for the department," commission Chairman Mark Weinkrantz said after Tuesday's actions, adding, "We now can move forward as a community."

East Lake fire chief agrees to payoff deal 05/25/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 7:44pm]
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