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Strasburg Fire Department removes former fire chief from membership

STRASBURG — Two weeks after rejecting an identical measure, Strasburg  Fire Department members roundly voted on Thursday to terminate former fire chief Dale King from the department.

In a 24-4 decision, the members reversed a vote made hours after King was sentenced to jail time on a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The Fire Department’s initial decision allowed King to maintain his membership within the department.

He pleaded no contest in his court case , but is appealing the sentence.

King was on administrative leave at the time of the earlier vote but was still a member of the department.

The latest vote came after Milton Painter, the interim vice president for the department and a member of the restructuring committee the Town Council installed to make changes within the department, criticized the department members for their earlier decision.

“If there was a chance for the Strasburg Volunteer Fire Department to demonstrate we want to do the right thing, we failed miserably,” Painter said.

Bradley Polk, the member of the department who made the motion on April 5 to remove King from the department “due to conduct unbecoming of a firefighter,” likewise criticized the department’s earlier vote.

“I threw you guys a softball, and you whiffed,” Polk said.

But the vote was particularly remarkable because of the shift it required from department members who opposed revoking King’s lifetime membership just two weeks ago. In order for the department to vote to reverse the earlier decision, at least three members who voted against removing King’s membership, along with two-thirds of the membership as a whole, had to support reconsidering the previous vote.

In the end, Vince Poling, the department’s interim president and a member of the restructuring committee, said that four members did so. Unlike the department’s vote two weeks ago, Thursday’s vote was held through a secret ballot, so it is unclear which members reversed their decisions.

King has not responded to a request for comment.

More changes to the department came during a meeting of the restructuring committee on Friday. During the meeting, the committee members voted unanimously to remove George Rathore as interim secretary for the department.

Rathore said that he was not given a reason for the committee’s decision.

“The restructuring committee made the decision to remove me and have given me no reasons why,” Rathore said. “I have tried to appeal the decision and I have been told there is no appeal of the restructuring committee’s decisions.”

In his place, the members voted to install Bradley Polk as interim secretary.

That move came less than three weeks after the committee voted to remove Glenn Mason and David Atchison from their respective positions of president and vice president of the department.

Town Manager Wyatt Pearson said at the time that the Town Council had expressed concerns about the department’s leadership, although he later clarified that their concerns did not necessarily extend to Atchison.

During Thursday’s Fire Department meeting, Mason said that the department’s bylaws prevented him from responding to the arrests of six department members with more discipline than he did, adding that the department hired lawyers to review the matter.

“The question was asked to them — to the lawyers — ‘Can I just get rid of them?'” Mason said. “And they said, not the way your bylaws are written.”

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