Strasburg panel removes Fire Department leaders

STRASBURG — A committee set up to make changes within the Strasburg Fire Department following the arrest of six department members has forced the removal of the department’s president and vice president.

During the first meeting of the Strasburg Fire Department’s Restructuring Committee on Monday, the committee voted unanimously to remove Glenn Mason from his position as department president and remove David Atchison from his position as department vice president, Town Manager Wyatt Pearson and Mayor Rich Orndorff said. In their place, the committee voted to install Vince Poling, a committee member and former department member, as interim president; and Milton Painter, a department member, as interim vice president.

Pearson said that most of the discussion about Mason and Atchison occurred in a closed session, so he could not say why the committee voted to oust the two from their positions. Instead, he stated the concerns he said members of the council had expressed during an earlier closed-session meeting.

“When you have Mr. Mason at the head of that organization…and no action was taken regarding the arrests and that disciplinary action may not have been implemented effectively over there to ensure that these sort of things did not happen regarding the Fire Department, that’s the most logical choice is to give [department members] a change of leadership,” Pearson said.

Mason has not responded to a request for comment.

Pearson initially said that Monday’s meeting was not open to the public but later indicated that he had made a mistake in interpreting whether the committee’s meetings are open to the public under Virginia’s public records law. He and Orndorff later summarized the meeting to the Northern Virginia Daily.

Pearson and Orndorff added that the committee appointed George Rathore as interim secretary and Wendy Williams as interim treasurer for the department. Rathore was previously the department secretary, while Williams was treasurer.

In addition, the department set a process for appointing operational officers within the department, which Pearson said would allow the department to vote to install an operations captain during its next meeting. The department does not have an operations captain because Chris Pangle, who was charged in December with a misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, resigned from his position, Orndorff said.

Pangle and former Fire Chief Dale King are still members of the department, Orndorff added. But that could change during the department’s next meeting. Mason said in an earlier interview with the Northern Virginia Daily that by the end of the department’s April meeting, the department will likely have removed all six members who were charged in December.

The restructuring committee’s moves on Monday come less than a month after Pearson and Orndorff presented Fire Department members with a letter from the town. That letter demanded that the Fire Department allow the Town Council to appoint an interim chief and appoint a committee to enact changes to the Fire Department’s bylaws and rules.

In addition, the committee has administrative authority over the department for as long as it remains in place. During Monday’s meeting, Pearson said, the committee agreed that the department would have to seek approval for any expenditures over $3,000.

Orndorff said that Williams’ position of interim treasurer, Poling’s position of interim president and Painter’s position of interim vice president are all meant to be temporary.

“We reaffirmed there’s no desire for the town to operate a department fire and rescue,” Orndorff added. “We believe in the volunteer system, and we want the volunteer system to work.”

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect the spelling of Vince Poling’s name.

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