Panel upholds former Strasburg fire chief’s removal

Dale King

STRASBURG — The Strasburg Fire Department Restructuring Committee has upheld a previous vote by Strasburg Fire Department members to remove former Fire Chief Dale King’s membership with the department.

During the committee’s meeting in May, King appealed the fire department’s April decision that removed him “due to conduct unbecoming” of a firefighter.

In his appeal on Monday, King argued that he should be placed on administrative leave until his Circuit Court trial on July 23. In April, King pleaded no contest in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and appealed a decision that would leave him spending at least two months in jail.

“According to the bylaws, you don’t remove someone until they are convicted of a crime,” King said.

Mayor Rich Orndorff responded by stating that King had lost his life membership in the department “due to conduct unbecoming” of a member of the department, a standard that would not require a criminal conviction.

Briefly, it looked as though the committee might vote on an extension to King’s appeal, allowing King to have his appearance after his July trial.

Jim Cook, a member of the restructuring committee and the fire chief of the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Department, said that he would recommend King wait until his appeal had concluded. Placing King back into the department now, he suggested, would harm the department’s reputation.

“If you truly care about Strasburg Fire, why the hell would you want to take them back to where they just came from?” Cook asked. “They’re on the mends.”

King said that he timed his appeal solely based on requirements in the department’s bylaws.

Orndorff said that the restructuring committee might vote to change the timeline.

“That’s something that can be discussed, since you are amenable to all of that,” Orndorff said.

The committee discussed King’s appeal in a closed session, making the reason for the committee’s determination unclear. But out of the closed session, the committee members decided unanimously to uphold the department’s earlier decision.

Following the meeting, Orndorff noted that the department’s bylaws currently allow people to reapply for membership after losing it, leaving King with a potential avenue back into the department after his court appearance in July. Orndorff added that “we discussed all options” during the closed session regarding King’s appeal.

Orndorff said that it is unclear whether or not King would be able to appeal his decision to the restructuring committee again because of the uncertainty surrounding King’s circumstance in a month.

“It’s going to depend on what the court determines and then of course at that point, it would be what would Mr. King decide that he might want to do,” Orndorff said.