Most of the Gold River firefighters who walked out last week have returned to work at the fire department at the urging of their fired former fire chief, easing worries about fire protection for the community.
But the mystery of Lisa Illes’ sudden dismissal that caused them to hand in their pagers Friday remains and Illes is consulting a lawyer to contest what she considers a “wrongful termination” and get some answers.
“I don’t even know why I was terminated. So I will be reaching out to my attorney to get, specific infractions of why they terminated me,” Illes told the VI Free Daily after she decided to break her silence on the matter.
Gold River terminated Illes’ contract on Jan. 8 with mayor Brad Unger saying that it was based on “human resources matters.”
Around 19 firefighters walked out with her.
On Monday evening, Illes met with her former co-workers at the fire hall and “implored them to stay back and protect the community,” she said.
Illes also said that after serving in Gold River’s fire department for the past 11 years – of which the last four years were as fire chief – she was “disgusted” when the village terminated her contract.
She said that she has the “support” of her crew and the community and intends to “fight this.”
In the meantime she continues serving as the fire chief for the neighbouring community, Tahsis.
The mass resignations by Gold River’s firefighters raised concerns among community members about fire safety and and insurance.
Gold River mayor Brad Unger, said that an interim chief has been appointed and that they have “full coverage” from the fire department. He also said that this has “no effect on insurance at all.”
Neither Unger nor the Gold River Volunteer Fire & Rescue department were able to confirm the exact number of firefighters on the team as of Tuesday.
Jeff Rockwell, volunteer firefighter who worked with Illes for the past four years before she was asked to step down as fire chief said that most of the firefighters from the department were “surprised” by the sudden dismissal of Illes.
“The crew stands united in their conviction that a grave injustice has been done to chief Illes and are still, individually and collectively, processing shock and sadness at her sudden termination, which was to their eyes carried out in an altogether undignified and underhanded manner,” said Rockwell.
Rockwell also said that council members were invited to attend the meeting with members of the fire department and Illes at the fire hall Monday evening but no one showed up.