Editor’s Note: The print version of the Standard Press went to press before the City of Burlington responded to an open records request for the six names. They are included in this online version.
By Jennifer Eisenbart
City of Burlington Administrator Carina Walters confirmed Tuesday the city has narrowed the field for the next fire chief from six to one – but would not reveal the name of the top candidate.
“The Police and Fire Commission have chosen to work with one finalist,” Walters wrote in a text Tuesday afternoon. “Given the nature of the process, I am unable to publicly disclose this.”
In past hirings, the City of Burlington has declined to give out the name immediately, due to various screening procedures the job candidate needs to clear before being hired.
According to state open records law, the city in this instance should not have been able to go from the six applicants it had last week to the final candidate without disclosing any names to the public.
Responding to an open records request made Wednesday, the city released the six applicants: Brian Zwiebel, Scott Kugel, Brian Harbison, Ed Umnus and Allan Babe. Zwiebel is currently chief of the Burlington Rescue Squad and Umnus is chief of the Town of Burlington Fire Department.
The city declined to announce the six applicants two weeks ago. The newspaper has also filed a request for the name of the current finalist.
The city has 10 days in which to respond to the request. It is possible in that time the hiring process could be concluded. The two-day assessment center for the six candidates was concluded last week.
The fire chief position has been a point of contention for the last two years, as the departing chief, Perry Howard, was at the center of personality clashes between his department, other departments and the Burlington Area Rescue Squad. A number of fire department personnel quit, and Howard’s pending resignation was made public shortly before Christmas.
Howard was originally hired as the city’s first full-time fire chief to implement changes brought to the rescue squad and city and town of Burlington fire departments through a cooperative study done by McGrath – a study designed to create a better sharing of resources between the three departments.
Howard’s final day is slated for mid-June. The issues with Howard were among those raised in April’s mayoral election, which was won by former mayor and current rescue squad member Jeannie Hefty.
Hefty said prior to the election that healing between the fire department and the rescue squad had already begun, and she hoped to see that continue.