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Acting Hawaii island fire chief passed over for job appeals selection

KAILUA-KONA >> The acting Big Island fire chief who wasn’t selected for the permanent job is appealing the selection process.

Hawaii Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Robert Perreira was acting chief after former Chief Darren Rosario retired. The Fire Commission chose Battalion Chief Kazuo Todd.

In an appeal, Perreira alleged the commission didn’t conduct a fair and transparent process, West Hawaii Today reported today.

The chief controls an annual budget of $52 million and oversees 470 employees. In fiscal year 2019-20, the department responded to a 26,101 calls for assistance, of which nearly 18,000 were for emergency medical services and 900 were for fires or explosions. The position paid about $153,000 in 2020.

The commission took a vote in March during a meeting closed to the public and then ratified the vote in an open session. The vote in executive session raised questions, prompting the commission to re-do the vote in an open session in April, the Kailua-Kona newspaper reported.

Five commissioners voted for Todd. Two commissioners voted for Perreira. One commissioner voted for Battalion Chief William Bergin.

The Merit Appeals Board is scheduled to hear arguments on July 12 about whether the board has authority to rule on the complaint.

Human Resources Director Bill Brilhante said he believes the county charter gives the commission the authority to evaluate candidates and hire a chief.

The five-member Merit Appeals Board is charged with hearing cases relating to recruitment and examination, classification and reclassification of a particular position and other employment actions, including disciplinary actions for failure of the employees to meet performance requirements. The board considers only those cases relating to employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Perreira, who retired last month, couldn’t be reached for comment.

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