Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Jerod Cook gave rebuttal to accusations put before the Public Safety Advisory Board during the Monday night’s City Council Meeting.
“After accusations made by the Chief of Police before the PSAB and being aired over radio and written in the local paper, I felt compelled to respond to those accusations,” Cook said.
Cook went on to state that he was sure Chief Agner was given information but he failed to check for accuracy.
“Had Chief Agner taken the time to investigate the matter or even talk to me about it he would have found a much different situation than the one he led the public and the city to believe,” Cook said.
Cook has been the fire chief for almost five years and has been a member of the department for almost 25 years.
He said that he remembered one July 3 where firefighters responded to a scene after having a few drinks. He stated they did not show up in fire gear or in a department vehicle, they walked. However, the members in question did receive a reprimand and six months probation.
“There may have been occasions when members have shown up to fire scenes after having a drink or two,” Cook said. “There has been no documentation, nor have I witnessed it. If I had, I would have done something about it.”
As for the rumor of sex happening in the fire stations, Cook explained that he had heard stories just like others have but they carried no substance.
“If there is this kind of activity going on, I have not been able to prove it,” Cook said. “But I have made it clear to department members, that such activity would be grounds for immediate dismissal from the department.”
PFVD takes people from the community who show an interest in helping in times of need. “We take these people and we train them in the areas they are interested in, be it fire, EMS or Search and Rescue,” Cook said. “I don’t know how to respond to the accusation that we take on less than professional people.”
Cook said he has been in Chief Agner’s office on many occasions and he has never indicated there was a problem with the department or in the manner in which he leads it.
“I can’t think of one time that Chief Agner has come to the department to express his concern,” Cook said. “What I can’t deal with are the problems I don’t know about.”
The way these issues were presented was not for the good of the department or its leadership, he explained. “His sole purpose was to make the department and me look bad.”
Cook continued to say that if there were any truth to any of it, the members of the department would have gotten rid of him long ago.
“Chief Agner seems to think he knows a lot about the department for someone who has never served as a member or even come for a visit,” Cook stated.
Petersburg Police Chief Jim Agner, acting as a private citizen, requested the removal of Cook at the last PSAB meeting due to rumors or unacceptable behavior and wrongdoing.
Petersburg Ordinance #961 comes before the Petersburg City Council for adoption and with this ordinance the authority of the fire department is under the city manager and the department head, EMS Director Sandy Dixson.
“As for the ordinance,” Cook continued. “I am still having issues with it. How will the fire chief ever get what he needs done under the proposed changes?”
Cook explained that cutting the fire chief’s authority will only make things worse for the department.
“Because of the way this was handled, I have no intention of running for the chief position again,” Cook said. “At this time, I plan to retire from the department completely this winter.”
Cook asked the council to vote no on the adoption of the ordinance or take no action until an investigation could take place.
“I would like this matter investigated by an outside entity to clear my name and the reputation of the department,” Cook said. “Your actions here will have a huge impact on the future of your volunteer fire department.”
After discussion, the council voted to adopt the revised ordinance unanimously without an investigation.
“I don’t feel there is any need to run anyone’s name through the mud,” City Manager Stephen Giesbrecht said. “Some of these issues have been substantiated and some haven’t, but there is no need to take this any further.”