CALIFORNIA CITY – After an emotional town hall meeting held last Friday night at Victory Baptist Church in Cal City, interim City Manager Robert Stockwell gave the supporters of recently terminated Fire Chief Justin Vincent a glimmer of hope by stating, “I’m going to take another look at this situation.”
This came after he earlier stated to the crowd that he would not reinstate Vincent, who was terminated after 9 months on the job as fire chief by Stockwell, who was just three weeks into his stint as city manager.
But word broke Monday morning that Stockwell affirmed his decision in a text message sent to Vincent Sunday. The “Bring Back Chief Justin Vincent” Facebook page shared the text message Monday.
The message read: “Justin, after considering all that we discussed today and reconsidering everything that has transpired since I began my work here, I am not going re-hire you. Bob Stockwell.”
Friday’s town hall meeting began with proper direction from local resident Mike Hurles, who stated that he has worked with every fire chief in Cal City over the last 34 years he has lived here, and called Chief Vincent the best he has seen. Hurles set the tone for the meeting, which was to brainstorm ideas for getting Chief Vincent reinstated.
He suggested a petition to the supporters assembled, and that avenue was examined for a bit until the crowd realized that with Stockwell sitting in the audience they were essentially brainstorming in front of the very person they would be trying to influence. Their attention then turned to Stockwell himself, who was in attendance to address the issue personally.
The question was asked why the chief was terminated after Stockwell had only three weeks on the job. Initially Stockwell pointed out that he is bound by California law and as such cannot disclose any reason for Vincent’s termination. He said that “State law is hurting us and it is hurting them,” adding that “I couldn’t give him (Vincent) a reason.”
Stockwell went on to ask, “Is it possible in three weeks that the relationship between a supervisor and an employee can become apparent really quick?” One supporter immediately said, “So it’s personal,” to which Stockwell replied, “No.”
Many among Vincent’s supporters have stated a belief that the chief’s termination is directly related to his defense of state fire codes that might financially affect the coming cannabis industry. They’ve said that a 45-page report that Chief Vincent put out last fall outlining his plans, needs and goals for mitigating any fire hazards the nascent industry might present posed a threat to the cannabis investors who found it financially burdensome. That report was based on the Chief’s research into states that already have legal cannabis, such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington, as well as current California state fire codes. The Chief pulled all these together into one comprehensive report.
When asked directly if that was the reason behind the chief’s termination, Stockwell replied, “No,” stating that no state fire codes would be ignored or circumvented by the city or the investors, and that was not the reason for the chief’s termination.
After an emotional hour and a half where some supporters took to berating Mr. Stockwell personally, and having stood up and addressed the crowd several times, Mr. Stockwell left the Chief’s supporters with a glimmer of hope simply stating “I’m going to take another look at this situation,” a statement that was met with applause.