Fire Chief Resigns

Red River Fire Chief Shane Felts turned in his resignation Monday afternoon.  The announcement was made by Fire Department Board President Shawn Beard during a report to the Red River Parish Police Jury on Wednesday.

Beard did not elaborate on the resignation other than telling The Journal after the police jury meeting that Felts’ resignation was turned in late in the day on Monday.  Earlier that day the Fire Department Board met for a lengthy discussion of financial difficulties facing the fire department and the role Felts may play with the department as the newly appointed board deals with the financial situation the department is in.

Felts told The Journal, “The state the fire department is in now is because of board decisions.  Everything I did was the result of something the board approved of.”  Felts said he would like for someone to make a public records request and get the audio recordings of fire board meetings going back to November 2014.  He added, “You would see who the actual decision makers were.” 

We asked Felts why he resigned.  He said, “It looks like I am being run through the ringer.  Looks like guilty till proven innocent.”  Felts said the decisions were all made by the fire board (former members were replaced by the Police Jury earlier this month when it was revealed that the members had not been appointed when member terms had expired.)

Felts said, “Every time I tried to answer their questions they said I was just making excuses.  I didn’t need to go through it. I am too old to go through one board member’s harassment, accusations and belittling.”

Felts said he had only four years to go to what he termed a good retirement in the Firefighters Retirement System.  He added, “It ain’t worth being put through the ringer so I gave up my retirement.”  Note that the fire department had not been paying the full amount to the retirement system each month since last fall.  That is one of the issues that brought the current financial crisis facing the fire department to light.  The fire board voted to catch up the amount due last Monday.

Another item that brought attention to the fire department’s financial troubles was a contract for services to PMI, a firm that managed the department’s payroll.  The PMI contract was terminated by the board on Monday.  Felts said, “PMI was hired to take a load off my shoulders so I could concentrate on day to day operations.”  He added, “The board hired PMI back in 2014,”  Felts said, “But as far as I know the new board has not asked former board members what happened.”

“The fire department was my heart for years,” said Felts, “The firemen are my heart.  I’m too young to be treated like I’ve done something every time I try to explain.”

The Fire Department Board has a special called meeting for Friday (Today) at 10:00 am at the firehouse to name an Interim Chief.  A new chief will be selected later.  The Journal will provide a live video stream of that meeting beginning at 10:00 am today.