UPDATED: Chief Gary Vincent on 'temporary leave,' Emergency Services District No. 10 board resigns amid legal issues with Magnolia fire department

Emergency Services District No. 10 funds the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)
Emergency Services District No. 10 funds the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)

Emergency Services District No. 10 funds the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)

Updated 7:12 p.m. March 6

Editor's note: Community Impact Newspaper will be following this story and provide updates as we obtain new information.

This story has been updated to reflect that Scot Wall, a former commissioner with Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 10, currently serves with Capitol Commission Texas as state minister and has not been involved with Magnolia Bible Church since 2016, according to his Capitol Commission biography.

All five Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 10 board members have resigned from their positions and Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gary Vincent has been placed on temporary leave amid legal issues with the fire department stemming from a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former assistant fire chief.

The five commissioners serving on the Montgomery County ESD No. 10 board have submitted their resignations, Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley confirmed in a phone call March 5.

The board—previously made up of former Sheriff Tommy Gage, Robert "Bob" Buschardt, Tate Robinson, Johnnie Bryant and Scot Wall, former pastor of Magnolia Bible Church and current state minister with Capitol Commission Texas—funds MVFD to provide services to the Greater Magnolia area.

"It is true that the whole ESD board for ESD 10 has resigned. There's some issues [that] need to be solved," Riley said. "I felt better ... if they were not there anymore, and I'm going to replace that board on Tuesday, [March] 9 with a new board."
The lawsuit

Riley did not provide a reason for the sudden resignations.

However, they come on the heels of Case No. 21-01-00558, which was filed by former Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Grant on Jan. 13 in the 284th Judicial District Court in Montgomery County, according to the Montgomery County's District Clerk Records Inquiry database.

The case, filed against MVFD and Vincent, alleges Vincent "unilaterally terminated" Grant's employment Dec. 14.

"Although Vincent attempted to justify his decision based on the pretest of cost-cutting, Vincent, in fact, terminated Grant in retaliation for Grant making a good faith report of illegal conduct to the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office," the case reads.

The alleged misconduct includes the hiring and promotion of MVFD Director of Communications Elisa Noriega, according to the case text. The information states she was promoted to assistant fire chief in November and her salary was increased to $142,000.

Riley said March 5 that Vincent is "temporarily on leave."

Noriega confirmed in a phone call March 5 that Jeffrey Hevey began serving as interim chief in late February.

New board members

Riley said he will bring an item to approve the new board members to Commissioners Court on March 9, which he said he anticipates to be approved by fellow commissioners.

"I appoint the ESD 10," Riley said. "It does go through court for me to appoint them, but those other commissioners are going to appoint who I want to appoint. They don't know who I'm talking to. ... It's our district."

Riley clarified in a second March 5 phone call that the Commissioners Court mutually trusts each other to support approval of the list of names brought up by the respective commissioner.

"Each commissioner trusts each other to appoint who they need on the fire boards," he said.

Riley called a special meeting of the ESD 10 board for 2 p.m. March 9, following the appointment of the new board earlier that day, he said.

"There's a special meeting that afternoon at 2 o'clock with the new ESD board to start working on the problems to get those solved as quick as we can," he said.

In addition to electing new board officers and discussing matters regarding the employment of district administrative staff and fire chief, the agenda for the special meeting includes an item to conduct an investigation into employment and fiscal matters of ESD 10 and the MVFD. Additionally, the meeting agenda includes an item on ESD 10 becoming the direct provider of emergency services within its boundaries and therefore terminating its contract with the MVFD.

ESD 10 meetings are held at the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 181, located on 18215 Buddy Riley Blvd., Magnolia.

By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball | Magnolia & Conroe | Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball|Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.


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