The changes in leadership with the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department and ESD 10 comes following a wrongful termination lawsuit that was filed Jan. 13 by a MVFD assistant fire chief who claimed he was fired in December. ESD 10 contracts with the MVFD to provide services and funds the department.
Riley requested resignations
While all five ESD 10 commissioners resigned from their positions in early March—and were replaced upon approval from Montgomery County Commissioners Court on March 9—Riley clarified in an interview March 16 that he asked for their resignations. Community Impact Newspaper has obtained the five resignation letters from the office of County Attorney B.D. Griffin through a public information request, which are included below.
“I did ask for the resignations of the ESD 10 board, and every one of them volunteered their resignations upon me asking that. I talked to every one of them as they come into the office, one at a time about their resignation, about what we were trying to do. I thanked every one of them for all of their service and all of the time they had put in with the ESD," Riley said. "I just felt it was time with the allegations that were going around, the investigation that was going on ... that they vacated their spot so we could put a new board in place and go in a new direction."
Riley previously told Community Impact Newspaper on March 5 all five members had submitted their resignations.
Montgomery County public records indicate the case, originally filed by Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Grant against Vincent and the MVFD, was amended Feb. 8 by Grant to also include ESD 10. The case is pending, with a bench trial set for Sept. 20.
The suit alleges Grant’s employment was terminated in December following a report to the District Attorney’s Office of misconduct surrounding the hiring and promotion of MVFD Director of Communications Elisa Noriega. She was promoted to assistant fire chief in November and given a raise to $142,000 despite having “minimal qualifications” and a recent criminal history, according to the case text. Community Impact Newspaper has requested the salaries of MVFD's officers and command staff but has not yet obtained that information.
Riley confirmed March 16 the District Attorney’s Office is conducting an investigation into the recent allegations.
"I don't know what else or who else may be under investigation," Riley said. "I just know it was the chief when I went and talked to [the district attorney]."
During the first meeting of the new ESD 10 board—Charles McDonald, Larry Smith, Heath Schultz, Kelly Violette and Jeff Cunningham—on March 9, John Peeler, general counsel for the district, said Vincent had tendered his retirement letter. Noriega confirmed in a March 5 phone call that Jeffrey Hevey began serving as interim fire chief in late February.
Vincent has served with the MVFD since 2006, according to information from the fire department, and said in his retirement letter it has been “an honor and privilege to serve.”
"We had a great group of guys at the ESD 10, but we did replace those guys with just-as-good, if not better people from the community, from the business community, and I think we’ve got some great things ahead of us at ESD 10 and Magnolia [Volunteer] Fire Department," Riley said.
Amid changes in leadership with the ESD and fire department, the new ESD board began discussions March 9 regarding ESD 10 becoming the direct provider of emergency services in the district instead of contracting with MVFD. The board is expected to discuss the possibility further during a regular meeting March 18.