EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - One Black Forest Fire Board member said the board chairman is trying to silence citizens of Black Forest who have asked the board to dismiss its fire chief.
Black Forest Board member Rick McMorran said in an email, "It is unfortunate that an elected official would try to silence the opinions of any of our citizens, particularly those who have already suffered so much from this fire."
McMorran said he requested copies of the petition asking the Black Forest Fire Board to removed Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey. He said Chairman Ed Bracken denied those requests.
The petition to remove Harvey comes after a KRDO NewsChannel 13 investigation into Harvey's decisions during the initial hours of the Black Forest Fire.
During the Black Forest Fire Board meeting Wednesday night, an attendee asked Bracken if all board members had received copies of the petition. Bracken said they had not.
P.J. Langmaid turned in the petition to the board at its meeting on Dec. 10. He provided copies to the board on Wednesday's meeting. It was the first time McMorran had seen the petition.
"There was no answer. We just weren't given a copy of it," said McMorran.
"I think it speaks to some poor leadership from the chair of the fire board to not share information with the board members," said Langmaid. "The people of the forest are saying they don't have faith in the fire chief which subsequently has lead to now people don't have faith in the fire board."
There were four copies of the petition circulating in Black Forest. Almost 300 people signed the petition in a little over a week.
Bracken said at the meeting there were reasons for withholding copies of the petition.
"We are in the process of validating all the signatures on that and looking at the validity," said Bracken.
He went on to say by phone Thursday that releasing the petition to board members would interfere with its investigation into Harvey's decision during the initial hours of the Black Forest fire.
"The petition is closely tied to the investigation and the results of the investigation and it was felt that it would be inappropriate to take any action on the petition until the investigation is complete, OK?" said Bracken.
"There is no valid reason why Mr. Bracken should suppress that Constitutional right by withholding their petition from the full board of directors," said McMorran.
McMorran said while he won't discuss the board's pending investigation into its chief, he is ready and available to speak to people in Black Forest.
However, he said in an email: "I was equally disappointed when, after the conclusion of our meeting, Mr. Bracken told me that he did not want me to speak with the people who had signed that petition or discuss things with them."
Bracken told KRDO NewsChannel 13 Thursday any discussion with citizens who have signed the petition needs to be decided on by the board.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19.