Kennewick fire chief ousted after ‘performance’ and ‘leadership’ concerns

The Kennewick fire chief has been ousted over “performance and leadership concerns,” the city announced Sunday.

The news release came after Fire Chief Vince Beasley sent a statement to city officials and the news media late Saturday disputing reports he was retiring.

“Let me make the record abundantly clear: I have not instigated any discussions regarding retirement with the city manager or anyone else,” he wrote in an email from his personal account.

“I have absolutely NOT been planning to retire as Kennewick’s Fire Chief,” he said. “I have had NO intention to do so, as I have many exciting projects remaining to accomplish as the city of Kennewick fire chief.”

The city countered Sunday.

“City Manager Marie Mosley has been working with former Chief Beasley for an extended period of time on performance and leadership concerns,” said the release.

“A retirement option had been discussed but an agreement was not reached,” said the statement. “Due to his actions, former Chief Beasley has effectively resigned his position as the fire chief for the city of Kennewick effective immediately.”

Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who also serves as the city’s deputy city manager, will be the interim fire chief until the position is filled.

Kennewick will begin a fire chief search in coordination with the Western Fire Chiefs Association.

“The most important thing for our community to know is that they can have the upmost confidence that the dedicated and professional men and women of the Kennewick Fire Department will continue to serve with distinction during this leadership transition ...,” said the release.

Beasley had been fire chief since late 2014.

Beasley refutes retirement claim

On Friday, Mosley sent an email to city staff to quell rumors about Beasley’s status.

“I understand there are rumors going around regarding Chief Beasley so I wanted to let you all know that we are currently having discussions regarding his potential retirement from the City,” said Mosley’s email.

She said she expected a decision on Monday.

But on Saturday, Beasley soundly rejected Mosley’s “surprising” email describing the situation.

He said he was told Sept. 3 he was being fired and was told not to attend that night’s city council meeting.

He said he was allowed to attend the council meeting on Sept. 10 because, “I had been previously scheduled to give a presentation.”

Then, on Sept. 17, he said he was given a “separation agreement” that “I did not agree to, nor feel comfortable signing.” As a result, he was told he was placed on administrative leave.

The next day, Mosley demanded he return his keys and all city property, Beasley said.

“As a result, I have complied with the request, despite never receiving any formal termination papers,” he said.

“I am perplexed by these events, as I have worked tirelessly for nearly five years as Kennewick’s Fire Chief to accomplish so many fantastic achievements on behalf of our community and fire department,” he wrote, and included a list of projects he has worked on.

“I feel blessed to have worked for the past 37 years in such in a wonderfully supportive, family-oriented community,” Beasley wrote, adding, “I am excited to continue moving this department forward with excellence for many years to come.”

Kennewick’s 12th fire chief

Vince Beasley was sworn in as Kennewick’s new fire chief in 2014. Tri-City Herald

Beasley became the city’s 12th fire chief in 2014 after the battalion chief was named to oversee daily operations at the fire department.

He is a dual chief with Chief Neil Hines, who became chief in 2005. The department was restructured to have two chiefs after two deputy chiefs retired.

Hines is the department’s project manager, overseeing inspections, training and special projects in the city.

Beasley has been a city of Kennewick employee since 1982. He was promoted to battalion chief in 2003 and turned down an opportunity in 2007 to be Wenatchee’s fire chief.

In 2017, Beasley, the city’s first black firefighter, was chosen as Columbia Basin College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award.