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Fire Chief's Departure Reverberating Around Country, National Group Says

Sudden retirement and immediate hire of interim replacement apparently was prearranged, says CEO of Center for Public Safety Excellence.

The organization that awarded Marc Revere with two major national awards for his skills as Novato's fire chief was stunned to learn of his sudden retirement Thursday — as were both of Novato's representatives on the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

Paul Brooks, executive director of the Virginia-based Center for Public Safety Excellence, said the news of Revere's departure from the Novato Fire District after six years is reverberating around the country because of his standout reputation as an expert in leadership and mentoring.

Brooks added that it was "a little bit odd" to hear that Revere, a 35-year firefighting veteran and 16-year department chief, went into a special meeting about his performance and came out without a job but also with an interim replacement, Ken Massucco, immediately taking over as chief.

"You can tell that was prearranged," Brooks said. "Marc is within the age and service time to retire, but that's not the normal sequence of events. ... We are surprised, and the (published reports) are being picked up today in a lot of industry media alerts."

In August 2012, Revere was the first recipient of the CPSE's Fire Chief of the Year award and was presented the honor during the Fire-Rescue International conference in Denver. The center recognized Revere for his emphasis on leadership, public service, integrity, innovation and professional development. Two years earlier, the center honored Revere as the first recipient of the national Ronny Jack Coleman Leadership and Legacy Award for "superior leadership and actions that have elevated the international fire and emergency service profession through mentoring, teaching and sharing outstanding contributions." 

The Novato Fire District issued a two-paragraph press release Thursday stating that Revere had retired, and media inquiries were to be directed to board president Jim Galli. Two messages with Galli went unreturned Thursday, and Friday morning he only said, "We already sent out a press release. The chief retired and that's the information we'll be releasing. He retired for personal reasons. There you have it. That's it."

The district's human resources director, Lisa McCubbin, said she had no comment and directed all inquiries to Galli.

Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who represents the Fourth District (West Marin and parts of western Novato), said the personnel move was "pretty opaque" and that it was clear there was some sort of power struggle that would prompt the district to have an interim chief ready in waiting after Revere's performance review.

"I certainly didn't see it coming, and I'm not sure anyone did," he said. "... I wouldn't say it's out of bounds, and maybe it's frustrating to all of us, but it's not outside of the traditional norms."

Fifth District Supervisor Judy Arnold, who represents the majority of Novato, said she understands why the board members of a special district would be cautious about disseminating information in a personnel matter. She said she had no idea what prompted Revere's departure and that she was caught by surprise as well.

"Everyone has to be so careful about that kind of thing," she said. "You would never want to explain why in case like this because you open yourself up to liability and both you and the person involved could get hurt. I'm sure they want to protect themselves and protect Marc Revere.

"Of course we want transparency in government, but human resources has a whole code that it has to follow to protect people on both sides."

Laura Armor of San Anselmo is the retired HR director for the County of Marin. She said there are employment arrangements that provide varying degrees of protection for public employees.

"The assumption probably a lot of people are making is that he retired in lieu of being terminated, but we don't know that," Armor said. "As a personnel matter, assuming he's an at-will employee, it's a matter between the employer and the employee and nobody else. It's a balance between the public's right to know and the employee's privacy within their employment relationship. Just because taxpayer dollars are involved doesn't mean the public has the right to know personnel details."

Armor mentioned that the Marin Independent Journal successfully sued to obtain payroll records of public employees, but the retirement or dismissal of an employee is a more commonly confidential.

The CPSE's Brooks said Revere and Novato Fire have a stellar track record and are widely respected, making Thursday's news shocking.

"The organization is an exemplary organization," he said. "If we were to identify organizations that exhibit best practices within their category, without hesitation I'd say Novato is a best-practice organization and Chief Revere is highly regarded in our industry. He led it to a lot of success, and his influence goes beyond his own organization because he's been so visible in our industry, being a columnist for several publications and a frequent guest speaker. From our experience, it's all positive.

"We wish Chief Revere well in retirement. We hope it turns out well for both parties. That said, we are still very surprised."

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Betty Pancakes December 01, 2012 at 01:22 PM
A couple-a phrases comin' to mind ... sorta like a Mad Lib, Novato Patch-style Where there's smoke ... there's usually ________ I smell a _______ (in case you need some help, where there's smoke ... there's usually FIRE ... and I smell a RAT). The good people of Novato deserve some answers ... considering taxpayer money is involved.
Craig Belfor December 01, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Welcome to the double dip retirement game at County. You retire from your job, get a huge retirement package, and then take another job just like it and get another paycheck. That person takes either your job, or goes somewhere else. Police, fire, school, comptrollers and all of the other other highly paid official have been doing it for years. Every day we read of a police chief leaving for another city, while we hire one from somewhere else or promote from within, only to see that person retire as soon as they can raise their retirement base. That's why the County of Marin pays more to the retired workers than to the current staff. Don't even get me started on the old "I'll call in sick,get paid, and my buddy gets an overtime day to cover me, and next week we switch" game. And the teachers get pink slips.
Chester B. Henry December 01, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Get your girl to look into it for you and see if she can comes up with the same answer as you ? Dought it though, but she would have 12 postings with 12 answers for you.
Lou Judson December 01, 2012 at 04:47 PM
We really need to know the truth about this! Can Patch scoop other media and dig for us? Hope so, Lou
Jane McDonald December 01, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I agree! Someone wanted to get his year of employment in that job so he can retire with big bucks!
Jane McDonald December 01, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I agree! Someone wanted to get his year of employment in that job so he can retire with big bucks!
Craig Belfor December 01, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Joe- I am sure they earned it, but their commitment to the community they serve makes one wonder how the lavish pay package they get justifies the hiring of another replacement while they do the same job elsewhere. Their retirement must be paid, but the replacement will cost the salaries of two teachers. We could stop this by requiring that all retirees must actually retire, bit don't look for the system to change while the gamers work the system.
Roger December 01, 2012 at 05:58 PM
When there are tons of applicants for each firefighter open job slot, I think we can stand to do some pay reform so an assistant chief doesn't have to do so much double pay extra shifts that add up to $400,000 total pay in one year.
Craig Belfor December 01, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Brain surgeons in Ross are rethinking their career choices. There should be a law that a person cannot retire, then do the same job elsewhere. This would save the counties millions of dollars. Go fishing, write a book, travel, but don't go down the hall, high fiving your buddy as you pass each other on the way to each other's office.
Roger December 01, 2012 at 07:21 PM
The firefighter in my neighborhood has a new Land Rover in which his two little kids look cute riding. The school teacher on the other side of me is driving a much older car.
Brian Nolan December 01, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Why is it that people always talk crap about what firefighters and Police officers make during there years of service and in retirement. I never hear any one talk crap about what the Doctors and Nurse make. There nurses out there that make 85 to 90 dallors an hour in the Hospitals and then strike for what More money. 90 dallers an hour to give a person a pill every hour or take a temp, Thats crap right there. Then you have the Docs that ritire and go back to being a doc again or leave one practice to another it the same thing, but thats okay to you its the firefighters and the cops. The guys at Novato fire are great guys and do a great job. Being a former Novato resadent and the son of a retired Novato fire chief I find you people very Negitive. Why didnt you people become firefighter sure you would not complaine then about what you make.
Jeff Schach December 01, 2012 at 08:50 PM
If your kid is ever choking or your house is on fire I'd call the guy with the Land Rover.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) December 01, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Not so easy when mum is the word.
Craig Belfor December 01, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Medical school cost a lot more than community college, and I move a lot of doctors into their first home at 40 who still have student loans. One way to make sure that the pay is fair would be to offer a package that would result in 20 people applying for a job instead of 5000 people camping outside for a week just to get an application.
Craig Belfor December 01, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Nobody on the gravy train ever complains, just the taxpayers.
Roger December 01, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Jeff, my kids chances in a fire are better with 3 firefighters for $130,000 each than one for $400,000. Taxpayers and voters will decide if the pay is too high. Jeff, if $400,000 isn't too high, what is? What does Obama get? If that the bar for you for firefighters? I say let supply and dmand decide.
Craig Belfor December 02, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Follow the money. Nobody quits a county job to work in private industry unless they're double dipping. Anybody will quit their job tomorrow to work at county's gravy train. It Used to be a steet sweeper in SF got full retirement and full medical and dental after only five years on the job. That was changed, but the overtime cheating still goes on, and the disability gaming, sick leave bonuses, and time card phantom punching is as prevelant as ever.
T.Sprocket December 02, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Resident, dollars, they're, retire, resident, negative, retired, complain, ect.. Come on Brian it was only noon and the "spell check" argument on your android only goes so far.
Annoyed December 03, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Every single one of you writing on this post is wrong in some way. You are all looking for the bad instead of thinking about the possibility it is a true retirement. As for the pension talk, I would encourage all of you to look at how the Novato Fire Department gets paid. They are not paid from a city budget they are a private district just like water districts in Marin, they receive money from property tax. They aren't responsible for teachers loosing their jobs, the monies are not created and distributed in the same pool of city funds. You all speak as if you work at Novato Fire and understand the pension, pay, retirement system. It appears on the outside that you all assume their pensions are paid for 100% by the tax payer...untrue! You assume they are all attempting to work a year then leave. I will say again, research Novato Fire and look how long Chief Nickel and Reevere worked there before they moved on. Stop looking for a story or trying to create one, after 30 something years anyone of us would be looking at retirement as well, you all are just upset you didn't make the choice to spend your life risking your health and well being, miss holidays birthdays special family events, expose yourself to toxic environments that can kill and shorten your life, not sleeping your own bed nightly, or joining a career that actually changes people's lives. Spending your life 9-5 behind a desk under fluorescent lights was your choice, some chose differently and earned a solid ret.
Chester B. Henry December 03, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Annoyed, Thank you for saying it like it is . These people that hide behind the computer and post all day long are the same ones who return the same people to office each and every time, Vote for more taxes and then complain about everything.
Craig Belfor December 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Chester and Annoyed- although I usually treat no name posters like summer school valedictorian, I choose to reply to you two (or one). You make an interesting point, abiet with the wrong facts. The taxpayer actually pays this money, and when he's bled dry from the parcel taxes to support the basic services that write their own ticket and hold him hostage for the very protection he thought his taxes already paid for, he's less likely to be able to pay more. This society is like a bucket, and there's only so much the taxpayer can give into the bucket. I'm not against the job that public serve does for us, but we are in a recession, paying for promises we can't afford. We need to cut back, not get gamed by those who work the system. How do we stop this? Simple-every one pays into social security and gets their retirement that way. If that's not enough, save some of your money for retirement or fix the system. Social security will not let you double dip, and you get what you paid in.
Diane Thompson December 03, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Annoyed, Very well said.
Chester B. Henry December 03, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Craig, When you are 65 and collecting Social security you can get any job you want and make all you want. As far as taxes or cutting back goes you need to get out and campaign to tell the public voters what you are saying here. all they do is listen to the boloney that is put on a mailer and they vote for it . Once again its up to the Voters to tell them " STICK IT"
Craig Belfor December 03, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Social security limits the amount you can work and still get payments. Once again, this is not a slam job on government workers, but a call for reason in the pay packages that are out there. You'd know that if social security was your retirement plan, but I suspect that you're a nom de plum for the gravy train.
Annoyed December 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM
When was the last time Novato Fire placed any measures on any voting ballot to raise any taxes, force job cuts, eliminate or decrease services to the city? Didn't California just vote in prop 30 which will increase taxes to hard working people to the tune of 9 billion a year? That's smart, instead of managing money that is already there raise taxes higher and blame public service employees because of the governments mis-doings! I'll restate, when was the last time Novato Fire placed any measure on any ballot to raise taxes to the citizens of Novato? This entire posting chain was created to start drama. How many fireman retired from Novato last year, the year before that and so? When the top dog decides to go after 30 something years, 2nd dog moves to another department to now take a position he clearly worked get it now becomes an issue and everyone thinks there is an issue. Employee employer relations are confidential and it is as much our right to know what happened as it is to be invited to lunch by the president. Focus on the things you can fix instead of assuming there is a cover up, the system is being double dipped etc. The Marin county public employees have a retirement system, some cities pay in PERS and I'm sure there are a dozen other plans out there. The assumption is all fireman make huge money, when in reality most have 2nd and 3rd jobs just to make ends meet. People think tax payers pay for their food when at work, wrong, ask me next time you see them in the...
Annoyed December 03, 2012 at 10:15 PM
...store. If you really want to filet fireman, cops, ems people for paying into a retirement system for their entire career and then give them shit when they want to finally collect on it, shame on you. You had every opportunity to follow any career path you wanted. The average age of a retired Fireman is 60-65, that is a tremendous amount lower than the national average. What do you do if you need medical, fire or police help. I bet you call 911 and have the assumption that they will show up and fix your problem! Do you ever ask them about their pay then? You assume a chief and an entry level Firefighter make the same, pay the same into retirement, have the same benefits? Oh no way. I'm betting the manager of Home Depot makes a bit more than the first day guy, has a better retirement and has a lot more responsibility. How long do you think the average firefighter goes to school to become a career firefighter, paramedic, captain, battalion chief, chief etc? They earn their money, and if one day he wakes up and wants to retire after its earned and he is at the top of his career so be it. Craig I normally treat people like you with tender care because you probably spend most of your time looking for things to complain about. Signed Summer School Valedictorian
Craig Belfor December 03, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Once again you're missing the point.
Annoyed December 03, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Not missing any points just making a very long statement!
T.Sprocket December 04, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Annoyed, question for you Since fireman are paid with tax funds why should their relations which the employer (the taxpayer) be confidential?
Betty Pancakes December 04, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Y'all are forgetting the OBVI-ous, which is that some men go into firefightin' not for the pay or pension ... but because the job is like an insta-babe magnet. A man in uniform?! Me-ow!

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