Pricher to get apology in Cascade Locks

March 10, 2012

Jeff Pricher will get an apology, one year after calls for his firing frequented City Council meetings.

City Council will read a letter of apology to Pricher, the former fire chief, in its 7 p.m. meeting Monday at City Hall.

Pricher resigned in April 2011 after six years as fire chief, following weeks of pressure over charges that he had mismanaged the department. In light of budget restraints in early 2011, Pricher worked as half-time chief for about two months, before resigning outright.

His supporters had countered that Pricher had delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant revenue to the city and elevated the quality of emergency service response during his tenure.

"It is with deep regret and a grateful spirit that I write this letter. The City shares in this regret and sincerely apologizes for the accusations that you have received regarding misappropriation of funds and malfeasance of office," Mayor Lance Masters wrote in the letter.

"It was an entirely regrettable situation and the city deeply apologizes," Masters wrote.

Following Pricher's resignation, most of the volunteer base of the fire department also resigned, but in recent months the volunteer cadre has been fully restored, under guidance by interim fire chief Devon Wells and a group of officers that includes Jess Zerfing, who was appointed interim chief after Pricher left.

Pricher is one of those volunteers and was appointed an officer under Wells' interim emergency services management plan, which is still undergoing modifications. The department now has 21 volunteers.

Also, on the agenda, Council will swear in Brad Lorang, appointed last week to council to fill out the post vacated by Eva Zerfing, who resigned in March.

The council is also scheduled to take action on establishing a City Council sub-committee on public safety, which will direct ongoing efforts to improve public safety services, in association with the city administrator and fire chief.

The apology letter to Pricher is part of an out-of-court settlement between Pricher and the city's insurance carrier.

Masters and Council Member Tom Cramblett are the only two members of the current City Council who were in office at the time of Pricher's resignation.

Masters was a council member at the time, and is on record as having defended Pricher's performance.

In addition to then-mayor George Fischer, the council was made up of Kevin Benson, Tiffany Pruit, Don Haight and Zerfing. Pruit, Haight, Benson and Fischer were recalled by voters in September 2011.

The chief appointed officer at the time of Pricher's departure was interim city administrator Rich Carson, who was hired after administrator Bernard Seeger resigned in February 2011. Paul Koch, the current interim administrator, started work in July 2011.

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