Documents shed little light on Gurnee fire chief's ouster

  • Former Gurnee Fire Chief Fred Friedl speaks to prospective firefighters during a 2007 event. Documents turned over by the village this week shed little light on Friedl's abrupt departure after leading the village's fire department for nearly 20 years.

    Former Gurnee Fire Chief Fred Friedl speaks to prospective firefighters during a 2007 event. Documents turned over by the village this week shed little light on Friedl's abrupt departure after leading the village's fire department for nearly 20 years. Steve Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.con, 2007

  • "I don't have to have a reason" for not reappointing the fire chief, Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said Tuesday.

      "I don't have to have a reason" for not reappointing the fire chief, Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said Tuesday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 
Updated 6/20/2017 7:19 PM

Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik visited the office of longtime Fire Chief Fred Friedl last month and told him he had two choices: retire or be fired, according to a letter Friedl wrote last month to the village's top administrator.

But Kovarik said Tuesday that Friedl's account of their May 30 meeting is not accurate.

 

The Daily Herald obtained Friedl's letter, and hundreds of other pages of village documents and emails, through a Freedom of Information Act request for material possibly related to Friedl's abrupt departure this month after nearly 20 years as chief.

The documents turned over by the village shed little light on why Kovarik chose not to reappoint Friedl to the post he'd held since January 1998. They contain no indication he had been recently disciplined, nor were there outstanding complaints against him.

Friedl wrote the letter to Gurnee Village Manager Patrick Muertz on June 1, two days after he met with Kovarik, Muertz and Human Resources Director Christine Palmieri.

"Given the choices presented before me 'Forced Retirement or Termination', I dutifully submit to 'Forced Retirement,'" Friedl wrote.

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Friedl did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Kovarik disputes Friedl's description of the May 30 meeting. She said she and the administrators went to his office about 7:30 a.m. that day and she informed him that he was released from duty immediately.

Six days later, Kovarik recommended to the village board that Deputy Chief John Kavanagh be named acting fire chief. The village board unanimously accepted the appointment.

As was the case earlier this month, Kovarik declined to say Tuesday why she did not reappoint Friedl. She said the decision came after much careful deliberation.

"I don't have to have a reason," she said. "If it was for cause he would have been terminated and we wouldn't have waited for the reappointment period."

Of the few emails between Friedl and Kovarik included in the village documents, all are positive exchanges.

"Great, great, great work yesterday by the Gold Shift!" Kovarik wrote in an email on July 29, 2016, a day after a fire at a propane gas business. "I know your team trains hard for these exact situations and it really paid off yesterday. Please share my thanks for a job well done."

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