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QUIT OR BE FIRED: Firefighters union calls for Pahrump chief to resign

Updated March 7, 2023 - 4:20 pm

The local firefighters union is calling for Pahrump Valley Fire & Rescue Chief Scott Lewis to resign — or face removal from his position — citing a 56-point list of health, safety and mismanagement concerns co-written by the union.

Members of Pahrump Valley Firefighters IAFF Local 4068 have expressed two votes of “no confidence” in Lewis since Feb. 6, with the most recent vote coming Monday when 82 percent of union members who cast ballots indicated that Lewis wasn’t fit to hold his job, according to reports from union representatives.

“…We are declaring a state of emergency within Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue and no confidence in Fire Chief Scott Lewis for the second time,” Local 4068 Union President Justin Snow wrote in an email sent early Tuesday morning to media and county officials. “[The union] respectfully requests a letter of resignation from Fire Chief Scott Lewis or for the town & county manager and Board of County Commissioners to remove him from his position immediately.”

Union members say they will censor Lewis during several upcoming industry conventions, and signaled they are done negotiating the merits of his more than 20-year tenure with the department.

“It is not our desire nor our intent to initiate a back-and-forth in a public space,” Snow said, adding that union officials wouldn’t be available for interviews or additional comments.

Chief Lewis told the Pahrump Valley Times that he’s aware of the union’s claims, but said he is “not commenting at this time.”

Tim Sutton, Pahrump’s town manager, issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying he was aware of the union’s vote. He called it an “unfortunate, retaliatory move” that he says was spurred by a few union leaders who were disgruntled after being “disciplined for endangering the public and passed over for a captain promotion.”

“Several of the concerns raised during the vote are legitimate,” Sutton acknowledged in his statement. “However, these are more properly addressed during the collective bargaining process.

“The town recognizes the long hours our first responders put in and the dangerous, even life-threatening situations they encounter on a daily basis,” Sutton said. “The town is committed to addressing issues raised by the union in the appropriate forums with the resources available.”

‘It was always burning’

The local firefighters union was established in September 2000, a little more than a year after Pahrump Valley Fire & Rescue hired its first paid firefighter.

Pahrump hired Chief Lewis in 2002, and he has served with the department since then.

Union members took their first vote of no confidence against Lewis more than a decade ago, when they raised concerns about his leadership in September 2012 and asked the former town manager and other top officials to consider removing him as chief.

But the union’s warnings were ignored for years, members claim, and at least seven current members who were employed in 2012 say that “many of the concerns regarding health, safety and mismanagement of Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue that were listed then remain an ongoing issue to this date.”

In the past decade, Pahrump’s firefighters have suffered some of the highest turnover and vacancy rates in the state under the leadership of Lewis, the union claims.

“Despite our best efforts over the past decade to exhaust all options, excluding legal action, we have been unable to correct the ongoing issues affecting public safety, firefighter safety, the treatment of firefighters and poor morale in Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue,” the union members wrote in their appeal to elected officials to find a replacement for Lewis. “It will be no easy task to restore the fire department from its current condition and reputation.”

But Sutton said that IAFF members and town officials have a history of “productive collective bargaining.”

“[We] have successfully ratified several collective agreements since the last vote of no confidence… To claim that no positive changes have occurred with PVFRS in the interim is disingenuous and diminishes the hard bargaining work done by Chief Lewis, town management, and, ironically, the union’s own bargaining representatives,” Sutton said.

Contact Editor Brent Schanding at bschanding@pvtimes.com

Selwyn Harris contributed to this report.

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