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Carpinteria-Summerland District Grants Chief Mike Mingee’s Request for Early Retirement

Board approves a mutual agreement releasing him of his contract more than a year sooner than expected

Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District Chief Mike Mingee reacts Tuesday night to some heartfelt goodbyes from residents and city employees at the meeting where he announced his plans to retire and leave the district.
Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District Chief Mike Mingee reacts Tuesday night to some heartfelt goodbyes from residents and city employees at the meeting where he announced his plans to retire and leave the district. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

The Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District accepted an early retirement bid from Fire Chief Mike Mingee on Tuesday night, agreeing to release Mingee more than a year sooner in what the chief called a mutual decision.

Mingee, 59, said he asked to leave the post he’s held since November 2007 to retire and move into the next stage of his life effective July 31.

The fire district’s board of directors, which discussed the item in closed session, unanimously voted without additional comment to accept separating Mingee’s employment contract, which had been set to expire Dec. 31, 2016.

“Over the last few days, it’s been a little bit kind of crazy,” Mingee said of the speculation about why he was leaving early. “This is no scandalous issue.”

Mingee read from a prepared statement, explaining he had first broached the subject of retirement with the board last September and had even sold his home in anticipation.

He said he plans to move down to Riverside County, where he has family and where his wife recently secured a job at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs.

Several firefighters and other city employees showed up in support of Mingee, whose eyes watered when some offered kind words about his tenure.

“I want to thank the board for entering into a mutual agreement to release me from my contract a year early and allowing me to submit for my retirement,” Mingee said. “I wanted to wait until the Measure (Z) was decided to make my official announcement.”

Mingee referred to voters rejecting a $10.65 million bond measure for the fire district earlier this month. Measure Z asked for funds to build a new Summerland fire station and renovate its larger Carpinteria station.

He devoted little time to the rumor mill, which alleged Mingee’s departure was tied to a settlement reached with three firefighters who filed a lawsuit against Mingee and the department in November 2013. 

Firefighters Christopher Blair, Han Domini and Michael Hayek claimed they were retaliated against for pointing out safety violations that endangered themselves and potentially added cost to taxpayers.

Mingee and directors wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, and lawyers from both sides failed to return calls seeking comment.

According to the court filing, a settlement conference is set for June 12 in Department 5 of Santa Barbara Superior Court, with trial confirmation tentatively scheduled in July.

Mingee, who boasts 39 total years of fire service experience, did emphasize the department has never logged a violation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, the federal agency that enforces safety and health legislation.

He has led the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District the last eight years and began his career in Southern California’s Inland Empire, not far from where he’s headed.

“As in any business, there may come a time when the CEO has fulfilled his goals and the agency may need to change direction,” Mingee said. “I believe that time has come for CDFD. I’m comforted by the fact that I leave the agency with a vetted Master Plan, in a healthy financial position, a brand new reliable front line fleet, a staffed and in-service Rescue Squad and a management staff that is fully capable of a successful transition.”

Board president Chris Johnson requested the group discuss finding an interim chief at the next meeting in June and asked Mingee to assist in the process.

Director Margaret Baker was adamant about looking within and outside the current department for a temporary replacement, but Mingee and Johnson agreed selecting an internal candidate would likely be easier than bringing in someone who lives elsewhere.

According to Mingee’s contract, if either he or the board opts to terminate employment early — for retirement or through a “convenience” clause — the chief should receive all accrued salary, vacation and sick leave. Mingee was making a base salary of nearly $145,000, according to a contract last renewed in 2011.

After the meeting, he told Noozhawk he wasn’t sure what his next job would be but that he was excited to find out.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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