On Thursday, Nov. 10, Fire Chief Norm Walker (right) swears Pete Capparelli in as IFDP commissioner to replace former Commissioner Ben Killingsworth. Photo by Grace Reed

A divided Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) commission selected President Pete Capparelli to fulfill the final two years of former Commissioner Ben Killingsworth’s term. After a debate about how many votes were sufficient to make the decision, whether Capparelli could vote for himself and then a call for advice from legal counsel was the decision final.

Three men — Capparelli, Mark Spehar and Maxey Sparks — applied for the vacancy whose term expires in December 2013.

When the commission got to this item on the agenda, Capparelli, the commission president, stepped down, gave the gavel to Vice President Paul Riggi, and went into the audience area.

The three remaining commissioners — Jeannine Charles-Stigall, Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly and Riggi — had no questions of the applicants and asked them to speak for themselves. Spehar and Capparelli spoke, but Sparks did not attend.

Stigall nominated Capparelli and Riggi seconded the nomination. They both voted “yes” and Schelly opposed the choice. He then said, that 2-1 was not a majority of the full commission (five members) and that another candidate should be considered and he nominated Sparks, whom the other two commissioners did not support.

Larry Donahoo speaking about paid call firefighter program. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
A debate ensued about whether Capparelli could vote for himself, if the motion were re-offered. That would be three votes, a majority of the full commission. However, Riggi, recessed the meeting and called counsel, Brad Neufeld.

When he returned, Riggi said that a simple majority of commissioners voting was sufficient to determine the replacement. This seated Capparelli, who said he would resign his current term prior to the next meeting and then be sworn in as KIllingsworth’s replacement.

Capparelli’s original term would expire on Dec. 2. In the August election, two seats were up for election — Capparelli and Riggi. Voters chose challengers — Jerry Buchanan and Larry Donahoo — rather than either incumbent.

The commission for the December IFPD meeting will be composed of Buchanan, Capparelli, Donahoo, Schelly and Stigall.

The election of new officers was postponed to next month.

In other business, IFPD did receive the $450,000 from Riverside County. But there was no discussion of the budget because the financial statements were not available.

Also postponed until December was a discussion and decision about the future of the paid-call firefighter group. Donahoo spoke at the meeting and requested the action be deferred. Chief Norm Walker expressed his view that the contingent was too small and only one member consistently came to incidents.