San Diego

County Takeover of Julian Fire Department Was Planned for Years

New court documents show the county and LAFCO was poised to take over Julian Fire Department regardless of vote

The battle over who will gain control of fire services in the rural community of Julian has been left for a judge to decide.

However, new documents and court declarations filed in the case show that the County of San Diego and the regional planning agency responsible for Julian were preparing to move forward with the dissolution of the volunteer fire department (Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District) at any means necessary.

According to a newly filed court document, The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), the group responsible for overseeing the dissolution of Julian’s Volunteer Fire force, had included an item on the April 8 meeting that read, “should the reorganization proposal not proceed for any reason, [the commission] should consider initiating its own reorganization to dissolve Julian-Cuyamaca FPD and transfer services to the County Fire Authority as authorized State law.”

The commission, however, had the necessary votes to dissolve the volunteer force and reorganization was not needed. Yet, despite the vote and not long after the meeting, volunteer firefighters and staff refused to turn over the keys to the department to County and CalFire.

The fight for the fire department has reached new heights in recent weeks.

Days before LAFCO met, a San Diego Superior Court judge had ruled that a 2018 vote to dissolve the department had violated state meeting laws, potentially rendering the vote moot and thus preventing the County from taking the reins.

A newly filed declaration from volunteer fire department staff provides further indication that in its quest to dissolve the volunteer force, some previous board members may have ignored public meeting laws.

“My office was next to fire Chief Marinelli's office and, because the walls are thin, I could overhear him talking to the three board members individually in separate meetings about their plans to file an application with the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission and the County of San Diego to dissolve [Julian Volunteer Department],” reads a declaration from former firefighter and EMT Karen Keifer.

Added Keifer, “I could hear that all three board members and Fire Chief Marinelli were in complete agreement that they would be.submitting the dissolution application and that the Fire Chief was the one communicating messages on the subject matter to and from each of the three board members.”

Attorneys for the county have since claimed that the attorney for the reconstituted Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District, Cory Briggs, conspired with the volunteer fire department’s attorney to get a favorable court ruling that prevents the dissolution from moving forward.

In a statement, Briggs refuted those allegations.

“The evidence we’ve submitted shows that the only ones guilty of fraud and collusion — for over a year now — are LAFCO, the County, and the three prior board members whom the voters threw out of office once their scheming was exposed,” wrote Briggs in a statement to NBC 7.

The culprits put a bullseye on JCFPD’s back long ago. That’s why the brave men and women of JCFPD will continue to stand strong against this corrupt and hostile government takeover, so that justice can truly be served.”

In response a spokesperson with the county told NBC 7 “With the abundance of tall tales being told to the media and ignoring a lawful election, we think it’s best to reserve further comment for the courtroom.”

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