Keith Grueneberg recall, Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, California (2013)

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An effort to recall Keith Grueneberg from his position on the Board of Directors of the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District in Nevada County, California was launched in April 2013. Supporters of the recall are currently circulating petitions in order to qualify the recall question for the ballot.[1][2] The recall did not go to a vote because supporters of the effort failed to collect enough signatures.[3]


The recall effort was led by Lisa LaBarbera, an HR Administrator who resigned from the district because of what she alleged to be harassment and failures of the board. Recall supporters charged multiple reasons for their efforts, as listed in the notice of intent to recall below.[1]

Petition Language

LaBarbera's notice of intent to recall read:[4]

Director Grueneberg has violated the trust of the District's constituents.

First, he did not adhere to the intent of the use of funds from the 2012 Tax Measure. He negotiated and gave back an un-budgeted amount of approx. $20,000 worth of concessions to the firefighters.

Second, against the intent of the 2012 Tax Measure, as lead negotiator, he has negotiated the proposed January 2013-June 2014 firefighter's union contract to give a significant increase to Salaries and Benefits, $81,000-$100,000.

Third, Grueneberg has violated the District's Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Electronic Communication Policy, State and Federal Labor Laws as they relate to protected class. He circulated a video with racial overtones by email to the Firefighter’s Union President, who then forwarded to other members of the District. The email was disparaging and derogatory as well as insulting to the administrative staff it was directed toward.

Lastly, Grueneberg has publically stated his aversion to keeping the public informed of Board decisions and actions as outlined in California ’s state constitution requiring transparency.

Grueneberg has violated the role of a board member by taking actions without Board direction, distorting and abusing the reputations of District employees who do not agree with him.[5]

Grueneberg's response

Grueneberg's response, which he submitted to the Nevada County Elections Office, read:[6]

This is a frivolous personal attack on me, using fabricated allegations that could cost the district nearly $50,000 in election related costs charged by the County. Decisions are made by a majority of the Board; no director can act alone. Step raises were budgeted and approved by a majority of the Board. Director Rhodes, Personnel Committee Chairman, is the lead negotiator for the District. The union contract is currently under negotiation. I am not involved in negotiations. I find it ironic the recall proponent violated District policy on 6/17/09 and the former fire chief violated it on 2/23/09, the same policy she references. I have not violated any laws or policies. I have always been open with information concerning District operations. As a former fire department executive, I have asked pointed questions regarding personnel and financial issues, causing District administration to become nervous and defensive. This year alone, I have opposed what I considered gifts of public funds totaling $83,065. The recall attempt is blatantly malicious harassment designed to silence my efforts to identify and remedy damage caused to the District by the misconduct of disgruntled ex-employees. Over 90% of the District firefighters support my position on the Board.[5]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing recall in California

Recall supporters had a 120-days time frame to collect signatures from 20 percent of the registered voters in the district (approximately 4,482 names) to trigger a recall election. A special election was estimated to cost as much as $50,000.[4]

LaBarbera gave Grueneberg her notice of intent of recall on April 17, 2013. Grueneberg submitted his response to local election officials about a week later.[4][6]

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