Two Russian River Fire Protection District board members were handed a document this week that launched a recall effort to oust them from their positions.
The five-person board has pitted itself against a vocal group of district residents and firehouse staff by firing Max Ming, a popular chief the district shared with Forestville.
"It must be the people's will that prevails and not the will of members of the board," said Guerneville resident Lloyd Guccione, who was among 10 people who signed the notice of intent to circulate a recall petition.
The controversy sparked after board member Linda Payne initiated a vote taken Aug. 2 during a closed session to remove Ming from his post with the Russian River district. Ming was relieved of his duties Aug. 5.
Many community members have said they hold board chairman Kevin O'Shea, a former fire chief, responsible for Ming's firing.
On Wednesday, Guccione handed Payne and O'Shea copies of the recall document at the fire district's regular monthly meeting at the Armstrong Woods Road fire station.
Payne stated at Wednesday's meeting that she would not step down. Reached by phone Thursday, she declined to talk about the recall or Ming's firing.
"I have no comment," Payne said. "It's part of the public record that I was served the recall notice and I am not going to resign."
O'Shea did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
Ming served as chief of both the Russian River and Forestville fire protection districts since late 2011 as part of a contract to share a chief.
Board members have not publicly stated their reasons for firing Ming. O'Shea has said the district's attorney advised against explaining their concerns, citing privacy issues with personnel matters.
Ming's firing prompted a firestorm of criticism from residents and firefighters.
Normally sparse board meetings have been packed with vocal standing-room-only crowds. At several August meetings, attendees have called for Ming's reinstatement. Many people also called for O'Shea to resign both during the public comment portion and in emotional outbursts during the meetings.
"It's been a puzzle to the community why the board is so reluctant, so shy to tell the community . . . why this drastic measure of letting Mr. Ming go," Guccione said Thursday.
Guccione said they intend to hand a similar document to the newest board member, Raymond Locke, who with O'Shea handed Ming a letter Aug. 5 relieving him of the post.
They must wait to file the papers until Locke has held the position for 90 days.
The 20-square-mile fire district along the Russian River, with its station in Guerneville, had 3,251 registered voters as of February, according to the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters.
Those launching the recall have seven days to file a copy of the notice of intent to circulate a recall petition with the registrar. Then O'Shea and Payne will have another seven days to file response statements, although they are not required to submit statements.
The signature gathering begins if the recall group fulfills several next steps, including getting the petitions approved and publishing an official public notice of the effort, election services supervisor Debra Russotti said.
If all that takes place, recall proponents will have to gather 813 signatures.
The last recall in the area took place in 1991 with the district, then called Guerneville Fire Protection District, according to county records.