Cal Fire Director Addresses Recent Hiring Scandal

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SACRAMENTO --

Cal Fire is used to responding to disasters, like the massive wildfires that have devastated parts of California.

But last year, scandal within the agency also captured headlines; from a battalion chief sentenced for the murder of his girlfriend to allegations of employees drinking on the job and ordering escorts.

"That is not Cal Fire what you're seeing in the news, Cal Fire is the professional organization that the public knows,” said Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott.

Thursday, Pimlott addressed questions over the agencies hiring practices. He sat before the state personnel board to respond to their special investigation.  Pimlott outlined ways the agency plans to solve its personnel problems.

The personnel board's special investigation looked into allegations that three Cal Fire employees cheated on tests for promotions last spring.

Those employees were disciplined, then two of them were reappointed to captain positions.

The investigation found Cal Fire consistently failed to maintain crucial hiring documents and couldn’t verify appointments were based on "merit and fitness."

"This is an opportunity for us at Cal Fire to look internally at our processes and make improvements, and, yeah, we found some areas that we need to improve on,” Pimlott said.

He says the agency is focused on correcting problems before they start.

"The big piece is gonna be prevention.  It's gonna be preventing disciplinary actions to begin with,” Pimlott said.

Cal Fire has requested $4.4 million in the state budget for a “Professional Standards Program,” which would dedicate a 14-person unit to oversee the agency, investigations and “adverse actions.”