LINCOLN CITY — A Facebook post that appeared on the account of Rob Dahlman, North Lincoln Fire and Rescue’s interim chief, has been building tensions since it was posted, edited and deleted in February. The chief and board of directors were confronted last week by the candidates of the upcoming board election who were spoken ill of in the post.
The entry originally posted to Dahlman’s page read: “Our current Fire District Board has three up for re-election. The current entire Board of Directors is a good team. We need to keep them in place. All three positions are being contested by negative people who want to wreck all the good things that have been accomplished over the last few years. All three of them have no business in Public Office, at any level. Vote to keep Tim Beatty, Alan Lee and Ron Woodard in place as North Lincoln Fire & Rescue Board members. A large group of both paid and volunteer firefighters are chipping in money and time to get the vote in favor of this.”
A second iteration of this post had no mention of the challenging candidates and the last sentence was replaced to read, “Please support all the good work they have and will continue to dedicate to our community.” The second post was later removed, leaving no trace on the chief’s page — but Dahlman’s comments did not go unnoticed by the community, nor the fire board candidates.
The News-Times requested comment on the post from the North Lincoln Fire and Rescue administration, and the following was offered: “During work hours or on District Equipment, Chief Dahlman cannot speak about political views/opinions. The Facebook post followed those rules.”
After seeing the post, volunteer firefighter and board candidate George Blacketer said he submitted a formal complaint to Human Resources, which was forwarded to the legal team. Their response echoed the administration’s comment.
“I got the letter from Board of Directors president Jamie Wright,” Blacketer told the News-Times, “saying the legal team reviewed it, nothing was wrong, he has been advised to not post in that manner. And like I said (at the meeting), I took huge exception to it.”
Blacketer took issue with that response because, that same month, when Blacketer posted “#VolunteersMatter” to Facebook, he says he was called by his captain and told that if he didn’t stop posting in that manner to Facebook, he would be placed on a leave of absence. The key information here: Blacketer says the post was unrelated to the fire department. He volunteers with a number of organizations in town, including serving as president of the Lincoln City Youth League.
“What I posted, I was being threatened with a leave of absence,” said Blacketer. “What he posted, nothing was being done.”
But there was one other response that he said rubbed him the wrong way, along with his fellow candidates: “What irritated a lot of us was the lack of concern from the board of directors.”
At the most recent board meeting, those disparaged candidates spoke out in front of the board. Blacketer, Roy Cabal and Daniel Stuebgen used the public comment portion of the meeting to voice their concerns to the board.
Stuebgen commented, “I don’t know if I’ve ever met Rob Dahlman. I thought it (the post) was inappropriate. What a great way to introduce yourself to a prospective Board member.”
Blacketer stated that he felt Danny Curler was the only director to give any substantial response.
“Legally, I think we all have the right to say whatever we feel,” Curler commented at the meeting. “Professionally, I didn’t approve of it, I thought it was out of line.”
At the meeting, Dahlman declined the opportunity to respond to the candidates’ statements, and following the meeting, North Lincoln Fire and Rescue administration declined the News-Times’ request for comment on statements made at the meeting.