Boise Fire Chief resigns after city council adjourns without voting on his status

Posted at 1:33 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 17:55:38-05

UPDATE: Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan announced his resignation in an email after a special meeting in connection with his personnel matter.

It reads:

Mayor and Council,

It appears I will be unable to tell the Council my side of the story before you make your decision today.

Out of the love I have for the City of Boise, its citizens, and the Boise Fire Department, please accept this email as my resignation, effective immediately.

Thank you.

Dennis Doan

"I wanted to be here to let the community, my firefighters, and my family know that I did nothing wrong other than support the right candidate for mayor, Dave Bieter, and he unfortunately lost, and I needed to be replaced. I've been okay with that since the beginning, that I knew that I needed to move on. I had just hoped that I would be able to announce my retirement, and retire with dignity, rather than being walked out the door," Doan told 6 On Your Side.

Just prior to today’s scheduled special city council meeting, Mayor and Council received correspondence rendering any potential action by the council unnecessary, according to a press release from the City of Boise.

“I, of course, understand and expected many questions this week. However, all issues related to employment of City of Boise staff are, and should remain, as required by state law, confidential,” said Mayor McLean.

Doan posted on Facebook saying the mayor and the council accpted his resignation, effective immediately.

Original Story:

*This story was written by Hayley Harding and was published on the Idaho Statesman*

It is unclear if Dennis Doan is still fire chief after Boise City Council held a special meeting on his employment status.

After a 14-minute executive session on a “personnel matter,” the Boise City Council returned to the public hearing and adjourned the meeting. Council Member Holli Woodings said there was no personnel matter before the council, but no one would clarify what that meant.

Dozens of people attended the special meeting, most to support Doan. Members of the council did not comment on the matter during the vote. After the meeting, Mayor Lauren McLean said she could not share whether Doan was still chief or employed with the department.

Speaking after the meeting, Doan himself said he did not know what the meeting meant. He added later that he would not share contact information because he said he was “not fire chief, probably.”

He shared with the Statesman a letter he sent to the council 30 minutes before the meeting offering his immediate resignation, but it is not clear if it was accepted.

“It appears that I will be unable to tell the Council my side of the story before you make your decision today,” he sent the council at 12:03 p.m. “Out of the love I have for the City of Boise, its citizens, and the Boise Fire Department, please accept this email as my resignation, effective immediately.”

Doan was put on leave on Monday, a move that he said was a result of his support of former Mayor David Bieter. City officials have repeatedly declined to comment on it, saying they cannot speak on personnel matters.

The former fire chief said at a news conference he called Wednesday that he was not being disciplined and that he had not been accused of anything. He wrote a letter to the members of Boise City Council on Thursday night saying that he didn’t believe the council had heard the entire story and that the reason McLean was pushing for his dismissal was political.

Doan publicly endorsed Bieter, donating to his re-election campaign and hosting a campaign event for him in October. In July, Doan was offered a job as fire chief in Bend, Oregon, but he turned it down. Bieter gave him a raise then, setting his salary at $165,006. That made him Boise’s No. 2 highest-paid employee, behind only Airport Director Rebecca Hupp.

Bieter failed to win a majority in the four-way November election and lost to McLean in a December runoff. He did not immediately return a request for comment made Friday morning.

In his letter to the council, Doan wrote that he had assumed McLean would want him to move on and that he thought that would come in the form of retirement. Doan, 51, has worked for the Fire Department for 29 years.

Instead, in a meeting Monday with McLean and the city’s human resources director, Doan was given a letter offering him $50,000 to retire that day. The offer required that he sign a nondisclosure agreement.

He wrote that he told Kelcey Stewart, the human resources director, that the offer did not give him enough time to meet with PERSI, the retirement program for public employees in Idaho. He said he was told that the City Council would agree to fire him if he did not accept the terms and that he was on paid administrative leave while he considered the offer.

Doan had started his career with the Boise Fire Department in 1991, and was an original member of the Hazardous Materials Team, according to his bio on the department’s website. He became a captain in 2002 and has received several commendations, including as Boise City Firefighter of the Year in 2003.

He was president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Idaho (PFFI) from 1999 to 2004. Doan founded the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Foundation and was instrumental in establishing the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

In his email, Doan said it was “humiliating” to have “dozens of people, including firefighters,” watching him pack his car after he told his command staff that he had been put on leave.

McLean on Tuesday named Deputy Chief Romeo Gervais acting chief. It is not clear if he remains in that role.


This letter was emailed to each member of the Boise City Council with the subject line “My Retirement.” The Kelsey named in the email is Kelcey Stewart, Boise’s human resources director, and Jade is Jade Riley, the city’s chief operating officer. Courtney Washburn is Mayor Lauren McLean’s chief of staff. “NDA” stands for nondisclosure agreement.


I don’t believe you have been hearing the entire story.

Since the election, I assumed that the Mayor would want me to move on. I thought I would get a chance to announce my retirement in the near future and leave after 30 years with dignity. The Mayor did not give me that opportunity.

On Friday February 21st I had my first meeting with the Mayor since she took office. She told me that I had a relationship with my former boss and not with her. She said more than once, “I am not playing a money game with you”. She told me she would like to come to an agreement for me to move on. I told the Mayor I am open to listen to any path forward. She had me wait in the lobby while she called Kelsey. Kelsey was sick so the Mayor told me she would contact me the following week. I went back to my office and emailed my schedule to let her know I was on vacation February 27th and 28th and again on March 4 - 6.

On February 25th I got an email from Courtney Washburn asking me to meet with the Mayor on the 28th. I forwarded the email I had sent about my schedule and she asked me to come in on Monday March 2nd at 8:30am.

At the Monday March 2nd meeting with Kelsey and the Mayor, the Mayor told me she had an agreement for me to sign. She told me that it was the last and final offer and if I didn’t sign it she had the votes to fire me. She then told me I was on Administrative Leave as of noon that same day. She told me I had 21 days to consider the offer.

The Mayor left the room and I read the agreement. It stated I would retire on March 2nd, it also offered $50k and the normal NDA language. I again asked Kelsey if this was the last and final offer and she said yes. I told Kelsey I could not accept retiring on March 2nd (that same day). It did not give me enough time to meet with PERSI and get health care lined up. I did tell Kelsey I was over 40 and only a year away from the retirement time I needed. I asked Kelsey if I was being fired. She said since I rejected the offer the Mayor would ask to fire me. I asked what can I say, and she told me I could say I was on Administrative Leave.

On my way back to the office I texted Kelsey and asked for more time to consider. Then the Mayor put out a press release that I was on Administrative Leave for a personnel issue. This was devastating to my reputation. Because of the press release, the community assumed it was for cause. I had friends and family calling asking what I did wrong. The only thing I did, was back Mayor Bieter.

I called my wife and she met me at my office. I called the Command Staff together and told them I was on Administrative Leave as of noon that day. My wife and Staff started packing my office and turning in my turnouts, phone, laptop, iPad, uniforms, etc. There were dozens of people, including firefighters, watching me and my staff pack and load my vehicle. It was humiliating.

Later that afternoon I talked to Jade. I told him this was not about money, it was about time. I told him I did not care about money and that my reputation was being ruined and the press release was hurting my chances for a new job. He texted later to meet with Kelsey and the Mayor on Tuesday March 3rd in the Mayors office. I met with the Mayor and Kelsey and gave them my intent to retire letter for Friday May 29th assuming I would remain on Paid Administrative Leave. I told them I didn’t care about the money and I just needed some time.

I then emailed you the notice of retirement and announced my retirement to the community. I also needed to set the record straight to my family, the firefighters, and the community, that I had done nothing wrong.

After the announcement I received a letter from Kelsey via text message that all offers had been rescinded and there would be a public vote. I am assuming to fire me. That was the last communication I have had with the Mayor or Kelsey.

This afternoon my wife told me a special council meeting has been called to terminate me.

I believe that the Mayor has the right to have a staff she can trust. I was, and I am still willing to move on. The Mayor has taken away my chance to retire with dignity.

If given until May 29th on Paid Administrative Leave, I will return and sign the Separation Agreement.

Thank you.

Dennis Doan