They want the Washington City Council to "do the right thing."
Supporters of outgoing Washington Fire Department Chief Mike Vaughn packed the council's meeting Monday night to voice outrage over a decision that leaves the decorated firefighter without a job. The Fire Department board last month voted to not renew Vaughn's contract over what have been described as "philosophical differences."
"What has happened is horrific. It's wrong, and they should change their vote," said Sandy Brace, who was one of a handful of people in attendance to speak up at the council meeting.
Brace described Vaughn, WFD's first full-time Fire Chief and a recipient of the Firefighter's Medal of Valor, as someone who always goes "above and beyond," both on the job and in his everyday life. She says if the board doesn't decide to change its vote to oust Vaughn, then it's time for the board to go.
"I think a lot of us feel there's a 'change of philosophy,' and we need to see some changes, too," she said.
Vaughn's supporters seem to feel the biggest issue in the whole case is that the board gave no solid reason for its decision. The sentiment was echoed by Vaughn himself, who gave an emotional plea for help in front of the council and his allies in the audience.
"There are a lot of questions I have no answers for. But the one thing I am sure of is my desire to continue to serve the members of the Washington Fire Department, and the members of my community, as their Fire Chief," Vaughn said.
The answer to the problem is far from simple for the city. While no council members seemed to openly disagree with the notion that Vaughn got a raw deal, the Fire Department is a private entity, outside the reach of local government. While the city could consider taking over the department, Mayor Gary Manier says the option wouldn't be something done overnight.
"It would be a long process. We wouldn't do it by the end of July, when his contract is up," Manier said.
Manier says the cost of taking over the Fire Department may also be too burdensome for the city, as well. He says, for now, the city just has to sit back and watch how the whole issue plays out.
Supporters of Vaughn plan to attend the next Fire Department board meeting to take their ire to the source. That meeting is set for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday at the department's headquarters, located at 200 N. Wilmor Road in Washington.