Prescott: No improper promises made to promote Granite Mountain Hotshots

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Less than one week after Granite Mountain Hotshot widow, Juliann Ashcraft, took her fight over survivors benefits public, the city of Prescott is firing back.

An internal inquiry by city officials found no evidence policies for promoting and hiring were violated, according to spokesman Pete Wertheim.

“We thought it important to look into these allegations,” said Wertheim referring to an assertion that verbal promises were made to hotshot Andrew Ashcraft.

“We’ve not been able to substantiate any conversations or anything of that nature,” said Wertheim.

In a statement Prescott Fire Department Division Chief Darrell Willis said, “I never promised to promote any seasonal Granite Mountain Hotshot to a permanent position. Employment decisions such as promotions are required to go through a screening process and interview with the Human Resources Department, and final decisions must be approved by the city manager.”

The family of Andrew Ashcraft has said verbal assurances were made regarding a status change from temporary to full-time.

“He worked full-time hours, had full-time responsibilities and a full-time salary,” widow Juliann Ashcraft said during a news conference last week.

The mother of four says her family should be entitled to full-time benefits which are significantly greater than that of temporary or seasonal employees.

In a statement to 3TV Tuesday, Tom Ashcraft, Andrew’s father wrote this:

“This is disappointing to read regarding Chief Willis. He is in a tough position. I hope he can eventually return to support the truth of our situation, regardless of the policy. Morality and ethics trump policy.”

An attorney for the Ashcraft family says the city is oversimplifying legal issues surrounding Ashcraft’s employment status. He said he’s also still waiting for Ashcraft’s full personnel file.

“The recent assertion that the City has conducted a ‘thorough investigation’ as to Andrew’s employment status is specious and self-serving. Understandably, given the tragedy of June 30, 2013, it is difficult to verify the promises made by his direct supervisors,” said attorney Tom Kelly in a statement to 3TV.

“This is a major loss for the city, citizens of Prescott, but at the same time, we’re confined by what the law allows us to do,” said Prescott Councilman Charlie Arnold.

Arnold met last week with Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin regarding the issue of benefits to determine whether anything can be done at the state level, retroactively.

“I think this is a discussion that will go on for years, especially as it relates to firefighter safety,” said Councilman Arnold.

According to the executive session agenda, legal and contractual matters including potential litigation related to line of duty fatalities was discussed on Tuesday.

The topic of the Granite Mountain Hotshots is expected to be on the agenda of next Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

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