KEY LARGO -- The Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department's board of directors will allow incumbent Fire Chief Sergio Garcia and challenger Michael Jenkins to compete for the chief's post.
The decision was made during last week's board meeting.
The board has been under fire after qualifications for the position were allegedly changed, though the new qualifications apparently were never properly presented to the board for approval and documentation.
After Garcia sought to disqualify Jenkins under the new qualifications, the department postponed the election. The situation caught the attention of the Key Largo Fire-EMS District, which recently voted to ask the State Attorney's Office to review the matter for any possible wrongdoing. The district contracts with the department for fire services.
Last week, the fire board decided to move forward with the original qualifications that a candidate for chief must be a resident of Key Largo and department member in good standing. The election has been set for January.
After Garcia and Jenkins made their pitches for consideration, the board determined that candidacy for the position would be closed to prevent any additional names from being entered for consideration.
Despite advice from board attorney Andy Tobin, the department's board decided it was not necessary to create a separate committee after the election to determine a new set of qualifications for chief.
The board agreed that a timeline should be established for conforming to any new rules adopted.
Sitting in the audience, Key Largo Fire-EMS board member Tony Allen suggested the department give the elected chief at least until the next election, which will be in two years, to meet any new qualifications.
"I just need more than two months," Jenkins told the board.
Key Largo Fire-EMS board member Bob Thomas, who pushed for an independent investigation of the matter, said any review would likely be put off until Catherine Vogel takes over as state attorney in January.