Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this


By Miriam Raftery

February 1, 2018 (Julian) – Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors has received two legal complaints alleging misconduct by Fire Chief Rick Marinelli, who has denied wrongdoing.

The Julian Volunteer Fire Company, through Attorney Marek Pienkos at the law firm Grady and Associates, has filed a claim alleging violations against free speech, intimidation, threats of retaliation, and other complaints. The volunteer firefighters’ board previously issued a vote of no confidence that it presented to the JCFPD board, which dismissed the matter as unreliable.

<--break->In addition, Karen Kiefer, Supervising Paramedic for JCFPD, has filed a sexual harassment claim--among other complaints—through Attorney Jessica Coronado. The complaint alleges that the chief asserted he could “convert” Kiefer, a lesbian, suggesting a sexual relationship.  Her complaint also alleges that he discussed her pay in front of others and improperly banned Kiefer from speaking at board meetings on paramedic-related issues.

The JCFPD Board of Directors asked their legal counsel to do an independent investigation which former board member Patricia Landis claims is “a conflict of interest because legal counsel for JCFPD will be counsel for the defendants in these legal actions.”  Pending a legal investigation involving depositions, affidavits and potentially a trial, Landis proposes, “Chief Marinelli should be placed on administrative leave. If he is found innocent, he will remain Chief. If he is found guilty of these charges he will be fired with cause. This is how our justice system works.” 

East County Magazine contacted Chief Marinelli for comments.  He sent the following response via e-mail: “They are actions against the district based on false allegations against me.  I have been requested by our attorney not to comment.  The one comment I will make is the allegations against me are not true.  The volunteer firefighter association is lashing out against me because they feel like I am a threat to the volunteer organization.  They must feel an incredible amount of fear and anxiety to make up such lies against me.   I feel sorry for them and forgive them.  I have always advocated I support the best level of service that can be provided to the public we serve.  It's a unfortunate  not everyone feels that way.  The majority of our staff support me.  These claims are being fabricated from a group of about six out of roughly forty community volunteers and reserve volunteers.”

The fire district has also been involved in a heated dispute over whether to remain independent or join the County Fire Authority. The board majority recently voted to remain independent and is now the only all-volunteer fire department remaining in San Diego County.  Landis has advocated for independence, while board chair Jack Shelver backed joining the CFA.  Advocates of an independent fire district have claimed Marinelli has not done enough to support the majority’s wishes, a claim Marinelli has disputed, as ECM previously reported.

Advocates of an independent district have voiced concerns that the Julian-Cuyamaca area might not be adequately prioritized through a countywide fire department that partners with Cal-Fire if a major fire occurred elsewhere. But opponents contend that not partnering with the county and Cal-Fire puts the communities at greater risk.

The decision to stay independent led to loss of a paramedic engine in January, as ECM reported. Supporters of a stand-alone district are planning a ballot measure in June to ask voters to support a fee hike to support a free-standing district, though opponents claim the amount won’t be enough to fully fund the district’s needs.


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.



You may have read or heard that the Initiative to repeal and replace the benefit fee for JCFPD failed due to insufficient signatures. THIS IS NOT TRUE. The Petitions had more signatures than necessary by people who live in the District and want JCFPD to remain independent. The problem is that 58 of these people have moved and did not update their address with the Registrar of Voters, and these signatures were declared invalid. You might be one of them. You can go online to www.sdvote.com to verify your information. If you need to change your address, you fill out a New Registration Form and check the box at the bottom “I was previously registered or pre-registered to vote.” If you have a P.O. Box, check “My mailing address is different from my home address.” We will repeat the process, publish the Initiative, gather signatures on Petitions and place the Initiative on the November ballot. We will be precise and succeed in this effort now that we know what to look for and how to help. We will continue to fight to keep our dedicated, successful, treasured, unique and historic volunteer fire department.


A comment on the initiative. They actually had a nice cushion of signatures. Evidently there were a couple people who signed twice as there were many petitions out so they had no way of knowing. Sometimes people mean well but dont realize that you can't sign twice. Also, there might have been some sig's that did not match the registered signature. If you registered with a middle initial, you must sign the petition with a middle initial. I was probably rejected for that. This info can be found at http://www2.sdcounty.ca.gov/rov/Eng/Voters.asp Very simple to check. The rejection of the petition was not from lack of support, but rather not understanding how precise the instructions were.

This is shameful

Please Julian, let this play this out in the courts and via normal governance and administrative processes, including the remaining possibility of a November ballot initiative. Serious accusations flying so freely in these comments - a public forum - will ultimately lead to claims of libel and slander, if not actual libel and slander claims. That will not do anything good for Julian. P*ss*ng on each other does nothing for the back country that we all love. You are boiling over, so now is time to turn the heat down and trust the process. With the failure of ballot initiative for a increased fire fee this June, there is way too much uncertainly regarding what *the people* actually want. The failure or success of any effort toward November, which would need to pass even if it can make it onto the ballot in the first place, should bring the most important matter at hand to a closure. Don't turn it into a war that harms the community in broader ways. There is no upside in it. Brett Stalbaum Shelter Valley

A comment has been removed. Please folks, follow our site rules.

I know passions run high.  But accusing a poster here of being someone else, name calling, and accusing people on either side of being liars or engaging in criminal actions should not be done here due to libel concerns and our site rules requiring civility.

I removed an extended post that was also far too long to be readable and filled with unsubstantiated accusations.  I have no way of knowing as editor if these are true or not, and we won't allow potential smears to stay up (unless the person attacked asked to have it remain and respond). If posters have proof of allegations, please provide documentation to me for a potential future article or link to your evidence (such as meeting minutes or court documents) in your posts. Also if  anyone is alleging crimes, please notify law enforcement.

I have also cautioned another poster in an earlier message sent privately on our rules but allowed that earlier post to stay, only because the person he made an apparently false/negative statement about has since posted a rebuttal here and asked that it remain along with her rebuttal and others, to avoid disrupting the conversation by deleting posts that also had many other remarks that added to the conversation without breaking the rules.

Rest assured I am not taking sides.  All sides are entitled to air their views in a robust discussion. But remember, if you think someone engaged in criminal actions, such allegations should be addressed to law enforcement or in a civil suit for a court to determine whether or not laws have been broken; unsubstantiated allegations don't belong on a public forum on a news site.

I have encouraged the poster whose post was removed to revise it and submit a shorter version with her concerns in a less inflammatory manner. If she or anyone has proof of actual wrongdoing I would of course wish to know that, and see the evidence which should be sent via private email so that it can be vetted first and anyone accused of wrongdoing given an opportunity to respond, as is standard journalism procedure. 

Everyone on this post lives in the same communities and are neighbors ; I hope we can see respect even if people disagree. We are doing our best to give all sides an opportunity to be included in our articles and have a robust discussion here, but if people continue to violate site rules and make accusations that haven't been substantiated, we will have to close the comments section on this story, which I really don't want to have to do. 

Thanaks for your understanding.

Miriam Raftery, Editor






Lazy Volunteers. Isn’t that an oxymoron??

Off base

This person is so off base. First off, we've never ever had a 4th of July pancake breakfast. Second, that sort of conduct by a public servant is not tolerated. PERIOD! neither myself or any firefighter would tolerate such disrespect of our citizens. I assure you if it had the offender would render an immediate apology and then be diciplined up to and including termination depending on the severity of the offense. Lastly, if those comments were heard, it most likely came directly from the leader who has repeatedly exhibited that sort of behavior in various settings since he came into the department


JCFPD supporters are citizens who care about their community and for many, many reasons, want to keep their independent district. Except in exercising their legal rights, no one that I'm aware of has ever made personal attacks on members of CalFire or those who support the County. In retaliation, your comments are cruel, untrue, and the only purpose is to discredit anyone who disagrees with your position. I'm pretty sure you're not a Julian resident or you would know our firefighters display professional demeanor and respect at all times. I can't speak for the Chief but everyone I've met have been true gentlemen and dignified women. We do need strong leadership but not in this area as the men and women of JCFPD are examples of high standards of conduct.

What the...

What is it with people commenting about Julian Fire? The whole state seems to think they can tell us what is best for us. Where to start? How about I have lived in Julian for over 20 years, seen at least eight fires, and worked God knows how many fund raisers but I have never been to a "4th of July Pancake Breakfast that was manned by their fire dept". There is no 4th of July Pancake Breakfast. Never has been never will be. Who the heck is "ddinsd63"? And "hikerhunter". Sounds all the world like Pat Walker from the Cal Fire union. Is the you Pat? Dude get a life! Or a wife of something and stop obsessing about Julian. What ever happened to "Land of the Free". We the People can choose our own damned fire department. Bug out. And about the great T shirt scandal. They are ten bucks and that's with a pocket. I don't see a holiday on a sandy beach with a nice Pina Colada at that price. Come on folks! Get a life...in another town!


I am on the Fourth of July committee and have worked every year that I’ve been on the committee. Not only have we never had a bunch of firefighters there because they couldn’t show up but I know these firefighters and they are gentlemen and ladies and would never speak like that. You are lying. When they are in public they have to treat people with the upmost respect. They represent the department. This is nothing more than a sleezy attempt to damage their reputation. And all you CalFire supporters who aren’t even from here have done is made fools of yourself. It’s about job security for a financially broken Cal fire. And you will stoop to anything. We are good people up here in Julian, leave us alone.

Julian Fire Chief Allegations

I would not be at all surprised if these allegations of harassment are true. The several times I attended the 4th of July Pancake Breakfast that was manned by their fire dept, I constantly heard the firefighters say derogatory comments about the women that attended. They made comments such as,"Yeah, she is a 7" or "What a skank! ", etc that were very unprofessional and so contrary to the spirit of that day. It makes me wonder what they say when they are NOT in earshot of women, children and families. Such poor leadership trickles down the rest of the crew.

Wait… Manned by the fire department

I just reread your ridiculous post the Fourth of July breakfast is not manned by the fire department anyway. It’s manned by the Fourth of July Parade committee. There are no fire fighters on the committee and there are no firefighters working the breakfast. Nice try.

You first

You folks went to the gutter first and have been for months. Making false allegations about the Chief, Board members, Cal Fire, County Fire Authority and now even the County Registrar. Guess it does not feel to good to be attacked personally huh ? Get over it !!!!

get over it?

Find where we made a false claim. No one on the side of independence has attacked anyone with slander. We are very careful about what we say and who we talk to. When the allegations were brought to the attention of the board and we asked for a 3rd party neutral investigation, it was refused. Why not allow him to clear his name if he's innocent. Maybe there is too much proof out there that will come to light. Signed doc's, audio tapes etc. So much proof its sickening. As far as I am concerned, find anywhere that I have said anything derogatory about anyone. Your reply says alot to me..."making false allegations about the chief...so you paid me back with false allegations? "Guess it does not feel so good"? Do you slander people because you are angry. Thats a dangerous road. All JCFPD has ever wanted was to be left alone from the county's stranglehold. They never expected a fight. We have so much support. I do forgive you for what you said about me, but I will never forget. I know you are not from Julian for a few reasons. So this really isnt your business.


Volunteers have a right to free speech and to exercise their legal rights. The Board could have taken action to have an unrelated third party investigate the allegations and they chose not to. The Chief could have had his name cleared if the allegations were unsubstantiated. The volunteers had a legal right to bring to light their concerns just as the Chief has a right to defend himself. Just saying it's BS doesn't make it so. To make personal accusations against anyone is unwarranted. No one benefits from this financially or otherwise and no one has anything to gain other than our concern for our community and our safety. We are a small community fighting to save our independent district from a County take over. The County has vast resources. Instead of attacking stand up citizens, think about why the County is so focused on our District and what benefit do they receive from our dissolution.

Accusation against Wetduck Design

Let me be clear. The wife of the President of the Julian Volunteer Fire Company is the owner of a business that fills orders for JCFPD. JCFPD always shops around to find the best price and product. Wetduck sells supplies at such a reduced price, because she is a huge supporter of the fire department, that JCFPD gives her the business. As an officer of Julian Fire Plugs and the Julian Woman's Club, I have also ordered supplies from Wetduck. She always give me reduced prices for these non-profit organizations. She is a valuable supporter of this community, across the board, and whoever disparages her is a real A..hole.

Bunch of BS

I have known Chief Marinelli for decades on a professional basis. He is an honest, hardworking person that only wants what is best and he is willing to stand up for it. He is a fair but firm leader. Take a look at the volunteers who are trying to get him fired. The President of the Julian Volunteer Firefighter Association's wife owns a store across the street from the station that makes, t-shirts, shorts, coats, hats and anything else the firefighters wear. He gets to vote on association money being funneled to his wife's store. The VP of the association is a racist and bigot and has been fired from the fire dept in the past but was reinstated because they need volunteers. The Treasurer of the volunteer association is also a JCFPD Board member and volunteer firefighter. What a farce !!!!! These so called volunteers are only looking after their self interests and could care less about the public they are supposed to be protecting. They choose to try and hang a good Chief instead of trying to work together for the benefit of the public. More evident is the bogus ballot initiative they just tried to get through the County and they could not even get that correct. They gave it a good try including duplicate signatures !!! Really ? The bottom line is the Volunteer Association that is making this claim numbers only about 4 people. Kiefer is making these false claims because she fears for her job being gone because the if the District dissolves the ambulance contract which is the mechanism of her job will be gone. And if the District dissolves the volunteers could not stay active unless they meet County requirements and most of them are to lazy and fat to put forth the effort. Just read between the lines. Nobody complained about the Chief digging the District out of a deep financial hole, getting a new fire truck, getting the new station built, getting the County to purchase a brand new ambulance, upgrading the County ambulance subsidy from $70K per year to $140K per year, getting the County to provide a 24/7 staffed paramedic engine for two years, getting the County to continue a $60K subsidy for 5 years, renewing the automatic aid agreement with Cal Fire and many other things he has done which all have been undone by the Board decision to not negotiate with the County. And the Board was pressured by this group of volunteers and community members for their own self serving efforts. So they are making false claims against a good Chief and Board President and spending your donations to the Julian Volunteer Firefighter Association to hire a lawyer to make these claims. Money that should be better spent supporting the District and volunteers. It all sickens me !!!!

U can’t be serious

I have been providing all the firefighters with uniforms, hats, anything else they need. For you to accuse me and my husband of theft and to accuse the vice President of being a racist absolutely is so out of line. I can’t believe this just happened my husband has been a volunteer for 10 years and I have done everything I can to support them in this community.And the vice President of the association is a standup guy. He has done more for this community and he will be apalled when he reads this So what if I’m across the street I have a business to run. I was here before they were. And I do a lot of printing for Marinelli. So you are so off-base with that accusation. That’s criminal in itself. And the other day all of JCFPD‘s websites were hacked. This is what we are dealing with with the county and what they are doing to us to dissolve our department. It is very fishy to me that the petition was not approved. It’s a county department. They held onto our petition Long enough so that we were unable to fix the errors, and they won’t even show us what the errors are or whos signature was not accepted. The following is from our IT guy. So it looks like the site has been hacked. Don’t visit for the time being. It looks like it’s also spreading malicious software so be careful. This was no script kiddy. This was a very sophisticated and sustained attack. I seldom see these kinds of hacks and it was done by a professional. Bad news is that they may have caused some damage to the platform and we could lose some of the information on that site, if not all. . Shame on you for saying that about me and my business. I work very hard in Julian for the community in many ways. You have to live with yourself. You cannot erase what you said. My husband is so devoted as a volunteer. Why would we put ourselves through this if we did not care about the safety of our community. County fire authority is not a fire department. It is merely a line item that can be deleted at any time. The only reason the county wants our station is we are a doughnut hole in the damage that they have done in surrounding rural areas. As soon as they dissolve us and absorb all of our assets which is $6,000,000+ They will leave like they did before. This initiative will be on the ballot in November Shame on you