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Fire District chief resigns after investigation

After placing Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Matt Ashmore on paid administrative leave on Nov. 11, the CAFD board voted unanimously today to close its investigation of Ashmore "without findings" and accept his resignation effective today, Dec. 6.

Ashmore defended himself in a Loudermill hearing on Nov. 21 against allegations regarding his performance as fire chief that could result in discipline up to dismissal. Loudermill hearings provide public sector employees the right of response to contest reasons for possible firing.

At the heart of the complaints is the fact that the fire chief came to work after contracting Covid-19 — but unknowingly, after testing negative at home, Ashmore said — and subsequently exposed a number of co-workers, community members and a student over a period of days before he found out he was positive for Covid.

Also Monday, the CAFD board also approved a separation agreement with Ashmore, who led the fire district for about a year after replacing longtime chief Kevin Schroeder, who retired. CAFD chair Bob DeCaigny said the board will consider its next steps at the next board meeting Dec. 15. In the meantime, CAFD battalion chief Jesse Buhs is working the daytime office shift at the fire district. "Our level of service will continue," he said. "All of our dedicated staff remain and our service will be unchanged."

Ashmore did not return a call from the Pine Knot News for comment.

CAFD provides fire protection to 170 square miles and ambulance service to a state-mandated area of more than 250 square-miles in Carlton County and southern St. Louis County.

Read more in this week's Pine Knot News and in last week's story here: https://www.pineknotnews.com/story/2021/12/03/news/cafd-chief-job-is-in-limbo/6357.html

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