Fire marshal fires back
by Jason Collins
Jul 25, 2012 | 2139 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Barrie
James Barrie
BEE COUNTY — Bee County’s fire marshal said that “tortious interference” by one commissioner has made it impossible for him to do his job.

James Barrie announced Monday to commissioners in a letter that he would be leaving the position come Aug. 31.

“I am disappointed by the lack of support from the very governmental entity that appointed me,” Barrie wrote in his resignation to the court. “Instead of support, my contract was effectively breached by all the controversy brought about by Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez.

“His action can be construed as Tortious Interference with a contract.

“Due to his continued defamatory statements, public deceit, along with willful and malicious attempts to rally business owner support, I have not been able to fulfill my contract as executed.”

Little was said about the resignation as only Commissioner Carlos Salazar posed one question to the court.

“Are we going to make it effective as indicated in the letter?” he asked.

County Judge David Silva responded, “If we need to make it sooner, we need to come back with another item.”

On Tuesday, the city council approved the immediate termination of Barrie’s contract with the city. The council had previously accepted his resignation with the same effective date of Aug. 31.

Barrie’s resignation to the city was similar to that sent to the county.

“I realized ahead of time being the new fire marshal was going to be challenging for several reasons,” he wrote in his letter to the city. “The position had never been performed to new state standards, local ordinance, nor had it been performed evenly across the board.”

At the heart of the issue is the question of when a fire inspection should be performed and at what financial cost.

Barrie maintains that these inspections are the duty of his office and that he should be allowed to charge a fee for these inspections to fund his office.

In his letter to the county, Barrie writes, “I am not willing to take on the liability for not performing my appointed duties to its fullest intent. I have already noted, and publicly mentioned, the various life safety issues I have uncovered and had corrected in my short duration as fire marshal.

“Unfortunately, the positive and potentially life-saving actions of my position are falling on deaf ears as a few business owners protest.

“This protesting is normal for the beginning stages of enforcement.”

For the past few weeks, several business people have approached the commissioners speaking of their concerns not for the inspections alone, but the combination of the inspection and fee.

At one court meeting about a month ago, businessman Armando Musquez, accompanied by several other business owners, voiced his concern over the fees charged by Barrie.

“It is not the inspections. It is not the need for the fire marshal... It is that he is walking into a business inspecting your area, some as simple as a fire extinguisher, and saying you owe me $75.

“Somebody walking into your business to do an inspection and saying you owe me money — it is just not right.”

If the county follows the actions of the city, the businesses will have to find someone else to do required inspections.

“Until the county decides to find another fire marshal, businesses requiring inspections for licensure will have to find their own certified fire inspector or contact the state fire marshal to get put on a waiting list,” Barrie writes in his letter to the county.

“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to perform this service for Bee County.

“It saddens me to let down all the people who thanked me daily, and requested that I keep fighting for this much needed service.

“However, I cannot continue to be restricted in fulfilling my appointed duties, and forced into possible negligence liability.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at
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