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Cloquet Area Fire District Chief resigns

Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Matthew Ashmore’s resignation was approved by the Cloquet Area Fire District Board after 45 minutes of closed session discussion.

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The Cloquet Area Fire District Board of Directors voted to accept Fire Chief Matthew Ashmore's resignation during a special meeting Dec. 6, 2021. Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal

Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Matthew Ashmore submitted his letter of resignation, effective immediately, to the CAFD Board during a special meeting Monday, Dec. 6.

The resignation came after the district board went into closed session to discuss Ashmore's performance. The closed session lasted for over 40 minutes and resulted in a “closure of the investigation of Chief Ashmore without finding.”

Ashmore was not present during the meeting.

A handful of fire department personnel attended the meeting in person and more than 20 people attended virtually.

Ashmore was placed on administrative leave Nov. 11, after a special meeting was called by the district.

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PREVIOUSLY: Cloquet Area Fire District chief placed on administrative leave The CAFD Board is holding a meeting Monday, Dec. 6, to discuss the performance of Fire Chief Matthew Ashmore.

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Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Matthew Ashmore. Jamey Malcomb / 2020 file / Pine Journal

The district then held a Loudermill hearing, a two-step process to consider allegations, on Nov. 22. CAFD Board Chairperson Bob DeCaigny would not comment on who or what allegations were brought up during the closed session of the meeting.

"People made statements, the board is obligated to investigate those. We do that in the framework of the law — that is what the Loudermill hearing did — to collect additional information and give the chief a chance to explain his side," he said. "I cannot give you the details. I can only speak to the process."

CAFD staff said notices of the Nov. 11 and Nov. 22 meetings were posted on the district’s website. However, they were not listed on the website as of 1 p.m. Monday. What happened during the public portion of the Loudermill hearings will be included in the district's regular board meeting agenda packet for Dec. 15, according to staff.

Ashmore was hired as the CAFD chief in 2020, following former Chief Kevin Schroeder's retirement. The board ran into roadblocks during the hiring process as two candidates withdrew their names from consideration, including one person who the CAFD board had extended an offer.

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District officials have yet to make a decision on a possible interim fire chief, but will look to do so as soon as possible.
“We have begun the discussion, but we have not had enough discussion to get to a choice point,” DeCaigny said.

The district also approved a separation agreement with Ashmore during the meeting. The board declined to provide any details of the separation agreement to the Pine Journal.

Battalion Chief Jesse Buhs had no comment on the resignation of the chief, but wanted to assure those in the fire district service area that it would not affect any services.

“We are very proud of the service we provide in the community and throughout a little bit of change of leadership that service has never wavered,” he said.

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