Ex-chief of Five Cities Fire Authority to get $60,000 in severance and other pay

clambert@thetribunenews.comMay 7, 2013 

LIF EPZ ARMENIAN ARANAZ

Joel Aranaz

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA — Fresno Bee Staff Photo

UPDATE 5:40 p.m. Wednesday: Former Five Cities Fire Authority Chief Joel Aranaz will receive more than $60,000 in salary, severance pay and unused paid leave, according to a separation agreement approved unanimously by the three-member South County fire department board last week.

Aranaz was hired by the Fire Authority in December 2011 but started work in February 2012. He earned $10,059 monthly in salary, General Counsel Martin Koczanowicz said Wednesday.

As part of the agreement, Aranaz will receive one month's worth of salary as well as four months’ worth of severance pay, which is defined as four months of current monthly salary plus benefits.

In addition, Aranaz will receive payment for the 185 hours — or about 23 days — of unused paid leave he has accrued. Koczanowicz said that since Aranaz had accrued about a month’s worth of vacation, he will receive about a month’s worth of salary.

The severance benefits and accrued leave will be paid out over time, according to the agreement.

Original story: Five Cities Fire Authority Chief Joel Aranaz, who has led the South County department since February 2012, ended his tenure with the authority on Friday, according to a news release.

Aranaz’s departure was by mutual agreement between him and the three-member fire authority board, board member Joe Costello said. The fire authority serves Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano.

It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the parting; however, the board has met four times in closed session since January to discuss a performance evaluation of Aranaz. He came to the Central Coast from the Fresno Fire Department, where he started in 1977 and worked his way up to the top job.

On Friday, the board met in closed session and then came into open session to take action on a separation agreement, though there was no written staff report on the item.

Costello said Aranaz will receive a severance as outlined in his contract, but further details on the terms were not immediately available. The separation agreement was not available Tuesday, and General Counsel Martin Koczanowicz could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, former Fire Authority Chief Michael Hubert has returned to serve as an interim chief until a permanent replacement is found. He resumed his former job Monday.

Hubert first served as head of the Arroyo Grande/Grover Beach Fire Department and then continued to lead the Fire Authority after the fire services of those two cities and Oceano were merged in 2010.

The Five Cities Fire Authority is the second-largest municipal fire department in the county, after the San Luis Obispo Fire Department.

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