It was anything but a typical meeting when the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District board convened earlier this week.

It was anything but a typical meeting when the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District board convened earlier this week. 

Although the meeting drew a large crowd, little was accomplished in the wake of the resignation of SBFPD Chief Dennis Reilly. Most of those who attended appeared to be there to find out more about Reilly’s resignation and recent turmoil within the 3-member board of directors. 

The meeting came 3 days after Reilly officially notified the board that he was resigning to take a position out-of-state. Reilly has been with the district since 2012. He recently came under fire by a board member who is questioning board actions, leadership and policies. 

 “I feel that in light of current situations and circumstances it is best in both my interest and the interest of my family to resign and move on. Ann and I have enjoyed our time here. I am very proud of what this organization has accomplished.”

Reilly acknowledges the support from the community. 

“I do thank the community for the support that I have been given and the support you have been given to the organization. It has truly been a privilege to have the title as fire chief in Sunrise Beach,” he said. 

Reilly did not name specific names during the meeting, but in the letter of resignation sent to board members on Sept. 14, he said since earlier this year, he and the district, had been under constant attack by Bob Hemen and a group of his supporters. In the letter, Reilly specifically addressed what he described as bullying and harassment. 

“There are some people who have made many, many comments about me on social media. We live, unfortunately, in the age of social media. It’s very, very easy to be brave beyond the keyboard,” Reilly said.

In response, Hemen said, “People have hurt my family. They have said things that are not true. They’ve put out all kinds of different rumors. They’ve said that I have been this horrible person that has been attacking the chief and attacking the employees. The only things I’ve ever said have been in writing. I’m not an attorney, but I can assure you that if there was something that was going to be done legally that they [the board] have had 60 days to do it.”

Hemen served on the SBFPD board for six years, from 2010 through 2016. He was unseated by Brian Layman who is now president of the board. 

He was re-elected to the SBFPD board in April 2018.

Hemen has raised numerous issues since taking his seat on the board. In a letter provided to the Lake Sun prior to the Sept. 17 meeting, Hemen outlined four items he was going to ask to have put on the agenda. Although Hemen did mention during the meeting that he wanted to make additions to the agenda, there was no motion made by any of the board members to do so. When no motion was made, Hemen said there were copies of what he wanted to discuss available to anyone who was interested. 

In the letter, Hemen highlighted four topics including the status of the 2018 budget, financial records, the legal status of Denise Dill’s seat on the SBFPD district’s board of directors and how district board meeting minutes are handled. 

Commenting after the meeting, Hemen said there was hatred and misdirected anger spoken toward him. 

Although Reilly has been the target of commenters on social media, only supporters spoke at the meeting. Among those was Eric Newman, president of the Lake Area Firefighters Association. 

Newman said,  “I am disappointed in chief resigning. I understand that he has to do what he has to do for his family and I appreciate his service. I feel that he resigned based on your [Hemen] accusations and pressures on chief.”

Newman was joined by several others who made similar comments. Sunrise Beach resident James Hill, was particularly vocal, directing his remarks to Hemen.

 “I came to many meetings before and I witnessed and seen this exact same thing—lack of participation on your part, lack of willingness to work as a three-member board. This is not your board. This is the district’s board. It has three members to represent everybody. I hope you understand that. I feel you have a personal agenda for something from the past that you feel the community needs to fulfill your personal agenda. I hope that you would reconsider that.”

Another resident said, “I have been in this area long enough to see what Chief Reilly has accomplished and the direction he wanted to take this district—all things that are good for the community and good for this district—and his definition of dedication. It is not Chief Reilly who is lost. He will move on to another district that will appreciate and reap the rewards of his knowledge and experience. It is the residents of Sunrise Beach and the district who have lost.”

Reilly’s last day on the job is on or about Oct. 10. He will be on the district’s payroll until Oct. 31.

Reilly did not discuss where he has accepted a new position.