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Publication Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Ex-fire chief Tye 'missing in action' in Michigan Ex-fire chief Tye 'missing in action' in Michigan (January 29, 2003)

** Rick Tye a no-show as Ann Arbor's new fire chief.

By Renee Batti
Almanac News Editor

Former Menlo Park fire chief Rick Tye has a way of popping up in unexpected places -- and, in some cases, disappearing just as unexpectedly.

When he left the top position at the Menlo Park Fire Protection District in 1997, the circumstances were murky at best: He was on medical leave when he accepted and began a job at Texas A&M University -- unbeknownst to fire district board members.

Now, he has left city officials and residents of Ann Arbor, Michigan, scratching their heads after accepting the $100,000-a-year position of fire chief there, then never showing up for the job.

Mr. Tye was to report for duty on Monday, January 20, but was a no-show, according to news reports in the daily Ann Arbor News. He also missed his swearing-in ceremony, scheduled for the following night at the City Council meeting, and didn't return city officials' phone calls when they tried to figure out where he was and why he didn't report to work, the newspaper reported.

By January 22, the city decided to cut its losses and resume its search for a new fire chief, the newspaper said. "I'm going to move on," City Administrator Roger Fraser was quoted. And one council member was thus quoted: "This is at a time when we need a strong showing of leadership, and we have somebody missing in action."

The newspaper reported that Mr. Tye didn't return phone calls from Mr. Fraser and Interim Fire Chief Dan Oates until January 23 -- three days after he was to have begun work.

Ann Arbor reporter Tom Gantert reached Mr. Tye by cell phone on January 21, just 15 minutes before his scheduled swearing-in. Mr. Gantert said Mr. Tye was in California, "having second thoughts." The city and firefighters were squabbling over proposed cuts that would close one fire station and put up to two trucks out of service when they couldn't be staffed without overtime, Mr. Gantert reported.

The unusual manner in which Mr. Tye backed out of his commitment to be Ann Arbor's new fire chief left some city officials a bit annoyed. The newspaper quoted the interim fire chief as saying: "I'm still baffled about the way Rick handled the whole thing. I think it diminished him in all our eyes. And then this extremely awkward ending where he couldn't be reached by any of us is just baffling."

When asked by the Almanac this week why he decided not to show up for the new job, he said he had decided that the job "wasn't right for me," and that he had chosen not to return to the field of being a fire chief.

Mr. Tye said he will remain with his job at A&M University as the Texas Engineering Extension Service's director of federal and international programs, and continue living in Texas.

Mr. Tye raised a few eyebrows when he left the Menlo Park district job as well. He began his job at A&M on October 20, 1997, more than a week before his approximately four-month medical leave with the district was over -- and four days after applying for disability retirement with the California Public Employees System (PERS).

Meanwhile, he remained on the district payroll, receiving more than $9,000 a month; his last paycheck was dated November 26. He ultimately agreed to pay back about $5,700.

Mr. Tye had also filed numerous workers' compensation claims, which were disputed by the district. But in 1999, the district agreed to pay him $125,000 for several of the claims. The claims covered chest pain; back, neck and shoulder pain; cardiovascular ailments; and psychological problems, then-fire chief Miles Julihn told the Almanac at the time.



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