Board members say arrests of fire chief candidate's sons won't affect decision

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — As the Boone County Fire Protection District board nears a decision on a new fire chief, two board members said Monday that the arrest histories of a candidate’s sons will not affect their decision on who should be the next chief.

Dave Griggs, board chairman, said the arrest records of fire chief candidate Kenneth Craft Jr.’s sons are “irrelevant” to Craft’s ability to lead. Craft, 47, is assistant chief of the Bonita Springs, Fla., Fire Department.

“What’s relevant is Mr. Craft’s credentials, experience and training,” Griggs said.

The board will meet in a closed session at 4 p.m. Tuesday to compare notes and reference checks on the candidates, and a decision on the next chief is possible in that meeting. The other candidate is interim fire chief Scott Olsen who has been with the Fire District since 1985.

Lee County Sheriff’s Department records show that Kenneth M. “Casey” Craft III, then 17, was arrested in March 2004 on charges of burglary and theft; he was not convicted, according to Lee County court records.

Corey Craft, 19, was arrested April 7 on five counts of third-degree theft, and on Sept. 22 he entered into a pretrial diversion contract, according to online court records.

Board member Shelly Dometrorch said she wasn't aware of Casey Craft's arrest record until Friday, and she’s “appalled” by media attention to Craft’s sons.

“They’re just nonissues as to whether or not he can be our fire chief,” she said. “It will not be entering into my vote, my decision.”

Griggs said he hasn't asked Kenneth Craft Jr. if his sons would move to Boone County with him if he is chosen as fire chief. But Griggs said he heard Casey and Corey Craft are “involved in the Fire Explorers and other things, and seem to be 100 percent on the right track.” The Fire Explorers is a program for young people 14 to 20 years old who want to explore careers in fire service.

Kenneth Craft Jr. was unavailable for comment Monday because he is on vacation.

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