JULIAN, Calif. (KGTV) - After an argument Wednesday morning at the Julian-Cuyamaca Volunteer Fire District building, outgoing fire chief Rick Marinelli had fire captain Dave Southcott escorted off the property by law enforcement, according to various firefighters.
Firefighters also tell 10News that Marinelli placed both Southcott and another high-ranking fire official on administrative leave in just the past two days.
We're also told that Southcott was the only on-duty firefighter who was authorized to drive the fire engine and no other authorized drivers are scheduled to work this Wednesday or Thursday. The dispute stems from the ongoing fight over the future of Julian's volunteer fire department.
San Diego County has asked the department to consolidate with the county, so it can have access to the county's resources.
Yet many people in Julian say they don't trust the county and wish to remain independent. Southcott wants the department to remain independent and admits that he and Marinelli disagree on that.
10News was sent a photo of Southcott being escorted to his vehicle Wednesday by a sheriff's deputy. Southcott tells us that Marinelli put Battalion Chief Mike Van Bibber on administrative leave Tuesday for what Southcott calls a "bogus" reason.
Van Bibber confirmed with 10News that he was put on "medical" leave, but he admitted he didn't understand why. He declined to comment further.
Southcott says he went into Marinelli's office on Wednesday to express his concern about Van Bibber being placed on leave. Southcott says that Marinelli asked him to leave for being uncooperative. Southcott says he declined to leave, so Marinelli called for law enforcement to escort Southcott away from the building.
In reference to Marinelli, Southcott says, "I'm just sad that a little weasel like that could destroy a department. It's pretty sickening what he's done to people there and he's made a hostile environment." Marinelli could not be reached on Wednesday for comment.