PFPD Board Director Responds to Chief Matthews’ Accusations of Harassment, Raises New Questions (Part Two)

As we previously reported, Pioneer Fire Protection District (PFPD) Chief Mark Matthews has accused Board Director Christina Holum of creating a “hostile work environment, harassment, and violation of state statues,” In a letter dated February 2, 2022 Matthews lays out several charges against Ms. Holum without offering specific examples. The letter was addressed to PFPD Board Chair Randy Rossi and Vice Chair Tony Marcaccio.

After obtaining a copy of the letter last week, The Jericho Report reached out to Ms. Holum seeking comment. She denied all of Matthews’ accusations. When I asked where she thinks Matthews’ charges may stem from she said, “I ask a lot of questions. He doesn’t like that.”

Ms. Holum joined the the PFPD Board of Directors as the Board Secretary in early 2021. It wasn’t long, she told me, before she began having concerns about Chief Matthews’ behavior and management practices. In our interview, Ms. Holum recalled a time when Chief Matthews reached out to the board to say his financial report would be late because he found a transposition error. Confused by the explanation of the error, Ms. Holum began asking questions.

“I just took the ethics course we had to take when joining the board. The key thing there was fiscal responsibility. I have experience in bookkeeping so of course I asked questions about his accounting practices, especially when he’s telling us he can’t submit a report because of some sort of mistake,” said Ms. Holum.

I asked how Chief Matthews responded to her questions regarding his accounting practices. “He didn’t like that,” she said. “But, you know, my jobs is to protect the board. Protect the district. So I kept asking anyway.”

Ms. Holum also told me about her concerns for Matthews’ health. Soon after joining the board, she said, Mr. Rossi told her that Matthews had “lung cancer and would die within a year.” “He (Rossi) told me that multiple times. Mark (Matthews) told me the same thing. I remember we were talking about golf and he said he doesn’t play much anymore because of his lung cancer.”

The Jericho Report has previously reported that other associates close to Matthews claim he told them he was diagnosed with throat cancer beginning in 2017.

Days after the Caldor Fire began, Ms. Holum grew more concerned about Matthews’ health. She claims she went to Rossi to ask about Matthews’ certification to fulfil his duties. “I wanted to know, is he really medically fit to serve? I told Randy we should pull his records to make sure he is good to go. I also wanted to make sure all his service certifications were up to date. I was worried about his safety but I was also worried about board responsibility,” Holum said.

Whether Mr. Rossi followed up on the requests to ensure Chief Matthews was medically fit to serve, and whether his state certifications were up to date, is unclear to Ms. Holum.

Ms. Holum also recalls hearing rumors about Matthews’ sudden departure from Cochise County, Arizona, in 2017. After the Caldor Fire, she came across media reports and articles from The Jericho Report which, in her mind, raised questions about Matthews’ background and behavior. “I sent those articles to Randy. I told him we need to know if this is true because, if it is, even one more day on the job (for Matthews) could be too much. I wrote something like, ‘His (Matthews) statements on these call logs seem wonky.’ I remember writing that word, ‘wonky.’ I really thought we should look into this,” she said.

I asked Holum if Rossi followed up on her request. “Well,” she said, “he called me right away. He told me not to say ‘wonky.’ He said I can’t say that. That it’s slander.” Pressing further, I asked if Mr. Rossi looked into the media reports she sent him. “I don’t think so. He was just kind of warning me to be careful. He didn’t say it exactly like that. Not in a mean way, I think. But yea, he was urging me to be cautious. I don’t think he followed up on my concerns. I know he didn’t with me, anyway.”

Ms. Holum further commented that Mr. Rossi “told me that was the first time he had ever seen anything like this. That really surprised me.”

When reached for comment for Part One of this story Mr. Rossi replied to The Jericho Report via email saying, “As you know I cannot comment on personnel matters or speculated personnel matters. Your assumptions and conclusions in your email are inaccurate.”

Towards the end of our interview, I asked Ms. Holum if she is aware that Chief Matthews moved to Oregon sometime before February 11, 2022. She seemed surprised by the question. She told me she thought he was still doing some sort of work for the district but, “I can’t talk about anything from a closed session. That’s all I can say,” she told me. Chief Matthews’ current contract with PFPD is due to expire at the end of March 2022 and he is “currently out on medical leave and will not be returning,” according to Rossi.

I again asked Ms. Holum if all of the accusations against her are untrue, why is Chief Matthews targeting her? She replied, “I’m from New York. Plus I have a hearing problem. So I’m kind of loud. Maybe he doesn’t like that. But mostly, I think he just really didn’t like me asking questions. Seems like that just made him angry.”

Finally, I pressed Ms. Holum again to confirm whether the board is attempting to gather her emails, texts, and other communications as requested by Chief Matthews. “I can’t comment on that. I’m sorry I’m being so cautious here, but I really can’t discuss anything that may have been talked about in a closed session.”

The Jericho Report was contacted by five sources who claim the PFPD Board of Directors will be contracting private investigator, Scot Telfer, to conduct the review or investigation into Holum’s communications. We are unable to confirm these source’s accounts.

Previously, Mr. Telfer has provided “background” reports on potential hires for the PFPD at the board’s request, including a report on Chief Matthews’ when he was a candidate in early 2018. Several sources, including former board members, tell The Jericho Report that the background investigation Telfer conducted into Matthews at the time was “very limited at the board’s request” and may have only included a basic criminal check.

When reached for comment, Mr. Telfer told The Jericho Report that he is “not able to comment or go on the record.”

One thought on “PFPD Board Director Responds to Chief Matthews’ Accusations of Harassment, Raises New Questions (Part Two)

  1. How can an employee request info to seek records and sue a board member directly? Don’t you have to point out a single or a whole Board members actions that allowed the action to happen, then file a legal complaint against the whole board? Then the Board seeks legal advice from their contracted lawyer? Not like an employee going after a single elected member and the rest of the board standing behind the Pioneer Fire contracted lawyer to protect themselves and investigate the one board member? This is so wrong in so many legal and ethical ways? If this is correct, why would anyone ever run a campaign to be elected to the Pioneer Fire Protection District Board Of Directors ( a non paid elected position) ….

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