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Unalaska's Fire Chief Says He Was Forced To Resign

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Zoë Sobel/KUCB
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Unalaska’s Fire Chief says he was forced to resign Friday and less than 24 hours later put on a plane to the Lower 48.

“I basically was given the door and right before Christmas, too,” Arlie Colvin said at the airport. “If I did not resign, they were going to not give me one penny, no ticket out of here, and [I'd have to] be out of my apartment by [Dec.] 31st. I didn’t have no more than $15 to my name because I’m helping to pay for stuff back home.”

Colvin believes he was pushed out by Public Safety Director Mike Holman while the interim city manager was out of town.

Citing personnel issues, the City of Unalaska is limited in what they can say about Colvin’s departure. But in a press release, Interim City Manager Nancy Peterson said, “we fully understand the need to have solid leadership in the fire division and aggressively recruiting to fill the chief position is our top priority.”

On Dec. 19, Colvin says he was suspended for tardiness, incomplete tasks, and problematic memos. He says all of the allegations have simple explanations -- he was late because of migraines and received limited training on writing the memos.

Two days later, Colvin says he went to a meeting and was suspended again. The next day he says he was forced to resigned. 

"I wasn’t even given written warning," Colvin said. "It was basically suspension and then [I was] terminated.”

Colvin says he was told that he was not working out.

“And that I have caused a friction between the police and the fire department and that is not the case," Colvin said. "I was trying to be the mouthpiece and help the volunteers.”

Colvin thinks the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he prevented the police from turning a room he wanted to use as an office for a new fire chief into a breakroom.

“The fire department has been treated like a stepchild and an afterthought," Colvin said. "You’re not going to get another fire chief that’s going to work under the police chief.”

Colvin says he never would have taken the job had he known he would have to work under the head of public safety. He says during his hiring process, former City Manager Dave Martinson and current Public Safety Director Mike Holman promised that he would have full control of his budget and operational concerns would run through the city manager.

Colvin says he asked for a couple of days to pack up and sell his belongings, but the city said no.

In a press release the city says they bought Colvin a ticket for Dec. 23 so that he could spend Christmas with his family in Indiana.

“Within 22 hours, I had to give up my cat," Colvin said. "I'm having to a lose a family member of mine. Granted it's not a human, but I fell in love with a cat. ”

A search of available flights shows as of Colvin’s departure there were flights for sale from Unalaska to Anchorage almost every day through the end of the year.

Colvin says he had planned on spending the rest of his career –- at least 20 years -- in Unalaska. And if given the chance, he’d come back in a heartbeat.

“I want to come back," Colvin said. "I want to be the fire chief here.”

But for that to happen Colvin says he would have to report directly to the city manager not the head of public safety.

Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety has struggled to keep a fire chief on staff for the past year and a half. In May 2016, Zac Shasteen resigned from the position. In March, the city hired D.J. Dunn to fill the role, but terminated his contract before he could start -- following charges of sexual assault against him in Illinois. Colvin was on the job for three months.

For now, Volunteer Captain Salvador Alvarado and Fire Captain Ariel Hernandez are the primary points of contact for the department.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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