Garden Valley fire chief tenders his resignation

William Dekker
William Dekker El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office

The chief of an El Dorado County fire district who was arrested last week on suspicion of drunken driving has resigned.

William Dekker, 60, chief of the Garden Valley Fire Protection District, tendered his resignation Tuesday morning. He has faced criticism for previous criminal convictions in Nevada.

Ed Hawkins, chairman of the fire district’s board of directors, said Linda Szczepanik, a longtime volunteer who has held the rank of assistant chief, agreed to serve as interim chief. He said the board will begin the search for a new chief after the first of the year. The district, staffed largely by volunteers, covers 60 square miles. Hawkins said the paid staff includes six firefighters, a clerk and an administrative assistant.

Dekker was arrested Friday after El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies responded at about 1:50 p.m. to a report of a neighborhood dispute in the community of Greenwood, about 17 miles north of Placerville. The neighbor reported that Dekker had threatened to shoot him during a dispute over a loose dog, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release.

Deputies went to contact Dekker about the incident and flagged him down as he was driving by. As they talked, deputies suspected that Dekker might have been drinking and conducted several field sobriety tests, sheriff’s officials said. They subsequently arrested Dekker on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and booked him into the El Dorado County jail. He was later released on $50,000 bond.

Hawkins said he did not believe Dekker was on duty at the time of the incident. Dekker was hired by the Garden Valley fire board in November 2007, two months after he resigned as chief of a fire district in Arizona, where he had been cited for disorderly conduct.

Dekker gave the board 60 days notice of his resignation, in keeping with the terms of his contract, Hawkins said. Although Dekker will remain on the district payroll for that period, he has been relieved of duty, Hawkins said.

According to the state controller’s website, Dekker received $96,188 in wages and $41,948 in benefits in 2013.

In a 2009 story, The Sacramento Bee reported that Dekker was convicted in Nevada in 1996-97 for drunken driving, passing bad checks and traffic offenses. As a fire chief in Lyon County, Nev., Dekker was arrested on suspicion of DUI at the scene of a fire at a station house. He resigned a month later.

Dekker was cited in May 2007 for disorderly conduct while serving as fire chief for the Pine-Strawberry Fire District in Arizona. The citation stemmed from a confrontation with a couple who had started an illegal campfire. A sheriff’s deputy at the scene reported he smelled alcohol on Dekker’s breath, according to Gila County Sheriff’s Office records, and that the fire chief was stumbling around, shouting obscenities and antagonizing the already agitated male camper.

Dekker, in a 2009 interview, downplayed the Nevada traffic cases and the Arizona incident, but expressed regret over the drunken driving arrest in Nevada, saying he had been out to dinner and consumed alcohol and should not have responded to the fire call.

It marks the second drunken driving arrest of a public official in El Dorado County in two months. Jeremy Meyers was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving Nov. 5 and subsequently resigned as El Dorado County schools superintendent.