Proposed contract shows new fire chief will make $320,000 a year — more than the previous chief

Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Ventura County fire official who has been asked to lead the Menlo Park Fire Protection District will make $320,000 a year — more than the district’s previous chief, who had been with the district 40 years, the last 15 as chief.

On Tuesday (Dec. 21), the fire board will vote on whether to approve a contract with Mark Lorenzen, currently the head of the Ventura County Fire Department. Lorenzen’s base bay will be $320,000, according to a copy of the draft contract.

According to the contract he entered into with the board in 2018, Schapelhouman was to receive $315,000 as a base salary by June 30, 2021, the day he retired after 40 years with the fire district.

In 2020, Schapelhouman’s base pay was $305,000, according to salary tracker Transparent California. Lorenzen’s current salary is $259,778, according to the Ventura County Star newspaper.

Lorenzen’s proposed salary has been a mystery until now.

Board President Jim McLaughlin told the Post on Wednesday that Lorenzen’s salary would be revealed at Tuesday’s meeting. He said there is a “proposed amount,” but it would be premature to discuss it.

However, under California Government Code Section 54957.5, if an agenda item document has been distributed to the majority of an elected board prior to a meeting, the public has the right to see it. The Post pointed that out to the Fire District, and received a copy of Lorenzen’s proposed contract.

Lorenzen’s contract begins on Feb. 7 and expires June 20, 2025. He will be paid up to $20,000 to move from Santa Barbara. If he lives in the district, he will be able to get a monthly $2,000 stipend.

The contract also states if the board fires Lorenzen “without cause,” he is eligible for a lump sum payment of three months salary — or about $80,000.

Lorenzen was hired after the board’s second go at finding a successor for Schapelhouman.

Two searches

The five-member board had hired a professional recruiter, Teri Black, to look for a replacement for Schapelhouman.

One of the applicants who didn’t make the list of finalists, former Vallejo Fire Chief Daryl Arbuthnott, said in a letter to the board that he was “unfairly screened” and suggested racial bias since he is black.

Board member Robert Jones, who is also black, said at a July 20 meeting that he’s worried about the fairness and integrity of the search for a new fire chief. Jones said he found the letter from Arbuthnott “pretty damning to the process we’ve been through so far.”

Black, the recruiter, said her firm had a strong record of “diversity placements.”

But the board rejected all of the applicants and decided to have the district’s HR department handle the second search, which yielded fewer applicants.

The board was facing a bit of a time crunch in terms of picking a new chief, as its interim chief, Mike Shaffer, is retiring from the district at the end of the year after 30 years with the district.

The board is expected to formally appoint Lorenzen on Tuesday (Dec. 21) and may also appoint an acting chief to fill the gap between Shaffer’s retirement and Lorenzen’s arrival.

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District covers Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Atherton and some unincorporated areas of San Mateo County such as North Fair Oaks and West Menlo. The district has seven fire stations, 148 full-time equivalent employees and an annual operating budget of $60 million.

1 Comment

  1. $320,000 is outlandish! Is there anyone on that board looking out for the taxpayers? If you offer that much to the chief, the rank & file will demand raises too. This is like setting off an avalanche.

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