South King Fire and Rescue Chief Vic Pennington has separated from the department after two years as the top fire official.
At a special fire commissioners meeting on Jan. 4, the board unanimously approved to accept the separation agreement between the fire district and Chief Pennington.
Assistant Chief Dave Mataftin was appointed as interim fire chief on Tuesday night by a unanimous board vote, effective Wednesday, Jan. 5.
Pennington will remain with the department through Monday, Jan. 31 to “assist with a smooth transition,” said Capt. Brad Chaney, community affairs officer for SKFR.
Pennington did not respond to the Mirror’s multiple requests for comment by phone and email.
The commissioners remained in executive session for over two hours before rejoining the regular special meeting session, which was held both in-person and virtually, on Jan. 4. About 70 firefighters, staff and community members attended the meeting virtually.
No further explanation about the chief’s separation was offered on Tuesday night as the meeting was adjourned by Board Chair Bill Gates approximately four minutes after the board rejoined the regular session.
Board Chair Bill Gates did not respond to multiple requests from the Mirror for comment.
In a press release from the department on Jan. 5, Gates is quoted thanking Pennington “for his years of dedicated service to the community. We wish him well in the next chapter of his life.”
The press release stated the separation was “collaboratively and mutually agreed upon,” though the reasons for Pennington’s sudden departure have not been announced.
“I can’t speak to or about Chief Pennington’s separation,” Mataftin said on a phone call Tuesday night after the meeting, adding that he was “not completely” surprised by his appointment. Mataftin attended the commissioners meeting virtually.
Mataftin has been in the fire service for over 40 years, starting his fire service career at just 15 years of age following in his father’s footsteps. His salary as assistant chief for SKFR in 2020 was $192,838, according to GovSalaries.
Pennington has over 46 years of experience in the fire service, with the last 14 served with SKFR. He began his career at the age of 16 as a volunteer apprentice. He has also held leadership roles as a water district commissioner, former Des Moines City Council member and as the former deputy mayor of Des Moines.
Pennington was sworn in as fire chief in January 2020. His salary was $229,294 in 2020, according to the GovSalaries database. The fire department did not respond to a request inquiring about Pennington’s severance package.
Firefighter union members said the news of Pennington’s separation was unexpected.
“The announcement came as a surprise to our local and executive board, thus we have not had a chance to meet and discuss the impacts,” said Dean Bastin, president of the IAFF Local 2024 union, in a Jan. 5 email.
Bastin said the executive members are unaware of the circumstances surrounding Pennington’s decision to separate from the department, but thanked Pennington for his years of service to the department and wish him the best for his future endeavors.
“We look forward to building and maintaining a relationship with Chief Mataftin and the administration,” Bastin said.