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I know there are some very good things going on in the fire service in Florida, but that’s being overshadowed right now by some rather ugly news published online yesterday about two beach departments 300 miles apart. Reading the outrageous nature of charges leveled in the two separate reports you almost have to wonder if there is something in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean that’s causing this.
Click here and you can read the article by Miami New Times News claiming a lengthy investigation uncovered significant corruption and bribery in inspections, millions of dollars of missing fire permit fees, serious misconduct by a union official, sexual misconduct and racial abuse in the City of Miami Beach Fire Rescue Department. For a summary of the issues check out what Rhett Fleitz has written at FireCritic.com.
The other story is a follow-up to the one we told you about a month ago at the Flagler Beach Fire Department. You may recall Fire Chief Martin Roberts, an assistant chief, captain and firefighter have been on suspension after allegations they had been drinking moonshine and beer in the firehouse and some of them had responded on a fire call. The incidents occurred in December.
An independent investigation was ordered and the attorney who conducted it has issued a report that goes beyond the drinking. It describes an ugly civil war between two fire department factions. You can read the entire report here. For a summary check out the article at FlaglerBeachLive.com. An excerpt is below:
The investigation sustains allegations that the firefighters and the chief drank on the job.
But more critically for the department and the city as a whole, the investigative report reveals a severely dysfunctional fire department: it is divided by two cliques that appear to be at war with each other and causing “a high degree of intra-departmental discord.”
The investigation also and incidentally reveals that a Flagler County Sheriff’s lieutenant, Greg Weston, had cooked a home-made, 100-proof alcoholic brew similar to, but not quite, moonshine, and sold it to to Jacob Bissonnette, one of Flagler Beach’s firefighters, in the station’s parking lot.
The investigation, conducted by Daniel Langley of Fishback Dominick, a Winter Park law firm, and concluded on Jan. 31, centers on Roberts, Assistant Chief Shane Wood, Captain Steve Wood (Shane’s father), and Jacob Bissonnette. It finds that all four broke the city’s zero-tolerance policy on drinking. Roberts and Steve Wood did so, according to the findings, by drinking at a party then responding to a fire, and driving city-owned equipment, including a tower truck in Wood’s case. Roberts also violated a city ordinance by authorizing Wood to respond to the fire. Bissonnette and Shane Wood were found in violation for having possessed alcohol at the fire station, “on city compensated time,” and drinking there. All four were found to conduct themselves in a way “unbecoming” of their position.
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