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Controversy and turmoil inside Florida’s Palm Beach County Fire Rescue:
- On Friday, Chief Jeffrey Collins submitted his resignation from the $208,000 a year job running the department, effective in a week.
- By Monday, Chief Collins had second thoughts and tried to rescind the resignation, claiming he felt coerced and intimidated into quitting by top county officials. A letter from a lawyer for Collins said the chief was, “under duress, with undue influence, and without counsel or an explanation of his rights or benefits.”
- On Tuesday, the Sun Sentinel explained the resignation was prompted by an anonymous letter to the county claiming women in the department have problems with how Collins handled sexual harassment complaints in the department.
- Today (Wednesday) everyone is waiting for a press conference scheduled Friday anticipating it’s unlikely Chief Collins, now on administrative leave, will be allowed back, though there is a report from WPTV-TV (video above) Collins was offered another job with the county during Friday’s meeting.
Sounds like a mess. But the mess is on top of a pair of lawsuits that claim the department, as Sun Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher described it, “fostered a climate of sexual harassment and racism.” The suits from Captain Amanda Vomero and Administration Division Chief Joey Cooper say those in charge failed to protect them from harassment.
Vomero’s lawsuit alleges that Fire Rescue Division Chief Chris Hoch taunted her in the office and made inappropriate sexual comments, saying “rumor is that” she was having sex with Cooper, who is her supervisor, and that he was “a little offended” she wouldn’t have sex with him.
Hoch said Vomero liked black men and “that’s why you want to hire all these black guys,” the suit alleges. Hoch has denied the allegations against him.
Cooper accused Collins of retaliating against him for his role in investigating the harassment allegations.