Controversy over TV commercial with on-duty firefighters – some who received free watches

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In Charlotte, North Carolina, a deputy fire chief has gone public with his claims he was retaliated against for complaining about leadership allowing on-duty firefighters and department apparatus to participate in a Casio commercial. Deputy Chief Rich Granger also raised ethical concerns over firefighters receiving watches selling for as much as $320 each as a gift for participating in the video shoot.

As you watch the story (above) and read more details (here) see if we come to similar conclusions about the handling of this situation.

My read is the Charlotte Fire Department is making this worse by failing to be candid what occurred. While you might be able to make a persuasive argument about the image enhancing that could come from being in the commercial (as long as proper procedures were followed), the watches as gifts seems like questionable judgment on someone’s part.

What should have been obvious from the start is that both the deputy chief and the TV station knew what happened. Still, the news report indicates the Charlotte Fire Department initially provided at least three key pieces of information that were not accurate (see the excerpt below).

To top it off, CFD then issued a statement that said, in part: “As we respect the process of this independent review, we reassert that this review is a matter of personnel and not subject to public release under NCGS 160A-168.”

The commercial was shot 18-months-ago. The deputy chief says he first complained internally a-year-ago. If CFD leadership really didn’t know enough about what happened by the time WSOC-TV began asking questions there’s a bigger problem in the department than this commercial.

In a situation like this, the key to effective reputation management is to get it all out and behind you quickly. I contend the Charlotte Fire Department would have looked much better by explaining what occurred, acknowledging mistakes that were made and describing what corrective action has been taken.

Allison Latos, WSOC-TV:

CFD said it didn’t relocate any trucks to cover Station 10 during that filming.

However, Channel 9 obtained GPS records and truck logs that reveal ladder truck 2 moved from Station 2 on South Boulevard to Station 10 on Wilkinson Boulevard for almost two and half hours during the filming.

CFD initially told Channel 9 that “no compensation of any kind (money, material, etc.) was granted to any employee of the Charlotte Fire Department” because of the video.

However, anchor Allison Latos obtained an email from a month before filming, in which a videographer from the production company told Charlotte Capt. Jeff Bright, “I am happy to get you 10 of these watches and you can give them to whomever you want.”

CFD later acknowledged seven Charlotte firefighters received watches at a discounted price of $25 each.

A search of the Casio website shows the watch sells for $320, and Channel 9 found the same price listed online at outdoor retailer, REI.

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