Racism, bid rigging for fire equipment, a work environment which leads to injury and even suicide.
Those are just some of the claims made by several Savannah Fire Battalion Chiefs about Chief Charles Middleton.
All of which independent investigators hired by the City of Savannah say are “false”.
In a just released report, the words that are used the most are ‘not substantiated or sustained” and “based on false” or “exaggerated information”.
FROM THE REPORT
“(The) Investigation reveals that Middleton is a strong-minded manager and leader and can be caustic in dealing with employees he has tasked with assignments. Middleton’s stated mission to improve the department’s education and skill levels while seeking national accreditation for the department has caused many complaints of stress.”
“Many of the allegations raised are based on false or exaggerated information. This investigation has not substantiated any lllegal actions, acts.of moral turpitude or gross excesses of authority by the Chief or any of his subordinates.”
The independent investigation goes on to say that the chief is strict, but “not” abusive”.
It continues to say “The totality of evidence gathered in this investigation does not support the contention that racial bias exists.”
Investigators did admit there are “significant morale problems” from “disgruntled employees” in the department.. but the document goes on to say that “none” of the claims by the fire department higher ups were valid or supported by evidence.
“Problems exist in the compensation of City employees. A civil action filed by 50 Captains has been pending for 2.5 years. The former Director of Human Resources, Beth Robinson, advised that although the city commissioned a study conducted by a contractor (“Evergreen”), the recommended adjustments have not alleviated many of the problems. She advised that this is both a citywide issue and a SFES issue. She attributed much of the problem to a succession of City Managers who have had differing viewpoints on pay matters.
The Chief pointed out that during his tenure there has been a significant enhancement of pay for the fire department employees, but that many problems remain to be solved. With respect to incentive pay the Chief argues that it could encourage employees to learn new skills. His concern regarding incentive pay is the creation of specialized categories of people who are viewed as more favored than those performing basic firefighting tasks.”
“None of the original complaints, or complaints raised during interviews and follow up investigation have been found to be valid, or supported by evidence.
Some of the complaints were found to be false, many were exaggerated. None of the complaints were sustained.”
That includes claims that the hostile work environment is leading to increased firefighter suicides.
“The City contract psychologist, John Capachione stated that the number of suicides is significant, but does not indicate an alarming trend. Further, he cannot attribute any of these suicides to a stressful work environment at SFES.”
The investigation concludes by calling Chief Middleton a “competent strong manager”.
“During his ten-year tenure with much hard work by his firefighters and fire officers, they have significantly enhanced the department’s technical and educational qualifications.”
I asked for comment from the local Firefighters Union.
“While Local 574 understands there are several issues to be addressed throughout the entire department, we hope and believe that the new City manager is beginning to rectify situations based on the needs of the City and citizens. Regarding the investigation, that involved several ranking members of the fire department and local 574 has not been privy to the findings.”. – Robert Milie, President IAFF Local 574