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Not a Word on Fire Department’s Unraveling or Future As Flagler Beach Commission Meets

| March 1, 2013

Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell is keeping entirely mum on the future of the city's fire department after he fired about a third of its staff, including the chief. (c FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell is keeping entirely mum on the future of the city’s fire department after he fired about a third of its staff, including the chief. (c FlaglerLive)

Business droned on as usual at the Flagler Beach City Commission meeting on February 28, with near total silence about an alcohol scandal that gutted this quaint oceanside city’s Fire Department.

Neither city staff, nor elected officials talked about the firing of five Fire Department personnel after an independent investigation. The firings included the fire chief, two paid full-time firefighters and two volunteer firefighters.

Another firefighter was suspended three days in an unrelated investigation.

There was no crush of residents jamming the meeting to voice their opinion about the firings.

Only one resident of the less than dozen people who attended the meeting spoke about the Fire Department. He said the actions of those fired, especially the fire chief, showed a lack of respect for the city manager and Flagler Beach elected officials. “According to what I’ve read in the newspaper, some people think you should take them back, but I don’t think you should. They’ll just show the same lack of respect.”

In a brief interview after the City Commission meeting, City Manager Bruce Campbell said he was in a waiting mode as far as the future of the Fire Department personnel. The fired firefighters have 30 days to appeal. No one has formally appealed at this point, Campbell said.

Volunteer firefighters have been moved at least temporarily into paid positions, so the Fire Department has staff all its shifts.

Pressed to comment on the future of his plans to staff the Fire Department and whether a search would be conducted to replace the fire chief, the city manager was tight-lipped. “I really can’t comment,” Campbell said.

The city manager took action to fire the firefighters in letters dated February 15 and 16, acting on the results of an independent investigation by a Winter Park law firm,

Fire Chief Martin Roberts and volunteer firefighters Steven W. Wood and Barbara Haspiel were fired after the investigation determined they three responded to a fire on Dec. 14, 2012 after drinking alcohol at a Fire Department holiday party. Additionally, the investigation determined that Roberts directed Steven W. Wood to respond to the fire and drive a city fire truck even though the chief knew Steven W. Wood had drank alcohol at the party.

Firefighters Jacob Bissonnette and Shane S. Wood were fired after the investigation determined they bought, accepted, stored and drank alcohol at a Fire Station.

The investigation described the Fire Department as wracked by discord and divided into two warring factions.

In an unrelated case, firefighter Bobby Pace was suspended three days without pay for padding the number of hours worked by a volunteer performing court-ordered community service hours.

None of this was even mentioned by the City Commission or city staff during meetings on February 28.

Meeting first as the Community Redevelopment Agency, the elected officials talked for more than an hour about signs to direct pedestrians to local businesses.

Meeting as the City Commission, there was lengthy discussion about signs for Florida Health Foods. City staff had issued a permit for one sign, but not a taller sign. The taller sign could be refaced without a permit because it was a legal, non-conforming structure. However, after the business owner took down the sign, city staff said a new sign could not be erected.

The purpose of non-conforming status is to eventually get rid of something that either never, or no longer meets local standards. Once a non-conforming structure is taken down or abandoned, it cannot be replaced. However, four members of the City Commission agreed with the business owner that taking down and replacing rotted wood on the sign is refacing and allowed.

Commissioner Joy McGrew disagreed. “What you did by taking down old sign and replacing it, that is not refacing it in my world.”

In another matter the city manager told commissioners and the mayor he’s waiting for more information from Dick Holmberg about the $10 million plan to put concrete structures on the ocean floor to build sand back up on the coastline in Flagler County.

A letter from Campbell asked Holmberg to comply with a contract requiring him to provide a course of action on how to proceed with his plan, a breakdown of costs and how to apply for permits.

Campbell also said the County Council is expected to discuss on March 4 an Army Corps of Engineers plan for dune renourishment along two miles of beach. After some discussion, several City Commission members said they would attend the meeting and ask for more time if the County Council decides to vote on whether or not to proceed with the Corps’ plan.

Finally, an ordinance setting noise standards received a first approval from the City Commission. A public hearing and second vote will be needed before it becomes law.

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12 Responses for “Not a Word on Fire Department’s Unraveling or Future As Flagler Beach Commission Meets”

  1. FB Tax payer says:

    Please just ask the County to take over at this point, this is what should be done…No offence to the people who are put in the positions but It is way to risky to have unexperenced and under qualified firefighters run this city, Im sure the county would not terminate the paid firefighters employment. The lives of our residents and their family and friends are at risk. This is a saftey issue that the city would be liable for not if but when something bad happens.

  2. greg says:

    The County should take over it would be best for all. The Department has had so many things going on for years I can not believe some type of intervention has not happened. Many illegal activities that where just overlooked and covered over many involving children. Some have lost jobs and at least one to prison and thats just the tip of the iceburg

  3. Linda says:

    Nicely said, but in fewer words I’ll say it my way. Gut reaction – jerks!

  4. Anonymous says:

    To FBtax payer, First off what difference would it make if the county took over they have their own problems you just don’t hear about ? And second everyone is certified and well qualified and trained for the job. No one is at any danger or risk in the city.

  5. Diego Miller says:

    We should appoint Craig Coffey as Fire Chief in Flagler Beach. This big bag of wind could put out any fire!

  6. Brian says:

    If you look on the fire website they look qualified to me! I don’t think we are in any danger now.

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    We should keep our police and fire safety services “in town” :

    1. To continue provide the fastest response times and the best chance of saving lives
    2. To continue provide local control. . . just as in this case
    3. To continue to be a unique independent town with comprehensive services, instead of turning Flagler Beach into just another suburb.

    Yes, our leaders should continue to put safety first, absoutely. Our leaders should make sure the fire department always maintains the level of experienced staff needed to keep our community secure at all times. Mr. Campbell is working very hard to do just that.

    Net, net the costs of professional personel and equipment to provide fire and police protection are paid out of taxes. Moving those services to the county will not do away with those costs completely, the cost burden will simply be shifted to a different level. . . and the taxes will still need to be paid.

    Consider the possibility that with “local” control some creative “cross training” could be possible, and maybe even some shared management. . . to make those services more efficient and to raise the level of capacility for each safety provider.

  8. Just wondering... says:

    What difference would it make if the county took over?? Well for starters, yes I am sure the county has its own problems as does every department. I don’t think it is an issue of who has what problems. While there are some very qualified firefighters, EMT’s and a couple paramedics that currently work for and volunteer for the FB department. They are only equipped to treat BLS(Basic Life Support) and I might be wrong but I don’t think they can’t even legally carry o2 tanks on their trucks. So when your father, mother, brother, sister or whoever is having a heart attack, the FB department can give CPR and that’s about it. It is the county who has people stationed in the ambulance at the FB station who give the ALS(Advanced Life Support). Saying let the county take over sounds so negative, it wouldn’t be a take over, more so a merger. I am sure all current employees could keep their jobs(which would benefit them in many ways. They would have union protection and could be a part of the state retirement system before our wonderful governor takes it away!!) As far as faster response time, the station in FB wouldn’t close so it wouldn’t effect the response time. The only thing it would do is allow them to better serve the residents by being better equipped and manned. As far as taxes goes, residents already pay for city and coutnty services so it would save money and perhaps the horrible idea of paid parking could be eliminated……
    Before you bash the county and The idea of a merger you should be a little more informed about how it would benefit the city, the residents, and the firefighters and not focus so much on the fear of the big bad county better serving you.

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    Other thoughts:

    . We live on an island. Do we really want our fire station to be on the other side of a bridge that just may be closed in an emergency?

    . For a report on the quality of services currently provided by the county, please read the article here about a department already stretched thin and problems with coverage in the Western part of the county

  10. concerned citizen says:

    @ Just wondering, you say that the Firefighters would keep their jobs. Well you are sadly misinformed!! The county does not have to take a single person from the City Of Flagler Beach. I’m not trying to be rude , but it is a fact. Look at other counties down south. The same thing has happened and when the county took over they didn’t take anyone. Do you really want to see all of these people out of a job with this horrible economy. I don’t.

  11. FB Insider says:

    I wonder if when the Commission met if they discussed Mr. Campbell’s water bill? Seems odd to me that according to CITY RECORDS (Work Order # 13-000164) that Mr. Campbell had a water meter issue at his residence. When the water department went to check the meter, it appeared to have been physically tampered with. Now I am not pointing fingers or accusing anyone, but Mr. Campbell used to work in Building Maintenance and Parks & Recreation. He knows how these things work. On 11/16/12, his meter read 62,215. On 12/14/12 it read 62,197. Only 18 gallons on an irrigation meter? It would take more than that to fill the line. On 1/10/13, it read 62,157. Seems to me Mr. Campbell’s meter is spinning backwards. Well isn’t that convenient, considering he just had new landscaping and a new swimming pool installed around October-ish. Oh yea, the landscaping. It was apparently installed by Favoretta Landscaping. You folks know Favoretta right? That’s the company Mr. Campbell replaced the City’s Parks & Recreation Department with . . . his own personally used company. I would think an HONEST person would notice if I was GIVEN 58 or-so gallons of water by the City for free. I would surely report it, rather than continue to STEAL from the City the very same water everyone else pays for.

    Let’s talk about Mr. Pace too, since they didn’t want to discuss THAT issue at the Commission Meeting. How a man with previous DUI’s and Open Container violations is even on the job when others have been denied for less is still beyond me. If you don’t believe me, go to http://www.clerk.org and search Mr. Pace. His driving record is PUBLIC RECORD. Ok so you have an employee who is accused, and admitted to, a CRIME and he is not only still on the job but is given a 3-day suspension and keeps the top position in the department. My head is spinning. He falsified COURT RECORDS which ended up putting a young man BACK IN JAIL for violation of probation and he goes on about his business as CHIEF?! Correct me if I’m wrong but the Chief is in charge of many records, no? And this man is to be trusted?!

    Flagler Beach, get your head out of your @$$ and wake up. There is more corruption under your own nose than you even know how to deal with.

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