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Acting Flagler Beach Fire Chief’s Past Drug Issues Aside, Questions Arise Over Certification

| July 26, 2013

Robbie Creal, the once and current Flagler Beach Fire Chief. (© FlaglerLive)

Robbie Creal, the once and current Flagler Beach Fire Chief. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell said Friday he was not aware, except by hearsay, of issues relating to alcohol, marijuana or porn in Acting Fire Chief Robbie Creal’s past as an employee of Flagler Beach, and does not consider it an issue, even though alcohol issues were central to the firing of several firefighters in February.

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Campbell also said he had not verified Creal’s certification to be a fire chief—or to command fire scenes—which may not be current according to law. Both matters are clouding an interim appointment that was to give the city a breather during a difficult year for the Flagler Beach Fire Department, and again raising questions about the viability of the department.

Commission Chairman Steve Settle was not aware of the interim chief’s past issues, either, but defended Creal’s appointment, as did Commissioner Jane Mealy, who was familiar with Creal’s past but said it was not relevant to the present, since he had never been criminally charged. But the city had suspended him, and he soon resigned after that suspension in 2002.

“I know nothing of his past except four or five or six city managers prior to me he resigned,” Campbell said of Creal. “I don’t know the reasons for the resignation. I’ve heard things over the years but I hear things about everybody. Having said that Robbie has been a mainstay with our department even after his resignation.”

Defending the Creal appointment, Settle said he didn’t know of too many people who didn’t have issues in their past that may raise questions.

“If he’s got a past history,” Settle said, “I will assume that the city manager believes that that is put behind him and he’s capable of doing what he’s charged of doing. Once we find that he’s not capable of doing that, we’ll take action, but I firmly don’t believe that’s going to happen. If acting chief Pace was comfortable with that appointment and Bruce was comfortable with that appointment, I have to say I’m comfortable with it right now until I learn something that would currently influence my opinion as far as his capabilities.”

Certification Matters

Campbell appointed Creal, 62, as acting fire chief following the state attorney filing a first-degree misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice against Bobby Pace, the former acting fire chief. The charge stems from an investigation that alleges Pace destroyed evidence pertinent to the falsified records of a probationer granted more community service hours than the probationer actually logged at the Flagler Beach Fire Department. Pace signed the time sheets in question. The probationer had his probation revoked as a result, and is now in prison until 2015.

Creal was appointed because he is the only individual left at the fire department who has experience enough to be chief and who, Campbell said, has the necessary certification. The certification matter weighed heavily in the decision.

But a check of certification records at the Flagler Beach Fire Department, through records maintained by Florida State Fire College, the state agency that oversees and maintains firefighters’ certifications, suggests Creal has no current certifications.

As of 26 days ago—and according to a new law that went into effect that day—volunteer firefighters without certification are no longer allowed in Florida to be at fire scenes as firefighters other than in support functions in the “cold zone,” where there are no imminent dangers. They may not be in the “hot zone” without a Firefighter I certification, and they cannot be in command of a scene. Incident command is considered a hot zone, because the incident commander is directing people to be in the hot zone. Creal, as the chief at a scene, would be the incident commander.

Bruce Campbell (© FlaglerLive)

Bruce Campbell (© FlaglerLive)

Campbell did not verify Creal’s certification documents but he said Creal, City Commissioner Marshal Shupe—a volunteer firefighter who spends much of his time at the fire house—and Pace had all assured him that Creal was certified. Campbell said late Friday that Creal was “digging all that stuff up,” and that Creal was confident that he had his proper certifications, but he conceded that there may be confusion about the new certification law (as there has been around the state, for many firefighters and volunteer firefighters). “If that’s the case, we’re going to have to circle back and right a wrong,” Campbell said.

Late Friday, Creal wrote in an email: “I am looking for my certificate of compliance. It may have been left in my personnel file at city hall. I have found my Firefighting 1 certificate that was issued by the Bureau of State Fire College in January of 1975. ”

A Gutted Fire Department

The Flagler Beach Fire Department has few options. It has been gutted by firings and Pace’s suspension, leaving it essentially with little choice but to reach back to Creal.

The former fire chief, Martin Roberts, and his assistant chief, Shane Wood, were fired in February after an attorney’s investigation determined that Roberts drank alcohol at a Christmas party before responding to a call, and that Wood had stored home-made alcohol at the station and sipped from it. Jacob Bissonette, another firefighter, was also fired over the home-made alcohol allegations, though neither firefighter had more serious issues in his record.

Pace remained on the job after the Flagler Beach Police Department filed its charges against him over the destruction of evidence allegations, raising questions about Campbell’s double standard. Similar questions are raised by Creal’s appointment.

“What someone may have done or what someone may be accused of, that was never provided to me in any formal fashion that said it’s true or not. It’s all been hearsay,” Campbell said.

But Creal’s issues with the city are not hearsay. They’re documented in city and police department memos and investigative papers.

Creal was Flagler Beach’s fire chief for 26 years until his suspension and resignation in 2002. He was suspended in late August that year after a drug test proved positive for marijuana use, and never returned to work as an employee, choosing instead to use accrued medical leave time (he had a medical issue) then retire when he became eligible four months later.

“That was 10 years ago,” Creal said in an interview Friday. “I was going through a very rough time in my life, my step father was very seriously ill, and I did kind of let things get away for a very short period of time, but I feel I have redeemed myself over the past ten years.” Creal then and now had a reputation as an easygoing, well-liked and reliable firefighter. His record had been termed exemplary until the 2002 issue.

The drug test in 2002 was part of a police investigation by the Flagler Beach Police Department that started when the sheriff’s office asked for help looking into allegations surrounding then-Flagler Beach volunteer firefighter Robert Lee Vega. Vega was subsequently found to have molested a boy younger than 15 and to have possessed child pornography. (Vega served eight years in prison and is now on probation in Sarasota.) Marijuana stems were discovered in Creal’s garbage (his domestic garbage left curbside for pickup, he says, not a garbage can at work), promoting the drug test and further questions about Creal. Witnessed told investigators that Creal provided alcohol and marijuana to underage junior firefighters over a period of seven years, used marijuana himself and allowed underage children to view porn on fire department computers.

The issue might not have raised as many questions today had it not paralleled the same sort of matters that led to subsequent firings.

Commissioners’ Reactions

Commissioners Jane Mealy and Kim Carney said they’re not in a position to tell Campbell how to run his administration, as the city charter forbids commissioners from meddling. “We don’t have anybody else,” Carney said of Creal. “We have nobody with seniority or experience.”

Carney over the past few months sought to encourage the commission to consider involving the county’s fire department in Flagler Beach, either taking over some operations or all of them to save money. The commission rebuffed the suggestion.

“I did my best at trying to look at alternatives and I didn’t get there,” Carney said. “Now they have to live with what they’ve got.”

Campbell said he considered seeking some temporary help from the county, which would have “lent” a lieutenant or some personnel to help Flagler Beach through its current difficulties.

“It’s something that I looked at even back in January but chose to go this way and again chose to stay within Flagler Beach this time,” Campbell said. “But it is something that I weighed, absolutely. It’s the obvious. We could probably go to any surrounding agency because of the mutual aid, fellow agencies, we would all try to help one another.”

jane mealy flagler beach city commission

Jane Mealy (© FlaglerLive)

Asked if the latest issue with Pace made her rethink her opposition to looking at an alternative way of running the fire department, Mealy said no.

“I believe that Robbie knows how to dispatch his staff and maintain the department in the interim until those issues are resolved,” Mealy said, attributing his issues to a distant past. “I’m not the one bringing those issues forward, you know. Do I wish it would all go away? Of course I do, and Bobby Pace hasn’t been found guilty of anything, so I’m not going to judge until this investigation is over.”

Volunteer Acting Chief

Creal has agreed to be acting fire chief as a volunteer for now, and said he would be willing to remain so for the duration of his tenure. Campbell also plans to reorganize both fire and police departments, eliminating the chief positions and replacing them with captains, which will require prospective applicants to apply for the job. The commission will be looking at the salary schedule of the new positions in a meeting next month.

Meanwhile, officials sought to reassure residents.

“We still have a real good corps of both career and volunteer people here,” Creal said, with three career (or paid) firefighters on the job, three volunteers who have been converted to paid firefighters to fill in for those fired or on leave, and 22 or 23 volunteer firefighter-paramedics ready for work. But the certifications of at least some of those volunteers is now also in question, as would then be their eligibility to fight fires.

Summing up the latest matter—Pace, not Creal—Campbell said Friday: ““I feel bad because to me this is just another black eye for Flagler Beach, and I don’t like that. That’s what concerns me. You can keep beating the crap out of me all you want, but let’s not place any more undue hardship on our city around this subject any longer. It’s time to move on.”

Bruce Campbell Memos on Bobby Pace Matter

Bruce Campbell Memos and Other Documents in Pace-Creal Matter

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20 Responses for “Acting Flagler Beach Fire Chief’s Past Drug Issues Aside, Questions Arise Over Certification”

  1. SSDD says:

    Ha ha ha… Double Standard… Campbell, you are a freaking joke. Ms. Mealy states Creal’s past isn’t relevant since he was never charged with anything. Well he cut a deal so he could resign and use all his sick time to get him to his retirement date. Hell, you got 3 people that were just fired and not charged with anything because their actions were NOT criminal as Mr. Pace is now facing. Bring back the 3 CERTIFIED employees, let all the backstabbers that got them fired quit and lets move forward. Hell there was 80 years experience between just the 3 of them, one of them also local with over 21 years in Flagler Beach.
    What happened to Mr. Campbell’s ZERO tolerance policy? So you can do drugs against the city policy, take some time away, oh no, he was still allowed to volunteer, and then come back later and it all he forgiven. Hey, things are looking up for the 3 at getting their jobs back.

  2. Geezer says:

    Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane… It’s Acting Fire Chief Robbie Creal!
    I love that picture. (the one above the article)

  3. concerned says:

    How can one small town be so dysfunctional ???????

  4. Freddy says:

    With all the drama Flagler still wants it’s own small department instead of consolidating with the county. What a joke!

  5. Diego Miller says:

    Its time to publish a monthly newsbrief on the Flagler Beach Fire Department. Every week it’s a different song and the same ole tune. It’s time for the State to get involved and bring this Dept. up to current standards, certifications etc. if that is possible. Fighting fires is no joke. Training and upgrading equipment saves lives. If the Flagler Beach Commission doesn’t step up to the plate and make the right decisions, they put the citizenry in danger.

  6. Art Woosley says:

    It is now very obvious that the Flagler Beach Fire Department is in complete disarray, and is getting in deeper by the day. So regardless of what the city commission says, and don’t forget a couple of them were partly responsible for this debacle in the first place, due to their meddling.

    We are now at a point were nothing much can help, so this commission should do everyone, including our fire fighters, and the residents a favor, by immediately opening up negotiations with the county before this gets any worse, if that’s possible.

  7. Informed says:

    “and 22 or 23 volunteer firefighter-paramedics ready for work. ”
    For the record,they only have 2 state certified Paramedics and they can only practice as EMTs at this time. The rest of the members, career and volunteer, are EMTs or First Responders. This comment is not meant as a slight toward the department, only as a clarification of the facts. The members do a pretty good job from what I have seen.

  8. Mr mondex says:

    I like the background picture. But really ?? Robbie needs to go back to or stay in retirement !!
    Reefer man. Jamaica man, go to Jamaica mon!! rum mon!! Get the drift???

  9. AMOS says:

    Just Wondering if Our City’s H R People are “Out to Lunch” or What ?????? Can Someone Explain How Mr. Creal can get past the Marijuana,Under Age kids Viewing PORN on City Computers, & Providing Alcohol to Same and its Documented in His Employee Records as Well as the Police Dept.Records!!! Then He’s Gonna “Dig up All that CERTIFICATION Stuff”, One Would “THINK” The Fire Dept. & The City Personnel / HR, Would Have A Copy if He Had One !!!!! REALLY Mrs. Mealy, He’s The “ONLY” One We Have ??????? That’s SCARY !!!! So Lets Some Up The New Acting Chiefs Appointment By Our City Leaders, They are: Unaware of His Past, Unaware of Certifications,Recommended By Out Going Acting Chief Pace Due to pending Charges Filed By DA Office!! Yet the Young Man that was Removed from The Fire Dept. took a Sip of Something While” OFF DUTY”???????? Someone’s Gonna Cost This City Some Serious $$$$$$$$$$$ (Does the Word “LAWSUIT” Ring a Bell” ?) Thanks Flagler Live for Your Great Coverage & Get Ready for Flagler Beach AKA (Mayberry RFD) Cause Their Goin after ANDY & BARNEY Next, OTIS will Probably be the New Capt. the way this Place Works!!!!!!!!

  10. Fed Up! says:

    What do the continuous stories of turmoil and dysfunction in Flagler Beach have in common? The city manager! He is NOT a manager, but a weasel who’s plot and ploy has now blown up in his face. Two appointments, two disappointments. rather than scrapping the entire department in favor of the county, ever consider advertising for qualified candidates? And I mean THE job (not the “acting” job). Come to think of it why was it that neither hand picked flunky was not named the chief? Certainly Brucie didn’t come up with his cost savings measures for just captains back in February or maybe he did as a tactic to get rid of the former chief and assistant chief. What about it Mr. Campbell?

  11. Curious says:

    Boo hoo….we don’t have a choice…he’s the only one left. Really? Why not hire an outside person? We have retired firefighters who worked on big departments living right here in the city. Why not ask one of them to help out during the interim?

  12. JC says:

    Let he who is without SIN cast the first stone !!!!

  13. Tax Payer says:

    Chief Cody should be happy with the going ons at the fire dept. It keeps his dysfunctional police the radar.

  14. John Smith says:

    Just a few questions. Creal said he found his paperwork for 1975 hum, 2013 is today. What were the requirements in 75 compared to what they are in 13? I imagine quite a bit. Does the county feel responsible enough to send there personel over here to work under a the command of Creal who has not under these new laws that recently went into effect have the resent class certs to safely care for there personel. I would hope they care enough for there people to not put them in this situation. Contrary to what Campbell thinks and says he is NOT the overlord of all things.
    I wonder what the negligence liability would be if under Creal someone would get hurt seriously or death . What would the cost to the city be after the lawsuits. Since Creal does not have any up to date certifications and able to prove it in a court of law. Again the city and the county are opening themselves up to alot of possibilities. Is Campbell going to pay for this.
    Lastly, Carney and Mealy say they cannot tell Campbell what to do. Thats not true. As residents anyone can call anyone of the commissioners and if they have a problem they relay it to Campbell and he takes care of it which is the same as telling him what to do.. So sounds to me like they do not want to be responsible for the SAFETY of the city residents and they can try and tell them that they are not responsible but they are bottomline.
    Where is his drug test. He as a volunteer probably has not had one since 02. Any liability there. Campbell is putting this city in a volatile situation just because he says so and he is the boss.

  15. Rob Creal says:

    In order to protect my health, I notified City Manager Bruce Campbell this morning that I have decided not to accept the Acting Fire Chief position. I will remain active with the FBFD Fire Police Unit.

    • Anonymous says:

      robbie im sure you would have done a good job and your intentions are in the right but to much has happened at the station .it doesn’t matter who goes there they will be thrown out .thanks for your dedication to the poeple and the city of flagler bch.1103.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The Flagler Beach Fire Department is beginning to make the Korona Volunteer Station look like the FDNY!

  17. honkey dude says:

    Thanks Amos for the Wow!…
    And WOW the city of Flagler Beach is really stepping it up with their own Boys and Girls club. All of which is located on S. Flagler Ave and the buildings are side by. All the little boys can go to the Fire Department and all the little girls can go to the Police Department. All the little kids can go there, And talk about whatever pops up. Or maybe its just my perspective from having been born and raised here not to mention lived here in this small county for over 30 years. You have three good firefighters that were fired for BS. They need to be brought back. Now what punishment did the volunteer steve wood (also a city employee) get for that lil scandal that went on? I still see him working for the city and driving the sanitation trucks. Vol or not he was still a city employee at the time of the incident. Sounds like high school politcs and games if u ask me. Now the girl’s club. If you don’t get a chuckle outa that, well I guess u just ain’t lived here long enough or you’ve had your head stuck in the dunes to long looking for turtles and those ever elusive gost crabs. Well I’ve heard Cody is upset and concerned that if he loses his job he’ll have tto not eat out one day a week so he can go on his week long vacations every month. With his health, heart and narcoleptsy issues really. I’ve been surprised to hear the city wants to eliminate their do boy. Then there’s ex-Chief, now SgtParrish. Really??? Everything from refusing to cary bullets, accept an American Flag as a gift( but sure can accept a discounts on his meals at the restraunts in town while working hard to keep the Chief company and safe, but they do their part by car pooling when possible) and work the road and night shift do to his age ( but I capable of being promoted while on light duty for over 3 or 4 years. I honestly lost track of the amount of years. Then u have officers who have been on paid suspension for over a year, while the state investigates a shooting involving that officers whife, a Detective that only investigates crimes of her choosing and people always wonder if she still works for the FBPD. And I stated earlier about the Girls’ club joke… So unless there is requests for more I think for now I should stop with the upper echlons. But if these departments are that screwed up…. how bad are the rest in the city of FB? And how ignornt can the city commisioners and manager be if they are claiming that they are???? But OOhhh everyone picks on how messed up this city is. Again school yard games.

  18. honkey dude says:

    I guess that explains why the FD chief vehicle was quickly returned to the fire dep.

  19. Steve Wood says:

    honkey dude, for your information and anyone else who is concerned with my punishment from that so called scandal. I had to give up 20 yrs of my DEDICATION to the city on the FD for that little so called scandal and as for my job the little so scandal had nothing to do with my job of 10 years with the city sanitation dept. And if anyone has a problem with it so be it.

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