Investigation: Complaints against Ga. fire chief baseless

By FireRescue1 Staff

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Allegations of misconduct were dismissed against a Savannah fire chief this week following after officials completed their investigation.

Savannah Fire Chief Charles Middleton was accused of harassment and maintaining a hostile work environment by several battalion chiefs and a fire marshal, reported Savannah Now.

Battalion Chiefs John Thad Dixon, Ken Rentiers, Kelly McDaniel and former Fire Marshal Craig Landolt reported concerns over Chief Middleton’s handling of promotions, educational standards, unfair discipline, illegal manipulation of budgets and personal leadership.

The investigation was conducted by the outside agency Murray Investigative Services. It began in July and interviewed over 50 fire department personnel. Ten senior department officials wrote a letter to the city manager in November 2015 to request an investigation regarding misconduct, mistreatment and illegal hiring practices of employees.

“Many of the allegations raised are based on false or exaggerated information,” the investigation’s report concluded. “This investigation has not substantiated any illegalities, acts of moral turpitude or gross excesses of authority by the chief or any of his subordinates.”

The report also noted that Chief Middleton is a “strong-minded” leader who can be “caustic” in when handling employees he has assigned tasks to.

“The report speaks for itself and we will continue along the same path of excellence, moving the organization forward,” Chief Middleton said in a prepared statement.

The department was awarded a Class 1 ISO rating earlier this year, making it the fifth department in the state. The reported concluded that, “The ISO Class 1 rating and the accreditation of SFES are a testament to the excellent work performed under the leadership of Chief Middleton.”

Although compensation issues and discontent over pay within the department were evident, the report stated that these problems have been a long-standing issue. Some complaints by staff voiced concern over higher ranking officials being paid less than their subordinates, as well as a general lack of incentive to learn new skills.

According to the report, department morale was rated at 2.6 out of a one to 10 scale.

“The notion that those at the highest levels of an organization are not held to the same degree of accountability as those at the lowest levels in the organization is a recipe for distrust, discord and low morale,” former Fire Marshall Craig Landolt said Tuesday regarding the conclusion of the investigation.

Savannah Fire Chief Report

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