Interim chief aims to bring dept. together after harassment suits

By FireRescue1 Staff

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Palm Beach County’s interim fire chief is out to calm the waters after allegations of sexual harassment shook the department.

Palm Beach Post reported that Interim Chief Michael Mackey, who is a 30-year veteran of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, has just 14 months left before retirement, but he said he was happy to take the job when County Administrator Verdenia Baker tapped him for the position.

“It’s not about me,” Chief Mackey said. “I love Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. I want to make sure it’s a success.”

Several employees have recently filed lawsuits against the department and claim they were sexually harassed, assaulted or retaliated against, including Capt. Amanda Vomero, who said Division Chief Chris Hoch retaliated against her when she complained that he spread sexual rumors about her.

Capt. Vomero’s supervisor, Division Chief Joey Cooper, said former Chief Jeffrey Collins retaliated against him when he spoke on Capt. Vomero’s behalf regarding the situation.

Chief Collins resigned, and then rescinded his resignation three days later, saying Baker had a “political agenda” when she asked him to resign.

Baker responded that she is simply “looking to move in a different direction” and said Chief Mackey will help her find a permanent chief.

“I commend the county administrator’s decision on Chief Mackey,” Commissioner Dave Kerner said. “I know him, and I know him to be effective, diplomatic and that he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. I also know that he is well respected both by his peers and the men and women in the stations.”

Chief Mackey filmed a video to introduce himself as the interim chief and said he respects the department and everyone who serves it.

“We have an elite group of men and women that do an extraordinary job,” he said. “That’s what we need to highlight. That’s what we need to showcase. That’s what we need to be talking about. This is a time for all of us to come together and work as a unit, as a cohesive group.”

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