Fla. fire dept. appoints new chief after sexual harassment allegations

The changes come in the wake of a period of turmoil for the department, including the resignation of Jeffrey Collins after harassment and retaliation complaints

By Julius Whigham II
The Palm Beach Post

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Three Palm Beach County Fire Rescue employees, including one involved in a lawsuit against the county, have been promoted to new positions, department officials announced Monday.

Interim Fire Rescue Chief Mike Mackey said that Dan Millstone has been named the department’s deputy chief of support services; Joey Cooper has been named deputy chief of administrative services and Jill Gregory has been named executive assistant to the fire chief.

The changes come in the wake of a period of turmoil for the department, including the resignation of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Chief Jeffrey Collins after sexual harassment and retaliation complaints.

As the division chief for administration, Cooper filed a lawsuit last May alleging Collins retaliated against him after he testified on behalf of a female co-worker in a sexual harassment investigation. The Palm Beach Post reported about the lawsuit in December at the same time it reported that Fire Rescue Capt. Amanda Vomero had filed suit against the department and the county, alleging that Division Chief Chris Hoch repeated sexual rumors about her and retaliated against her when she complained.

Cooper’s lawsuit also alleged he was retaliated against after he attempted to investigate a sexual harassment complaint made against Hoch by another female firefighter. There is a hearing scheduled for Feb. 12 regarding the county’s motion to dismiss the complaint or to have Cooper provide more information.

Hoch was was given a written reprimand in early 2017 for violating county rules against harassment and retaliation in the workplace, and Mackey fired him on Jan. 25 without explanation. Hoch has denied all of the allegations, and last week sought a name-clearing hearing.

Collins resigned on Jan. 12, but later rescinded the resignation, saying that county executives had coerced him into resigning. In a news conference held a week later, Collins said he wants to get his job back and is considering legal options.

A news conference that had been scheduled Monday morning at the Boca Raton law offices of the attorneys for Hoch and Collins was postponed until Thursday.

Copyright 2018 The Palm Beach Post

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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