Fla. fire chief suspended for 'hostile work environment'

An internal affairs investigation was open against Chief Dan Scales in December 2016 after his employees signed a grievance

By Tony Holt
The News-Journal

PONCE INLET, Fla. — The town's fire chief will be suspended for three weeks without pay after an investigation discovered he caused a hostile work environment for his employees.

Fire Chief Dan Scales is ordered to meet Town Manager Jeaneen Witt at 9 a.m. Monday, at which time he will be granted the opportunity to argue why he should not be disciplined.

In a statement he emailed to The News-Journal on Friday, Scales seemed ready to accept his punishment.

"I have reviewed the findings of the Internal Affairs investigation and take full responsibility for my actions," he wrote. "I apologize for causing the town and fire department any undue attention because of my actions. It is my intention to learn from the findings and make improvements to be a better fire chief."

An internal affairs investigation was open against Scales in December 2016 after his employees signed a grievance alleging that their chief had "created a hostile work environment." The investigation was handled by the town's police department.

Witt also stated in her letter to Scales that he would be placed on probation for one year and "any unsatisfactory behavior or poor job performance will result in your immediate termination." His pay will also be cut by 6 percent, Witt's letter states.

Scales is now required to seek Police Chief Frank Fabrizio's approval of all management decisions regarding personnel under his command during his probationary period. Witt also ordered Scales to complete 40 hours of fire management training.

Witt declined to make any additional comments on the case beyond what she wrote in her letter.

All nine firefighters employed by Scales during the investigation were interviewed along with his administrative assistant, his former administrative assistant and a computer technician employed by the city, according to the investigative summary.

Most of their complaints centered on Scales' profane language and verbal abuse he directed at his employees.

Lt. Derek George, who was fired Jan. 3 on an allegation of insubordination, said Scales regularly blurts out "God (expletive deleted)" in the work place even though he has been asked not to on several occasions. George was the union president who wrote the grievance that started the internal investigation against the fire chief.

George has said his employment termination was a retaliatory move by Scales. He is appealing the firing and is being represented by attorneys for the International Association of Firefighters, he said.

Other employees who were interviewed by the investigator alleged that Scales publicly threatens to fire people, calls his employees "(expletive deleted) idiots" and other derogatory names and openly demeaned one of his firefighters for needing intravenous therapy because he was dehydrated at a fire call.

Scales' former assistant Jeni Simken told the investigator that Scales routinely insulted her. On one occasion, he told her she looked like an "Amish hooker," Simken alleged.

For his part, Scales said he had no recollection of saying any of the aforementioned phrases. In the summary report, Scales admitted to telling Simken that she "looked like a stripper" because she was dressed inappropriately for work.

Copyright 2017 The News-Journal

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