Task force recommends removal of Johnson City fire chief


JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – A task force of 18 Johnson City firefighters is recommending the City of Johnson City “recruit a new and qualified chief,” according to a final report compiled by the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service.

The report, obtained today through a public records request, offers these suggestions to city management about the chief:

-Do not place the old Chief in another slot in the Department

-Empower the new Chief – do not micromanage – let him run it!

-Find someone who can live out our mission, values, and goals

-The new Chief must “own” issues and not pass the blame to others

-Must be truthful and direct with employees and others

-Must be a leader as well as a “people person”

The task force also identifies 16 other recommendations to address the internal issues within the department, including more efforts to hold all employees accountable, fill vacancies in a timely manner and fix the promotion process.JCFD Recommendations Report

Johnson City Professional Firefighters Association President Charlie Ihle is a member of the task force.

“We came up with a list of a lot of good ideas and a lot of ways the department could move forward, but we felt with the current chief we have, if he stays in that position, none of those things would get accomplished,” Ihle said of his working group. “our main concern was getting somebody in place that will follow through and listen. We don’t feel like as a department the chief’s listening to us.”

City Manager Pete Peterson created the task force in January after an anonymous employee survey revealed the majority of firefighters have little confidence in Fire Chief Mark Scott’s ability to effectively lead the department.

The survey followed an internal investigation that did not substantiate workplace harassment, but did find Chief Scott may have abused a subordinate.

The International Association of Fire Fighters voted to censure Chief Scott during the organization’s annual conference last year.

According to a city spokesperson, Peterson says the next step for him is to review the report with the work teams.

“It’s certainly a priority, but coordinating with the authors of the report may be a little challenging since they are from three different shifts,” Keisha Shoun said. “He plans to meet with them as soon as possible, as they requested in the report, and will be happy to discuss further after that meeting.”

Ihle says he is optimistic about the future.

“I hope he takes the findings of the task force seriously and does what’s recommended,” Ihle said. “(Peterson’s) done I think more for the fire department in the last few months than we expected.”

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