INVESTIGATES: Questions over firefighter promotions
The fallout continues following the resignation of Todd Smith, the now former head of Jacksonville’s Emergency Management. ANJ found the possibility of promotions among firefighters that were not earned.
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ANJ first told you about Smith last week, and how he was the subject of a sexual harassment allegation and a whistleblower report claiming the falsification of training records.
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Smith resigned after our reports but retained a job with JFRD. Now, Action News Jax Investigator Emily Turner has gotten files from the city’s Office of Inspector General about those questionable training records.
It all started in 2016 with an anonymous complaint to the Inspector General’s Office that says Smith “falsified training records to enable promotions of persons not otherwise qualified…” while he was at the Training Academy. That complaint got rolled into a bigger investigation that could open a whole can of worms for JFRD about who is actually qualified for the position they have.
The biggest question mark has to do with some of the people who we rely on to save us in an emergency- and whether they’ve completed the required training to hold the position they’re in. Action News Jax read through the case files. They show that after reviewing the personnel files, the investigator in this case found “there were individuals that were ineligible to take the fire captain exam,” making them ineligible for promotion because they hadn’t completed the required training.
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The file also shows questions with the certifications of the Urban Search and Rescue Team, saying “their certifications may not be up to date,” thanks to emails the Inspector General herself received from someone inside the Emergency Division that helps coordinate the team.
JFRD didn’t respond to our interview request or our request for the curriculum of the training in question. But Randy Wyse, President of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters told us the training is important.
“If you’ve never taken this advanced training,” Wyse says “you may or may not get it, you know, or ever been exposed to [certain emergency situations.] So if you get through the training, you get exposed to it, then all of a sudden, you show up at a scene where ‘man, that training really came into play and it helped me mitigate the emergency.’”
The problem is, the investigator in the case told Action News Jax today the department’s own Resource Management System wasn’t accurate and that a top training official admitted in an interview that, “Academy employees were not retaining certificates and rosters in a consistent manner.”
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The record shows the Inspector General called for a full audit of training files—but Action News Jax found that never happened. In fact, nothing did for two years.
As far as the records show nothing was ever done to correct the possible records and training errors within the department, either. The only thing that did change, according to the file was some JFRD policy thanks to a civil lawsuit against the department.
The State Attorney “did not want to move forward on this case due to it being one occurrence rather than it being multiple occurrences.”
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So there are some pretty big question marks still lingering about who did the required training, who didn’t and who earned their promotions. Action News Jax is waiting to hear back from JFRD or the city still on that.
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