Two suspended Pensacola Fire Department officials were involved in a complaint filed last year by a lieutenant in the department, according to records obtained by The Pulse.
Fire chief Matt Schmitt and deputy chief Joseph Glover have been on paid administrative leave since February 2. City officials have said that attorney Russell Van Sickle is conducting a “independent investigation” into the two men as well as equal employment complaints they filed last year.
Lieutenant Edward Deas named Glover in a complaint he filed with Schmitt last August. After deciding Deas’ allegations “had nothing to do with the fire department,” Schmitt demoted Deas down to a rank-and-file firefighter in September, a decision that was later overturned by the city’s human resources office.
City spokesman Vernon Stewart declined to say Wednesday whether the investigation was connected to Deas’ complaint. “At this time, to protect the integrity of the investigation we are unable to provide further comment as to the details,” said Stewart.
Deas’ complaint alleged that Glover, along with Captain Jose Cobbs and lieutenants Derek Streeter and Marquette Oliver, conspired to remove him as president of the Pensacola United Fire Fighters Association (PUFFA), a black firefighters’ organization. Deas wrote that Glover and others began raising questions about cash withdrawals from PUFFA’s bank accounts in October 2014. Shortly thereafter, PUFFA members voted to remove Deas as president and freeze the organizations bank accounts, a move that Deas alleged was the result of “intimidation tactics” used by Glover and others. “It was my belief at that time that Captain Streeter, DC Glover, and Captain Cobbs wanted me out as president so they could control PUFFA and then use its name and authority to go after their own agenda,” Deas wrote in his complaint.
After reviewing Deas’ complaint, fire chief Matt Schmitt ruled that Deas had “used the fire department and the City as a means to retaliate for what he perceived to be unfair treatment on an external issue. “Deas’ enlistment of others to side with him has caused consternation and division which has interfered with and adversely impacted fire department operations,” Schmitt wrote at the time. “The extreme nature of Deas’ acts, his malicious intent, and covert attempts to subvert superiors by making libelous statements throughout the department makes his actions a serious breach of discipline.”
Schmitt charged Deas with employee misconduct, demoted him to professional firefighter, and reduced his pay by ten percent. In December, Ed Sisson — the city’s human resources administrator — overturned Schmitt’s decision, prompting Schmitt to place an official reprimand in Deas’ personnel file.
Deas was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Schmitt’s justification of Deas’ demotion: