By BEN GRAFTON
At the beginning of the Freeport City Council meeting of July 10, Mayor Mickey Marse introduced Al Ford and Russell Beaty, members of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and qualified firefighters and managers, who have been assigned to duty with the Freeport Fire Department. These two men will manage fire scene operations for Freeport until the qualification issues of Fire Chief Ben Greenslait have been resolved. Marse noted the two are doing good jobs and said he appreciates Sheriff Adkinson’s action to make them available. Freeport City Attorney Clayton Adkinson reported that an inter-local agreement will be prepared to cover the work of these two men in Freeport. Marse then presented an up-date on the fire chief situation. He related that initially, three of the city’s staff were specifically told that Greenslait could remain as chief and could go on all calls except to those where an oxygen depleted area existed. That’s what Greenslait was doing when everything came unglued with the news reporter and other local people. Since then, he is staying at the station and the truck is locked-up. Adkinson added that on Thursday he talked to the “gentleman in Fort Walton” who confirmed what Marse just said. A request for this information in writing was made but it was refused. The official in Fort Walton called back and said, “Well, we’re not sure.” Adkinson said, “If you’re not sure, who is sure?” Adkinson believes that after this happened, the action that Marse took was the appropriate position for the city. Adkinson also said he was trying to talk to Ellen Simon, the attorney representing the agency that called and that he expected to talk to her on July 11. According to Adkinson, Marse and Greenslait need to determine whether or not to appeal the decision that Greenslait was not certified. An official in Ocala had told Adkinson that, “There is no appeal. Our decision is final.” Adkinson questioned that this is correct and believes that an appeal can be filed if the city and Greenslait decide to pursue this route. There is a time frame of perhaps 30 days during which an appeal could be made to the Department of Administration (DOA).
Adkinson informed the Council that a public record request has been made to DOA for all of the information they supposedly gathered in making their decision. It is understood that the news media has also requested this information. Word has been received that DOA will comply with the public records request. Adkinson then observed that Greenslait is really the one affected by this. That this is his livelihood and he has been advised that he has recourse if he wishes to appeal the suspension. The city can hire a new fire chief Marse disagreed and reported that Freeport City Clerk Robin Haynes got a call from Tuffy Dixon after it was learned the sheriff’s office was going to provide the two managers. He told her to make sure they were certified. Marse believes you can find out if people have a firefighter certificate, but you can’t make sure someone is certified….
Read the full story in the July 19, 2012 Herald Breeze.