By BEN GRAFTON
At a somber special Council meeting on Sept. 21, before a small crowd that did not include Ben Greenslait, Freeport Mayor Mickey Marse advised the Council that each of them had a copy of a letter which stated that Greenslait did not pass the test that is requisite to serving as Freeport fire chief. Marse said the Council needed to decide what to do. The Council fell silent until Councilman Charlie Simmons said, “Perhaps the Council had not digested the matter completely.”
Marse also told the Council that another test session would be given again in about 90 days, but he did not see how the city could continue to carry Greenslait on the payroll for that length of time.
City Attorney Clayton Adkinson inserted that when the job was advertised it specified as a qualification that applicants would have to be “…Certified as a Fire Fighter II. The state has advised him [Greenslait] that he did not meet those qualifications.” Adkinson also reported that the state has informed Greenslait that he did not pass the test.
Marse then said, “My recommendation is that he be relieved.”
In response to the question, “How do we cover the department?” Marse reported that the sheriff has assured him that a qualified person will continue to be assigned as interim fire chief until the city locates a permanent replacement.
Marse continued that he thinks, “We should either sell that thing to the county or privatize it. You [the Council] have a lot more to do here than run a fire department.”
Councilman Earl King said, “…the issue right now is to relieve him [Greenslait] of his duty. ..and if the sheriff’s department can help us to cover this until we can get another chief in here, …the next time we hire a chief for the fire department, I think we need to send Clayton [Adkinson] to Tallahassee to get a signature on a piece of paper that the state of Florida stands behind the paper that they are writing the stuff on. Because, that’s what started this thing.”
King then made a motion that the city relieve Chief Greenslait of his position.
Simmons said, “We have to do what’s in the best interest of the city. …I feel bad for him. I truly believe he was probably the best chief I have ever met. I hope he goes back and takes the test and proves everybody wrong.”
Chuck Tristan addressed the Council, “I just want to pose a question to you people. Has Ben ever had that certificate? When you all hired him, did he have a certificate at that time?”
Marse responded, “To maintain a certificate, a person must work in a fire department for six months out of every three years. There is a question as to whether that happened or not. The prior chief that was there, the records really, really sucked. …They had numbers on them, they didn’t have names on them. The complaint was made that there was a six-year period, I think, or five, that he did not work in a fire department. They don’t keep those records. They keep the records where he was issued one [certificate] but they can’t tell you who worked where or when.”
Tristan said, “That’s not good enough? He’s been doing this job.”
Adkinson said, “The problem we have is that the qualifications we advertised for say that he is a Certified Fire Fighter II. The state has deemed that he is not. They did their investigation, but that is what Ben has to do, not us.”
Tristan replied, “There are going to be a lot of families who will be hurting because of this.”
The motion made by King was then called to a vote and the Council unanimously approved relieving Greenslait of his position.