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Palm Beach County: Still working on permanent plan for Fire Rescue

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jan 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-24 03:29:02-05

After Tuesday's Palm Beach County Commission meeting, Contact 5 asked County Administrator Verdenia Baker, about what's next for Fire Rescue.

"We’re in the process of evaluating and that’s why we appointed an interim fire chief. He will be collecting that data and he will also work with our fine, outstanding men and women at Fire Rescue and we will determine where we are going with the plan," said Baker, when talking asked a permanent chief.

It's been more than one week since former Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Chief Administrator resigned, then said he wanted his job back. Since December, Contact 5 has reported sexual harassment and discrimination claims within Fire Rescue, as well as a damning investigation of the department under Collins' watch.

Former Chief Collins claims the county administration forced him to resign under duress and without representation, among other allegations. But on Tuesday, Palm Beach County told Contact 5 they would not be answering those allegations, or talking about him further, saying "this particular issue is pending litigation."

Sources tell Contact 5, Baker was not happy how Collins handled sexual harassment complaints on his watch. 

Contact 5 wanted to speak to Interim Chief Michael Mackey, to speak about the future of the department. At first, the county denied that request, then let him speak with the Palm Beach Post. As of Tuesday evening, the county told Contact 5 it would be fine to interview Mackey. Contact 5 requested an interview for Wednesday.

The county did have Mackey participate in an in-house video, posted last Friday on social media, in which he says, "I have spent my entire career working on my integrity, that is not something that happens overnight. Everything rises and falls on leadership. And I will tell you, under my leadership, we will rise."

Mackey has been with the department since 1988, and will retire in 14 months. 

Contact 5 did obtain Mackey's personnel file, it's full of positive reviews and letters of appreciation. 

Mackey took over for former Chief Administrator Jeff Collins last Monday.

Contact 5 also asked Baker if there would be future policy changes coming to Fire Rescue. A county human resources investigation found an "offensive work environment" existed within the department, particularly among high ranking officials. 

"As I stated, we are in the evaluation stage," said Baker. 

There are currently four lawsuits pending against the County and Fire Rescue.

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