JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Johnson City Mayor Clayton Stout says he hopes members of the Johnson City Fire Department and Chief Mark Scott can work through their differences and find a way to work together as a team.
“I’m concerned anytime there’s a situation in a department where we have a conflict,” the mayor said Friday.
His comments follow our Community Watchdog report Thursday that revealed widespread concerns within the fire department.
Although a city internal investigation into Chief Scott last year did not substantiate workplace harassment, it did find evidence that he possibly abused a subordinate through his use of profanity or abusive language. The city manager did not discipline the chief as a result, but said he did have a couple of conversations with him about the firefighters’ concerns.
Mayor Stout said it’s critical that the two sides figure this out.
“Their job requires them to perform at a high level to save people’s lives, so you have to be working together,” the mayor said. “That’s the biggest concern is that they need to settle their differences and work together as team.”
The Johnson City Professional Firefighters Association told us despite its concerns, public safety remains its priority.
City Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin told us he’s always concerned when there are allegations of inappropriate treatment of employees. However, he said he is confident in the city’s handling of the allegations.
“Our City Manager, Mr. (Pete) Peterson, has thoroughly reviewed the elaborated concerns and I have confidence in his advice that the matter has been investigated and
any matters requiring attention have been discussed with Chief Scott.”
According to Van Brocklin, he has had nothing but positive experiences with the fire chief over the last five years and says that experience “would not support the comments made by the handful of fire department members interviewed.”
“I have found him to be reasonable and capable and have never seen the lack of professionalism alleged,” Van Brocklin said. “Perhaps there is some validity to the report that it existed prior to him becoming Chief – a period that predates my time on the Commission – but I certainly have not seen that in him as he has served as our Chief.”
City Commissioner Jenny Brock, who is out of town this week, says when she returns next week she will ask the city manager to brief her on the situation.
“I am concerned about any employee who feels any of our human resource policies may have been violated,” Brock said.
City Commissioner David Tomita says he is going to make sure the issue continues to get the necessary attention.
“Any time there’s potentially an issue in one of our departments we certainly owe it to our employees and our taxpayers to vet it thoroughly and I’m not going to let it drop,” Tomita said. “I want to make sure everybody’s done what they can do and we’ll assess it from there.”
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