Longtime Johnson City firefighter retires early, cites workplace conditions


JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – A Johnson City firefighter who is battling mental illness has decided to call it quits and retire early, citing the ongoing working conditions as his reason. 25-year veteran Sergeant. Mike Sagers retired earlier this month after spending an extended period of time on medical leave.

Sgt. Sagers says it was a difficult decision, but one he had to make for his mental health. Sagers suffers from stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to medical records.

Back in May, Sgt. Sagers provided us with select medical records that documented his concerns of bullying, belittling and workplace violence by longtime administrator and current Fire Chief Mark Scott. His medical provider documented words like “abusive fire chief,” “harassment” and “concern of retaliation.”

See also: Johnson City firefighter says chief’s actions have contributed to his mental impairment

Sagers says the working conditions within the fire department, sustained and exacerbated by the chief’s actions, added to his mental health struggle.

“I retired early on September 9, because of the conditions of the fire department and my PTSD,” he said. “I can’t handle taking the chance of going back. Basically, I’m not recoverable, because of the fire department.”

Johnson City Professional Firefighters Association President Charlie Ihle shared his disappointment.

“I don’t like it one bit,” Ihle said. “To lose somebody like Mike Sagers is awful. It’s just awful. Mike Sagers was passionate about the fire department and the city. Nobody knows more about the fire department and the city than Mike Sagers, so for him to be forced out is just awful.”

In May, the city’s attorney told us he couldn’t comment about Sgt. Sagers’ medical records due to privacy laws.

As we reported earlier this month, leaders have directed the city manager to develop an effective employee relations strategy for the fire department by October 20.

An internal investigation previously raised questions about the fire chief’s behavior, but did not substantiate workplace harassment. Just last month, the International Association of Fire Fighters gave Chief Scott a vote of no confidence.

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