By: Jacqueline Miles & Tonya Jackson
On Tuesday afternoon the official word was given that Mayor Ashton Hayward had opted to terminate Matt Schmitt, former Pensacola Fire Chief, and Joseph Glover, former Pensacola Deputy Fire Chief. Schmitt and Glover had been on administrative leave since February as an official investigation was conducted.
Glover shared with The Pensacola Voice, “I received a call to come to City Hall. This was not a scheduled meeting, they just called and gave me about an hour notice to get there. When I got there I met with the assistant HR director, the interim Fire Chief, and was given the paper of termination for lack competence in leadership. The meeting just took a few minutes. My next step is to speak with my attorney and go from there.”
Civil Rights Activist Ellison Bennet added, “We’re very saddened by this outcome and the decision of the City today. The National Movement for Civil and Human Rights, Inc. will proceed now with our class action lawsuit against the City of Pensacola for a hostile work environment, for not having a racism policy in place, and a long history of hangmen’s nooses, using racial slurs and just on and on at the Pensacola Fire Department. At what point is the city of Pensacola going to address racism?”
To gain a better understanding of this matter, Jacqueline Miles, owner/editor of The Pensacola Voice and Mayor Ashton Hayward spoke by phone.
When the Mayor was asked by Miles, “Our community’s concern is because these guys filed a complaint with EEOC and EEOC has determined, based on what their findings, that they have a legitimate case of pay discrepancy. There seems to be the concern that the determination was not necessarily because what your findings are in the report, but this is simply a retaliation that the city has said that it’s easier to get rid of these guys and just move forward. What are your feelings about this?
Mayor Hayward stated, “Those are a wholly unrelated to the investigation into my decision, Jacqui. EEOC complaints are handled by outside legal counsel and I don’t have anything to say about them. I’ve made that clear from the beginning. I think it’s important to separate the EEOC complaints from the investigation into the Fire Department management practices.”
Miles countered, “How is it that their management practices just came into play after all this other stuff came up?”
Mayor Hayward said, “You know Jacqui, when you manage a 1,000 people and when things are brought to my light and you’ve got attorneys and our department head director, I said, ‘Listen, we are just going to do an independent investigation and we’re just going to get to the bottom of it.’ And that’s what we did. I think, most importantly, as we said, we worked smartly. We took our time, out of respect for the gentlemen, we got the report back we took our time on reading it. Obviously I spoke to counsel and we made a decision. And I think Jacqui, the most important thing is, you know, leadership means having to deal with situations that are not pleasant. Tough choices are bound to bring criticism and it’s my responsibility to make them. One of, if not the, number one hardest decision I’ve made in close to six years and it’s not easy. I think you’re a smart lady, once you see the report and read the report you’ll understand what’s in the report and you’ll have more questions.”
Hayward assured Voice owner/editor Jaqueline Miles that once she’s had an opportunity to read the report he will be available to answer her questions.
Prior to going to press we were told of reservations regarding the recently appointed Fire Chief, David Allen. Statements are surfacing that he allegedly left a fallen comrade in a burning building.
Next we will tell you what we have learned about those allegations, the report for the Mayor’s Office and other findings regarding this story.
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