Last week’s resignation of Fayette County Fire and Emergency Services Division Director Allen McCullough seemed to be a straightforward announcement of his intent to retire after over 30 years in the county’s employ, but, according to reports from the commissioners’ office, there may have been more to the situation, including an alleged conflict of interest.
McCullough’s retirement came on the heels of an investigation by newly appointed county administrator Steve Rapson into allegations that McCullough had an ownership interest in Emergency Response Training & Support Services, Inc. and that fire and EMS staff were required to take training at that facility and that McCullough was using the county vehicle for non-count business
In a January 16 letter to Rapson regarding the investigation, McCullough said that “my previous supervisor Jack Krakeel was always made aware of my instruction at various schools and I was given permission to do so.”
McCullough was a staff member with Emergency Response Training and Support Services, Inc (ERTSS) for 10 years; then, in October 2012, he and his family incorporated Hippocrates Emergency Medical Associates (HEMA) to provide training courses for medical emergency responders. He noted that after he realized that tow of the Fayette County staff members were planning to attend the paramedic program under their business, he expressed his concerns to his business attorney and removed himself as a participant in the business.
“In addition, I had spoken to [several people] about my concern with Fayette County employees paying for tuition directly to a family related business, especially since we had already established the policy that allowed Fayette County employees to attend and participate in the Critical Care course at no cost. At the same time, in being fair to the two Fayette County employees we did not want to be unfair to them by not allowing them to attend their course of preference.”
McCullough made arrangements to have HEMA reimburse the deposit for their course and allow them to continue in the course with no tuition.
In a letter to McCullough, dated January 22, Rapson said that “the fact that previous administrations approved of this type of activity is irrelevant. We will hold ourselves to a highest possible standard and this type of activity erodes the public confidence. We have to avoid situations that create even a perceived conflict of interest; prohibit family related busiess activities that create a direct conflict of interest; and prevent officers teaching in situations for family members that may create bias or preferential treatment.:
Rapson told McCullough was to “discontinue any family related business activity associate with Fayette County personnel; refund any Fayette County employees who have paid fees for EMT or paramedic instruction offered by any company where you or a relative have a financial interests or relationship; and discontinue any Fayette County personnel teaching under any such family affiliated relationship.”
On March 8, McCullough announced his retirement effective July 1.
"I am presently exploring several different opportunities which have been presented to me,” said McCullough.
McCullough’s duties include supervision of Command Staff of Fire Services, EMS, Emergency Management, 911 Communications, Animal Control and the Marshal's Office. “They are the most dedicated, compassionate and professional group of men and women that a Director could have under their command,” said McCullough. “I leave Fire and Emergency Services and the Division of Public Safety in very capable hands.”
After Thursday night’s executive session, the board of commissioners voted to abolish the position of Director of Public Safety, which had purview over the Fire Services, Emergency Services, Emergency Management, Marshal, E911 and Animal Control
“I find,” Rapson told the commission, “that each of these department directors is capable of managing their respective departments. This budget reduction quasi-organizational restructuring is a cost saving measure that will save the county $157,828 per year. This is another step toward eliminating deficit spending in our county government.”
On Friday, Rapson announced that Commander David Scarbrough would be appointed to the position of the Interim Fayette County Fire Chief.
His service began in 1986 as a firefighter, and he was the Fire Marshal and director of the Fayette County Bureau of Fire Prevention prior to this promotion.
In his capacity as the County Fire Marshal for 18 years, he was the lead investigator in determining the cause and origin of fires, especially in suspected cases of arson. His other responsibilities included fire education, enforcement of all County related fire ordinances, the review and approval of building plans, life safety code enforcement and outdoor burning regulations. Scarbrough is a member of the International Association of Arson Investigators, the Georgia Fire Investigators Association and holds a Bachelors Degree from the University of Georgia.
Also, Division Chief Pete Nelms has been appointed Emergency Management Agency Director. Nelms began in his service in 1989 as a Firefighter, then Paramedic, Lieutenant, and Captain and has served as the County’s Emergency Management Coordinator for the past 18 years prior to this promotion.
His responsibilities will include all emergency management and Homeland Security activities including disaster planning, emergency operations center coordination, plan development, risk assessment and analysis, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery activities.
Nelms is designated and certified internationally as a Certified Emergency Manager by the International Association of Emergency Managers and is certified through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency as a certified Emergency Manager.
Additionally, Tom Bartlett was named as the Interim Fayette County Deputy Fire Chief. Bartlett started his career in 1981 as a volunteer firefighter. In January of 1981 the county hired the first two paid firefighters; Bartlett was one of the original two and assigned to Station #4.
Chief Bartlett was promoted to Lieutenant along with six others in the first promotional exam administered by the county. In addition to serving as a Firefighter and Station Officer, he has served as Captain and Battalion Chief in charge of fire training and is certified through the National Professional Qualifications System as a Fire Instructor and Fire Officer 4. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy, Executive Fire Officer Program and is recognized as a Chief Fire Officer by the Commission on Professional Credentialing.
"Nothing we do is more important than having the right people in the right job,” said Rapson.