Immokalee Fire Chief terminated

In a unanimous decision, Fire Commissioners with the Immokalee Fire Control District voted in favor of terminating Chief Paul Anderson’s contract at Wednesday’s meeting.

Fire Commissioner Ann Goodnight wishes Paul Anderson well after the Board of Fire Commissioners terminated his contract. Submitted Photo/Travis Anderson

The public meeting, which lasted just a few short minutes, was opened by Commissioner Ann Goodnight who, after welcoming everyone to the meeting, said she was not interested in hearing any public comment unless they were there to simply wish the Chief well.

The motion was then made to terminate Chief Anderson ‘without cause’ and pay him 20 week’s worth of severance pay in agreement with his contract. The estimated payout will be over $50,000 which may include his remaining unused vacation and sick time.

The termination stems from a vacation payout request that Chief Anderson submitted in which he requested to sell back 96 hours of unused vacation time. While agency policy permits employees to cash in unused vacation time, Chief Anderson’s contract explicitly states that he could not sell back any unused vacation time. After being approved by just one Commissioner, the Chief received a payout of approximately $5,000 for his unused time in addition to his regular salary. Last week, Commissioners held a workshop to bring the issue to light.

According to Commissioner Goodnight, “It all had to do with his contract.” She then said, “Moral is down, but in my opinion moral is what you make of it. If you’re not happy where you are, you need to find another job.” When asked about any other issues that might have occurred with Chief Anderson and his performance, she stated that there was an issue with the Chief’s truck rolling into a patient and the Chief failing to notify the Board about the incident. She also said that there were management style problems that she had previously discussed with Chief Anderson and things “just weren’t moving along.”

Although Paul Anderson is no longer employed as Fire Chief, there is no word yet on the status of an investigation by the State of Florida who had been investigating Chief Anderson after he permitted his son to enter a home being burned for training. In a video that exits, Chief Anderson’s son can be seen exiting the smoke-filled home in a staggering manor as nearby firefighters signal for help. Firefighters said that video is one thing that the State is looking at.

In the meantime, the Board of Fire Commissioners voted to promote Deputy Chief Michael Choate to Interim Fire Chief until the Board could meet again on April 20 to discuss the future of the Fire District. Interim Chief Choate said that he was confident about the future of the District and said that he thinks everyone will see that he is a caring Chief. Sitting down and having frank conversations with staff and Commissioners is one thing he wants to see done so that persistent problems can be addressed swiftly.

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