New Carlisle fire chief steps down

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has been covering the investigation into the New Carlisle Fire Department’s operations since accusations of low moral and other issues surfaced in April.

New Carlisle Fire Chief Bradley Phillips has resigned after months of questions about his leadership from residents, city leaders and within the fire division.

City council member Rick Lowrey previously said he planned to make a motion at this week’s council meeting to remove Phillips. But the chief submitted a letter of resignation instead, which was read to council Tuesday evening.

“I just wasn’t going to put up with community’s willingness to believe the lies,” Phillips said. “I don’t see it getting any better.”

The issue began with an anonymous letter mailed in April to city leaders that detailed several concerns over Phillips’ leadership and handling of the fire department. That included low morale, gaps in staffing, accusations that a firefighter had reported to work drunk and concerns about faulty equipment that included expired air tanks.

The city hired outside investigators to look into the accusations in June, but the report found no wrongdoing by Phillips.

City leaders initially backed the chief, saying they wished to move on following that investigation. But some continued to question whether the report produced by the consultants really addressed every accusation brought against Phillips.

“I voted for the investigation because I was told it was going to be a very thorough, very fair and a very open process,” said council member Ethan Reynolds. But Reynolds said he was frustrated when the report dismissed the accusations in the letter as “trivial” and didn’t detail any specific findings in regards to them.

Instead, attorney Larry Bennett and Bill Kramer, an ex-fire chief who now heads the Fire Science Department at the University of Cincinnati, made several recommendations of ways the department could reorganize to save $13,000. Their investigation cost the city about $10,000.

At a city work session held Aug. 24 while Phillips was on vacation, residents and firefighters continued to voice their concerns for more than an hour, prompting Lowrey to announce his intention to remove Phillips.

“Absolutely I was going to do that,” Lowrey said Wednesday.

He’s glad Phillips chose to step down instead so the city could begin fixing the issues and move forward with new leadership.

“There was just so much unrest in the fire department,” Lowrey said.

Two other fire personnel stepped down in the middle of the turmoil as well, Lowrey and Phillips said.

All the concerns brought forward in the letter and in public meetings since were properly addressed by the department, and Phillips questions why the complaining individuals didn’t bring their issues to him first before publicly calling him out.

“It’s unfortunate that it had to go down this way,” he said.

In the year and a half he was chief, the department operated under budget, according to Phillips.

“We tried to instill some pride and ownership in the department,” he said.

Phillips made improvements to the building and updated gear, including replacing the expired air tanks when they were brought to his attention, he added.

Reynolds said he questioned Phillips’ hiring from the beginning and was bothered by accusations as far back as February that a select group of people were getting the majority of hours at the department.

Elizabeth Twp. officials contacted him, he said, with concerns as well. The Miami County township contracts for fire services from the city.

“I think we’ve wasted a lot of taxpayer dollars for an end result that we knew was going to happen,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully we can find someone who’s not only qualified, but has the leadership skills we’re looking for.”

Council member Bill McIntire posted on his Facebook page following Tuesday’s meeting, saying, “As I do not believe our first responders should be used to gain political points, I will just say that we as a Council are going to move forward and ensure our Fire Department continues to provide quality coverage for the residents.”

Phillips said his last day will be Friday. He is still employed part-time with Trotwood’s fire department.

City Manager Randy Bridge confirmed the city accepted Phillips’ resignation, but didn’t respond to further questions by the News-Sun’s press time Wednesday.

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