The allegations of a hostile work environment within the St. Robert Fire Department (SRFD) were more fully explained during day two of the impeachment proceedings. The investigator hired to look into the fire department situation, a parade of firefighters, Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District (WRFPD) Chief Doug Yurecko, St. Robert Fire Chief Doug Cage and the mayor himself testified about the issue.
According to testimony from special investigator Chester White nearly every member of the fire department had a complaint about former St. Robert Fire Department Deputy Chief Greg Polk.
White testified that he felt the issues within the fire department were so severe that he was “surprised you haven't had an incidence of workplace violence” and that violence “almost happened on two occasions,” although he did not go into detail.
In his testimony, White told the board that there was a “perception throughout the fire department” that “Polk was the the mayor's buddy” and he could get away with anything.
White also testified that the mayor refused to allow him to give an oral report to the board and asked him to leave by a rear door so he “wouldn't be seen.”
The mayor disputes this allegation and testified that White did not tell him there were problems in the fire department, he wanted a written report, White was not on the agenda for that night and he never tried to hide White's presence.
New information about Debra Moore's role in the investigation came out during White's testimony in numerous emails sent to White about the investigation with suggestions of questions to ask, people to talk to and reports of what the people under investigation were doing.
White admitted that he “should have” told Moore to “leave me alone” and then further admitted he should have told her to leave the witnesses alone. White testified that Moore's actions did not have any bearing on his findings in the investigation and neither did his documented interest in the city administrator position.
White sent an email to Moore inquiring about the position and admitted to discussing the position with Moore and the other city attorney Jim Reinard, but said he was not interested in the position anymore. Additionally, he testified that he was concerned about the ethics of the situation at the time the position was discussed but received a call from Moore assuring him that there was no ethical dilemma.
Firefighters from St. Robert and Yurecko took the stand one after the other during the afternoon of the proceedings to testify to harassing, belittling behavior by Polk.
Yurecko testified that he sent a letter to former city administrator Alan Clark expressing a desire to end SRFD's auto aid agreement with Waynesville due to issues with Polk. However, it would only keep SRFD from auto responding to WRFPD's fires not the other way around.
Page 2 of 3 - Yurecko said that he felt Polk's conduct was detrimental to the relationship between the departments.
SRFD firefighters Calandra Mason, Scott Crider, Raymond Wright, Jeffrey Teeters, Felton Shoemaker, Dustin Goodwin, Joshua Cage and former SRFD firefighter Laura Arrington all testified that Polk harassed and belittled other firefighters.
In a surprising move, Arrington admitted that she was bringing legal action against the city because of the alleged situation with Polk that she said led to her resignation from SRFD. Arrington also admitted to spearheading an attempt to circulate a petition to seek some action against Polk, a subject mentioned by Alan Clark at Monday's proceedings.
All the firefighters testified that they wrote grievance letters because there was a lack of response by the city to their complaints, they had been told by Cage that the presentation from White was stopped by the mayor and that they were told by Chief Cage that “his hands were tied.”
Chief Cage testified that he felt as if his “hands were tied” in reference to dealing with Polk as well and that he'd been told by Clark that he had authority over everyone in the fire department except Polk. Sanders' attorney asked Cage if he followed city procedure in respect to filing grievances and Cage admitted that he had not saying “I was trying to resolve it without having to go that far (going to the Board of Aldermen).”
As part of the city's policy on grievances, Cage was required to give those to Clark and if he received no results, take them to the Board of Aldermen. According to the city's policy, the mayor is not in the chain of people to report a grievance to.
Cage admitted that he had never written Polk up, gave him a formal written reprimand or requested permission to discipline him.
Sanders was called to the stand by the city attorney to answer questions concerning his knowledge of the issues in the fire department and in the utilities department.
Sanders denied knowledge of Arrington's efforts to create a petition, but was shown his own deposition testimony where he said he had heard of it. An actual copy of a petition was not produced in the proceedings and both sides agreed that there probably wasn't one available because all those that testified said they were made to stop trying to put a petition together by Clark.
The mayor also testified that White had not told him there were problems in the fire department during their short meeting on March 5, he wanted a written report from White and that he “was going to put him on the agenda when he came back.”
The last person to be called to the stand was Debra Adkins who testified about issues in the utilities department concerning Clark's wife Pam Cox and how their relationship caused problems in her department.
Page 3 of 3 - Sanders allowed Cox to resign in lieu of being fired around January of this year, according to testimony by the mayor and statements from the city attorney, but Adkins testified that the problem had been going on since sometime late in 2010 or early 2011.
Adkins said she had talked to the mayor about the problem many times, sending him a letter that was produced into evidence from April of 2011 outlining issues with Cox.
Sanders testified that he was unaware of issues with Cox until “a couple of weeks” before Adkins requested Cox be fired. Adkins agreed that Cox was gone within two days of her request that Cox be fired.
Day three of Sanders' impeachment proceedings begin today at 9 a.m. in the courtroom of the municipal center. Sanders' attorney is beginning his defense today. The proceedings are open to the public.