MOUNT VERNON — Morale is high at the Mount Vernon Fire Department but firefighters are frustrated at the length of time it is taking city administration to make a ruling on Chief Shawn Christy’s future with the department.
Related stories in the city of Mount Vernon’s investigation into allegations against Mount Vernon Fire Chief Shawn Christy
“The morale — there is 36 guys down there, 12 on each crew — is as good, if not better, than it’s been in three or four years but there is still a cloud over the department,” a source inside the department told the News. “The guys just want this done.”
Christy was placed on paid administrative leave on June 2, after city administrators said they were informed of an audit by the Ohio Department of Public Safety regarding Christy’s EMS recertification.
In the last week, department personnel were informed of two mandatory staff meetings which were canceled the night before. Although the News’ source said firefighters could only speculate, but they believed the meeting was called to discuss the future of the department and where, if at all, Christy fit in that picture.
“I’m totally frustrated by all of this,” the firefighter said. “Two times we’ve been called in, even guys on vacation, and in less than 24 hours it’s canceled. That’s twice in the last seven days.”
The firefighter said that he was interviewed by a Mount Vernon Police Department detective, just as other firefighters were, and the information that was shared between firefighters showed a pattern of behavior by Christy that many thought would at least lead to his removal.
“We really didn’t have any way of knowing or seeing what was going on until we knew when his recertification came up that he hadn’t taken his classes with us because we do training in house,” the source said. “Whether he had gone somewhere else to do that training, we don’t know, but you can do some of it online. We have no way of knowing that, but he didn’t train with us.”
The firefighter did explain that the crews each work 24 hours on duty and have 48 hours off duty. In conferring with firefighters on other crews, it appeared Christy did not train with any of the three crews.
“It would be very rare for him to attend the training sessions — fire or EMS — that we were involved with down there,” he said. “He did do the live burn when we burned a building on Martinsburg Road about three years ago. He was involved with that quite a bit, but that was early on in his time as chief. After that, he might come out when we did driver training. But to sit in on a session, particularly the EMS [continuing education units], it was virtually nonexistent on my shift. What I hear from others (crews), it was basically the same.”
Despite the “cloud” that firefighters feel is over the department while the situation moves toward a resolution, firefighters — like the one who spoke to the News — continue to work to serve the citizens of Mount Vernon to the best of their abilities.
“We don’t just put our time in. We take our safety and the citizens’ safety seriously,” he said. “As I said before, we did the job in spite of the chief, not because of the chief. In spite of his leadership, or lack of, we did the right thing, we do the right thing. We have some good officers and men down there. We have a good fire department and its not because of Chief Christy.”