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Sunday, Dec 28, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Zephyrhills fire chief under investigation

BY GARY S. HATRICK
Tribune correspondent

Published:

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— Interim City Manager Steve Spina has begun an investigation of Fire Chief Verne Riggall for “numerous allegations of wrongdoing and poor judgment” in carrying out the duties of fire chief.

The allegations were presented to then-City Manager Jim Drumm by Mike Richards, the local firefighter’s union president.

Richards said in an interview today that the allegations include violations of state EMS regulations and noncompliance with city policies. He said the allegations include sending units out marked as advanced life support vehicles that are not properly equipped in violation of state law.

Richards also said the city policy violations relate to Riggall taking time off from work for doctor visits, but not listing them as sick days.

Spina, who began his first full week in the interim city manager position this week, said he will not take Riggall off active duty. He has instructed Riggall to not make any policy changes, new assignments or personnel moves without clearing them through his office. Spina also has instructed Riggall to not conduct any disciplinary procedures for staff performance issues.

Spina informed Riggall in a letter that he will conduct the investigation along with staff of the Zephyrhills Human Resources Department.

Riggall denied the allegations, characterizing them as “hearsay.” He said he is 100 percent sure all the allegations will be determined to be unfounded.

Drumm had initially written an April 24 letter that he placed in Riggall’s personnel file that said he had interviewed “nearly every member” of the fire department staff. Drumm, who resigned April 25, said the union was considering a “no confidence vote” on Riggall.

Drumm said in his letter there were several issues that warranted an investigation. He said these include “fire command protocols, stocking of medical supplies, scheduling staff members and use of certain types of fire equipment.”

Drumm had wanted the Pasco County Fire administration to investigate the issues, but Spina rescinded that order and will personally conduct the investigation.

Richards said he does not have first-hand knowledge of other issues related to Riggall taking command at fire scenes, but that he is concerned for his fellow firefighters’ safety.

Riggall came to Zephyrhills as fire chief in April 2013. Riggall was the fire chief in High Springs for three-and-a-half years where he worked for Drumm, who was the High Springs city manager.

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