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Letter to the Editor

Former Fireman takes County Line Chief to task

web posted October 8, 2007
Dear Editor,

This writing is in reference to the five terminated firefighter from County Line Fire Dept.  I have gone from Chief, Board Members and also County Fire Association Board with my concerns and to no avail have I found anyone that is actually concerned about the problems and mismanagement at County Line Fire Dept.  So they have left me with no other choice but to take this to the media, with hopes of getting someone involved who is concerned enough to straighten out the problems, because I live in district 9.

Chief Malcolm in my opinion has no heart in protecting our community.  Also in my opinion Chief Malcolm is only in this for his own self gain.  If this isn’t true then why would one of the board members state that this would tarnish his business?  Are we in the firefighting business to protect someone’s business reputation that isn’t even in our district or are we in it to protect and serve our community? These five terminated fire dept members attended 98% of all calls including First Responder (at all hours of the day and night) and Fire Calls.  If you wish, ask to see the call logs and see how many of those that are on the department now, including Chief Malcolm, attended as many calls as those of us that were “terminated”. Of those still on the department how many are actually certified First Responders, which includes keeping up their in-service for being a First Responder and updating their CPR/First Aid. After we were “terminated” you now have four certified FR (two of which lives in Aiken Co and attends very few calls).

One of these “Bad Apples” was voted by all of his fellow firefighters as “Firefighter of the Year” for 2006, yet six months later he is a trouble maker/snake and can’t get along with, as Chief Malcolm stated in the meeting “His Firefighters”, as I reiterate these are the same ones that voted him as “Firefighter of the year”.  This “Firefighter of the year” was the one at every board meeting or any other time when something needed to be done for the fire department Chief Malcolm would turn around and say Lt. Stevens can you handle that and he always answered yes.  

He was dedicated to this department and put 98% of his personal time at the fire department trying to make things better. Lt. Stevens was also the one who was doing grants for the fire department.  In his two and half years on the department he applied for a Federal Grant to purchase a new tanker that went several rounds in the elimination process before being turned down.  The reason for being turned down was because of the amount of money CLFD receives.  Lt Stevens also applied for a grant through the State and received a matching grant that helped the department purchase a floating pump to help out with the lack of fire hydrants in our district.  Up until Lt. Stevens joined the department, grants had not been applied for since the previous Chief was in reign.  

Here is another riddle for you, how many vacation hours were taken from their regular job to do community involvement by Chief Malcolm and any of those that are still on the department?  I can answer that, none because the terminated firefighters handled the majority all the projects for the dept.  Not once did Chief Malcolm ever have a problem with that.  Yet now according to Chief Malcolm, Lt. Stevens is a trouble maker/snake at the department. We went to the Chief with our concerns, and then we went to the board and even talked to a couple of them independently.  While in those meetings independently those board members acted concerned, one board member even stated Chief Malcolm needed to go, but when it all came to the table nothing was done about it.

Let’s talk about all the wasted money that was spent on the new trucks in “bling bling”.  Why does a fire truck need “bling bling”, we aren’t in the business of looking good, we are in the business to put out fires and save lives. We could have put a heavy down payment on a new tanker with all the money in “bling bling”.   All firefighters stated to Chief Malcolm as well as the board that we didn’t really need a service truck but instead need a new tanker.  The tanker would not only benefit our department but also mutual aid for other departments.  How it would benefit our department is due to being in a rural area with a shortage of fire hydrants, we would have more water on the scene at all times. I encourage you as tax paying citizens to get involved and see exactly how and where your money is going.  Your board of directors approved all of this.

Chief Malcolm and the board also over looked prosecuting a former firefighter for (allegedly) stealing over $350 from the department.  In Chief Malcolm words this wasn’t enough money to worry about.  Why did Chief Malcolm not call and file a police report when the new Service truck was wrecked?  Why did the board let Chief Malcom write a check to his own company to repair the truck that was damaged in the accident with the service truck?  As the Commissioner stated it that Chief Malcom didn’t make any profit off the business venture and only charged the dept for the parts. In my personal opinion that is a conflict of interest and never should have been handled in that manner, but yet with the good ole boy system things like this are swept under the rug. 

The two foregone Assistant Chiefs.  One quit because he was tired of all the undermining and backstabbing that was going on above and below him.  The other Assistant Chief was asked by the board to resign due to inappropriate behavior on and off of fire scenes, which Chief Malcolm knew about but never stepped in and did anything about.  Chief Malcolm also (allegedly) covered up another firefighter’s jail time and his conviction in the state of Georgia.  You can find all this by going to Augustaga.gov.  One of the firefighters that is still on the dept and does not live in Edgefield Co has had runs in with every firefighter that has ever been on the fire department in the two and half years I was associated with the department, including both of the former Assistant Chiefs.  

Chief Malcolm also (allegedly) covered up a firefighter getting blood on his bunker gear, and as of the time we were “terminated” hadn’t filed the appropriate paperwork, nor let any of the other firefighters that were on the scene know that this firefighter had blood on him and they too could have been exposed.

This brings us to another point that Chief Malcolm never took action on.  Blood borne pathogen classes that are mandatory and are to be administered yearly as by OSHA, were never offered to the firefighters and first responders.  Hepatitis B shots that were asked for back in February, this was brought to the attention of those that attended the FR class, that should be offered to all firefighters, which was once again ignored by Chief Malcolm and when confronted in the board meeting concerning this he never denied this, but his statement was “I don’t recall that” easy out excuse.  Mandatory physicals are to be performed on all firefighters.  Physicals were offered by another fire department at either the April or May Fire Association meeting (that Chief Malcolm didn’t attend).  When brought to his attention as usual, he just ignored the request.  Fit test for SCBA’s for the safety of the firefighters while fighting fires which is mandatory by OSHA, once again the request was ignored by Chief Malcolm. 

Chief Malcolm didn’t deal with disciplinary actions until all these concerns and problems were brought to the board members attention.   Except for one fire fighter being wrote up for the same thing that Chief Malcolm did at the last major structure fire on Rolling Hills Drive, which was to tie up the radio barking out commands, making the responding firefighters believe he was in route but never showed up to the fire, which caused major chaos and confusion within our dept and other departments that were responding.  Chief Malcolm only had one Officer remaining after both of the Assistant Chiefs left and/or asked to leave but he was one of us that went to the board and voiced our opinions and concerns pertaining to how poorly the department was ran and being managed by Chief Malcolm.  Lt Stevens was then blackballed within the department and Chief Malcolm then decided he was going to take an active role in managing “His Department”.  This should have been done when he took over as Chief, and then County Line Fire Department’s name wouldn’t once again be slung through the mud.  Instead of supporting his only Officer, Chief Malcolm along with the rest of the remaining firefighters would undermine his authority. The main firefighter that has the most problem with disobeying orders by all of the Officers is the one that has had conflict with each and every firefighter that has joined CLFD since I have been involved with the department and he also is the one that lives in Aiken Co.  (Funny how is now the NEW“LT”)  In this persons exact words, “I don’t want an officers position, officers position aren’t anything but headache and trouble.”  Why are we letting people cause problems within our County yet he doesn’t even pay taxes to our County??? 

Why was it that when two of the “Bad  Apples” wished to be voted onto the board, one of the board members along with Chief Malcolm stated that neither of these people could be on the board.  Another board member stated that they would consider their request at the next board meeting.  There were numerous community members at the meeting that could have voted both of these people onto the board, but was denied stating that the meeting at already been adjourned and would be discussed at the next meeting.  Neither the board members nor Chief Malcolm have a right to decide who is on the board, ONLY THE COMMUNITY.  The meeting was never officially adjourned; there was a request to adjourn but never a second motion. Nor did the board member vote to uphold the “termination” of the terminated firefighters.  Chief Malcolm stated that it was “his” decision solely.  Why is it that the Chief and his wife are both on the board, in most entities this would be considered to be a conflict of interest. 

If this isn’t discrimination I don’t know what is, at the August board meeting, it was brought up that after the July board meeting that one of the board meetings stayed and spoke with a couple of the disgruntle firefighters and asked them what they wanted to do about being on the dept, these members weren’t one of the five that received the termination letters.  Yet one of the disgruntle firefighter was also one of the ones that walked out several weeks earlier.  Why is it that some of the disgruntle firefighters were asked what they wanted to do while others got termination letters and never received the common courtesy to have one on one meeting with board members like the other two???

(A) request to file a compliment that was made to the Edgefield County Fire Association Board. Along with the credentials of all five of the “Terminated” fire fighters.  No one responded to my request.  Although I did talk to one of the members to confirm receipt of my complaint and he assured me that the board would get in touch with me to discuss further.  As of this day I haven’t heard from anyone.  We have also request information from the County Administration office pertaining to any filings and/or actions taken by anyone at County Line Fire Dept on behalf of the missing money and per the letter nothing was ever done.  It may not have been enough money to prosecute this person, but a report should have been made with the appropriate officials.  

We have contacted the State Fire Marshalls dept pertaining to background checks that are required by law (South Carolina Code of Laws SECTION 40 80 40) it was stated that no background checks have been done for County Line in the last two years.  We believe that the 1% fund weren’t managed and maintained according to the guidelines stated by The Fireman’s Association, but when information was requested via certified letter, our request went unheard.  Per Chief Malcom, he isn’t doing anything worse then what the former Chief did. 

When we asked for information pertaining to the dept at the August board meeting the Commissioner asked if we had our checkbook ready and the Chief as well as the board denied our request and adjourned the meeting.  Although they didn’t have all the information we requested and even stated that they had limited information when one asked for their personal medical records, and that other documents had been shredded.  Then while we were leaving they stopped us and decided to give us the limited information they did have at the dept.  If you would like to listen to the July and August board meetings you can request a copy from edgefielddaily.com as both meetings were recorded.

Why is the board voting to obtain debit cards for both the 1% money and the general fund for the Chief and his wife?  Per Chief Malcolm and his wife, it is hard to get together with the treasure to get checks signed.  Why does the Chief have the checkbook, shouldn’t that be in the hands of the treasurer?  There is a board meeting once a month, so where is the problem?  Why are there not two signers on both checking accounts?  Why wasn’t the rescheduled board meeting for September posted so the public could attend?  Why after those members were “Terminated” are the requests now being made for physicals, shots, etc?  These questions will go unanswered until someone with power decides to step in and take an active interest.

I am a tax-paying citizen and have a great compassion for the people in this district and enjoyed my volunteer work as both a Firefighter and a First Responder.  Unfortunately the powers to be “The Good Ole Boy System” have taken that away from me, my family and my friends. County Line Fire Dept will never go anywhere until people who actually care about our district get involved.

Too those new and old at County Line Fire Dept believe it or not the community watches you closely. You may think that it is only us “The Terminated” that are concerned and disheartened with what is going on in our district and community, it isn’t.  We are just the ones that have stepped forward and brought this to light. 

Michale Stevens
Trenton SC

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