Two fired from Salisbury Fire Department

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2011

By Emily Ford
The city said Friday it fired two Salisbury Fire Department employees who city officials had earlier said were no longer with the department after an investigation into alleged improprieties.
Firefighter Courtney Brown was dismissed Jan. 16 and Capt. Baxter “Buddy” Miller was dismissed Jan. 25, according to personnel records the city released.
Another firefighter, Castleman “Chet” Hedrick, has been suspended without pay for misconduct as a result of the investigation, the city said.
Salisbury was the first of two fire departments to dismiss Brown this month. Cory Orbison, chief of the South Salisbury Volunteer Fire Department, said he investigated a single individual in his department for “conduct issues.” He said he removed Brown Jan. 20.
“We let her go,” Orbison said. “She is no longer with us.”
Miller has been an instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and officials there said they will conduct their own review to determine whether he will teach again.
Salisbury officials have not disclosed the nature of the alleged improprieties or any details of the investigation.
State law requires governments to make public a document explaining the reasons for a public employee’s dismissal if it is a result of disciplinary action, but it allows governments to withhold that information to give the terminated employees time to appeal.
Brown had worked for the Salisbury Fire Department since Dec. 7, 2009, according to information provided by the city. She started as a part-time firefighter and became full time Nov. 29.
Miller had worked for the Fire Department since Oct. 23, 1995. He had been promoted three times, the last time to captain in July 2005.
Neither had been disciplined for any reason before their terminations, according to the records provided by the city.
Brown began as a junior firefighter for South Salisbury when she was about 15 years old, Orbison said.
Now 20, Brown did not return messages from the Post.
Brown’s mother, Teresa Brown, told the Post on Thursday her daughter quit last week because she felt sexually harassed by other firefighters. Courtney Brown worked at Fire Station 2.
Miller was initially placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 17 in conjunction with the investigation, said Zach Kyle, the city’s human resources director.
Hedrick also was placed on administrative leave then suspended without pay Tuesday for misconduct, Kyle said.
Miller and Hedrick worked at Station 1. It was not clear Friday if they have served as volunteer firefighters.
Hedrick did not return a phone call from the Post, and Miller said he had no comment.
Miller has worked as an instructor for the public safety training program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College but is not currently teaching a class, said Jeanie Moore, RCCC vice president for continuing education programs. The college is still in the process of confirming the remainder of spring and summer classes, she said.
“Regarding Mr. Miller’s future employment as an instructor: We will have to conduct our own review of this matter before that decision can be made,” Moore said in an e-mail to the Post.
Citing confidentiality requirements under state law, city officials declined to provide more details until an internal review is completed and final actions are taken.
“We have to conduct this process in a fair and equitable manner, and we have to respect the rights of the people involved,” spokeswoman Karen Wilkinson said in an e-mail. “We need to ensure confidentiality until such time that this information becomes a public record. We do not wish to undermine an ongoing investigation.”
Once the process is complete, the city will share all information allowed under state law, she said.
City officials pledged to take action if warranted.
“We fully intend to take action as to any evidence of misconduct that we may find,” Wilkinson said.
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Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.