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More Augusta fire officials quit

Augusta fire chief's brother, two deputy fire chiefs agree to retire

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In the midst of multiple city investigations, three more from the Augusta-Richmond County Fire De­partment's top ranks agreed to retire Tuesday, a day after Fire Chief Howard Willis did the same.

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After an apartment John Lewis owns caught fire, a firefighter approached him about 1-800-BoardUp, a company the firefighter said would secure it for a minimal fee. Lewis later received a bill for $525.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
After an apartment John Lewis owns caught fire, a firefighter approached him about 1-800-BoardUp, a company the firefighter said would secure it for a minimal fee. Lewis later received a bill for $525.

Tuesday saw the retirement, effective Nov. 1, of Willis' two chief deputies, Mike Rogers and Carl Scott, and the chief's brother, Battalion Chief Tommy Willis, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.

All four came under fire in recent weeks, with Tommy Willis’ involvement with a board-up company in apparent violation of city policy, prompting Rogers to place him on paid leave Thursday while he and Deputy City Administrator Bill Shanahan investigate the allegations.

Now that they have agreed to retire, Rogers and Scott will be eligible to receive their full city pensions because each has been with the department since the 1970s, Russell said.

Rogers had served as the acting chief since Sept. 14, when Howard Wil­lis was hospitalized for heart problems. Russell said the department's chief training officer, Chris James, will be the acting fire chief. The city will undertake a nationwide search for a permanent chief, Russell said, but “it’s going to take me four months to bring in a candidate.”

City officials would not say directly that the four were pressured into retirement.

“They didn’t receive any pressure from me,” Commissioner Alvin Mason said of the decisions.

Mason has been one of Howard Willis’ biggest critics, however, grilling the chief during a meeting last month about his job qualifications and educational attainment. Mason said the four resignations were great news.

“I absolutely believe it’s positive,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity now to move forward, get the morale back up within the department.”

Commissioner Joe Jack­son, the chairman of the Pub­lic Safety Committee, said he knew of no “smoking gun” that prompted the fire chiefs to step down, but that Shanahan's investigation of Tommy Willis' side business probably helped them make the decisions.

The Augusta Chronicle revealed that Tommy Willis has run – without department authorization – a company since 2007 that secures homes after they have been damaged by fire. On at least seven occasions, The Chronicle discovered, firefighters called 1-800-BoardUp to fire-damaged homes, a violation of city policy involving unfair competitive practices.

One of those cases involved John and Debra Lew­is. An apartment at a complex they own caught fire last month. Fire department Investigator Neal Brown dispatched 1-800-BoardUp to the scene after telling the couple a group of firefighters had a business that could help secure their business.

The Lewises said they were told the company could secure the apartment as a public service at a “minimal” cost. They were taken aback when they received a $525 bill for securing four windows and one door.

John Lewis said he also was surprised to see that the bill came from Bowles Construction, which owns the Augusta BoardUp franchise.

“I thought it was a group of firefighters,” he said. “I’m not supposed to be tricked into doing business with Bowles.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, whose cousins own Bowles Construction, said it was time for the fire department to have new leadership.

“I think it’s time we make a clean slate in that department, and go outside and find somebody else to take over,” he said.

Morale has been one of main issues cited for the need for new leadership.

Charles Masters, the vice president of the Augusta Firefighters Association, drew a crowd of 87 firefighters to a recent commission meeting when he detailed a list of issues, including a January incident in which firefighter Steven Jenne was injured after being left by his crew inside a burning house.

Masters had been calling for the immediate termination of Rogers, Scott and Howard Willis, saying the department had been on “autopilot” under Willis.

Masters said Rogers and Scott’s retirements likely stemmed from Howard Willis’ decision on Monday.

“When (Willis) announced his retirement, the pressure on those two – they had no support from within the rank and file, none,” Masters said.

He said the moves made the “healing process” possible.

“There’s a lot of open wounds, a lot of hurt feelings” resulting from years of poor leadership, he said.

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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 10/11/11 - 04:44 pm
0
0
Hmmm....exactly what I said

Hmmm....exactly what I said needed to happen and would happen after reading about Chief Willis. Time for Augusta Firefighting to move into this century.

justthinkbushisstupid
24
Points
justthinkbushisstupid 10/11/11 - 05:14 pm
0
0
Administrative leave with

Administrative leave with pay? What is the point, may as well let him go to work, he is getting paid for sitting at the house or working that part time job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

L A Williams
61
Points
L A Williams 10/11/11 - 05:18 pm
0
0
Reports, that Chief Chris

Reports, that Chief Chris James has been appointed interim Fire Chief, are disturbing. It would have been prudent, particularly since Fred Russell was brought to Augusta by Former Fire Chief Ronnie Few, for the full Commission to investigate the possibility of illegal activities committed by the Few administration that implicated collusion with Chief James, evidence of which was provided to the Grand Jury of that time.

showboat
336
Points
showboat 10/11/11 - 07:58 pm
0
0
Wow!! call chief Ronnie Few
Unpublished

Wow!! call chief Ronnie Few and see if he want the job.

tigerlily01
0
Points
tigerlily01 10/11/11 - 08:05 pm
0
0
In my opinion, I believe that

In my opinion, I believe that they are all tired of all the BS.

augustadog
88
Points
augustadog 10/11/11 - 09:48 pm
0
0
I think the main thing lost

I think the main thing lost in all this political BS is that Chief Howard (Bubba) Willis is a life long Augustan from a well respected family. He has a long tenure with the fire department. He stepped up to the plate in a time of need and continued to serve admirably as Chief.
The Union representative that attacks him for "press" used to support him as rank and file. Shame on you,
Congratulations on your retirement Bubba, WE THE PEOPLE, know what the agenda is here.

LukeDodge
3
Points
LukeDodge 10/11/11 - 10:19 pm
0
0
Chief Rogers needs to go. It

Chief Rogers needs to go. It would be great if he could take that "union" spokesman with him. What a 'hero' he is.

elhawthorne
0
Points
elhawthorne 10/12/11 - 02:59 am
0
0
To hear a life long failed

To hear a life long failed pollitical canidate, who posed as firefighter that would not and could not climb a ladder: slander anyone is without merit. Your words are worth one cent. It is disturbing to you possibly because of your intrinsic beliefs. It is funny that you assoicate certain type of people with grand jury investigation that you use frequently in your rhetoric. If the grandy jury was so effective why do it not bring criminal indictments. That is the purpose of grand juries??? Correct? So after 10 years how can you associate Interim/Acting Fire Chief Chris James with guilt. I rather you say what you really feel (the chronicle would not print that) and we who know you...know! Since you said his name and spoke negative on him.. I will put the rest out for the Public. He is a Augusta taxpayer, Ex-Military, Worked his way up from the bottom and also obtain a Masters Degree from Augusta State University. Paramedic. 1 Wife and Child. I would say the model American. Did you ever serve your Country? While others were busy running failed political endeavours, Golf Tournaments, BBQing, Boarding Up, Hunting and Fishing....He worked and earned what you will never be able to take from him....Education and Professional Esteem. Ten Years later you are still referring to a Grand Jury that led to NO convictions/Indictments and Ronnie Few in the Same Breath. Time to move on.

Frank I
1191
Points
Frank I 10/12/11 - 03:55 am
0
0
hmmm.. this is a first in

hmmm.. this is a first in this story, that the business is connected even more to the good ol' boy network goin on downtown.. can't just let the blame fall on the firefighters, cause I'm sure good ol' Joe knew what his cuz was in to....

Brad Owens
4429
Points
Brad Owens 10/12/11 - 04:57 am
0
0
elhawthorne, said; "To hear a

elhawthorne, said;

"To hear a life long failed pollitical canidate, who posed as firefighter that would not and could not climb a ladder: slander anyone is without merit. Your words are worth one cent. It is disturbing to you possibly because of your intrinsic beliefs. It is funny that you assoicate certain type of people with grand jury investigation that you use frequently in your rhetoric. If the grandy jury was so effective why do it not bring criminal indictments. That is the purpose of grand juries??? Correct? So after 10 years how can you associate Interim/Acting Fire Chief Chris James with guilt. I rather you say what you really feel (the chronicle would not print that) and we who know you...know! Since you said his name and spoke negative on him.. I will put the rest out for the Public. He is a Augusta taxpayer, Ex-Military, Worked his way up from the bottom and also obtain a Masters Degree from Augusta State University. Paramedic. 1 Wife and Child. I would say the model American. Did you ever serve your Country? While others were busy running failed political endeavours, Golf Tournaments, BBQing, Boarding Up, Hunting and Fishing....He worked and earned what you will never be able to take from him....Education and Professional Esteem. Ten Years later you are still referring to a Grand Jury that led to NO convictions/Indictments and Ronnie Few in the Same Breath. Time to move on."

Be careful if you are Mr. James or a clsoe buddy, you don't want to be caught up in a "Roundtree" situation on here.

Brad

Brad Owens
4429
Points
Brad Owens 10/12/11 - 05:02 am
0
0
Oh, and do a serach on the

Oh, and do a serach on the comments made by Danny Craig as to why no charges were filed after the Grand Jury report.

It is not beacuse there was not once a fire where all that smoke came from (sorry, could not help that one).

By the time the investigation was done, there was nothing but cold ash where the fire had been.

I do remeber that he bought something like $2500 worth of sunglasses for the drill team, that one caught my eye along with expensive dress uniforms.

And for the record, I liked Few and still do, but I am not sure Augusta was ready for his type of leadership.

Brad

Austin Rhodes
2862
Points
Austin Rhodes 10/12/11 - 07:23 am
0
0
I remember the Few Grand Jury

I remember the Few Grand Jury investigation VERY WELL...he was Charles Walker in a fire hat. The main reason that thing was never prosecuted was a VERY LAZY prosecutor was appointed from another jurisdiction, and too much time elapsed before anything was ever seriously investigated.

Few's legacy is his track record since...which is pretty dang weak. You do love those Charles Walker types, don't you Brad?

hounddog
0
Points
hounddog 10/12/11 - 08:01 am
0
0
‘I remember the Few Grand
Unpublished

‘I remember the Few Grand Jury investigation VERY WELL...he was Charles Walker in a fire hat.’
Austin, you are going to hurt Brad’s feeling after all he was/is a big fan of Walker.

GodisSoGood
892
Points
GodisSoGood 10/12/11 - 08:40 am
0
0
This article truly makes me

This article truly makes me ill. For Masters to say there are a lot of hurt feelings because of poor leadership....he has no clue what hurt feelings are. I pray that one day he (although undeserved) will stand in a position of leadership, and let men shoot darts at him and see how he likes it. The character of Chief Willis has been under constant attack. Only he can truly know the meaning of "hurt feelings".

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 10/12/11 - 09:25 am
0
0
"Tommy Willis has run –

"Tommy Willis has run – without department authorization – a company since 2007 that secures homes after they have been damaged by fire. On at least seven occasions, The Chronicle discovered, firefighters called 1-800-BoardUp to fire-damaged homes, a violation of city policy involving unfair competitive practices."

"Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, whose cousins own Bowles Construction, said it was time for the fire department to have new leadership."

“I think it’s time we make a clean slate in that department, and go outside and find somebody else to take over,” he said.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
!) Joe Bowles is Mayor Pro Tem

2) Mayor PT Joe's cousin owns THE company that Chief Willis and his brother are getting fired over

So are you saying Good ole Joe didn't know this was going on and in violation of city policy? How's his cousin going to get the jobs now? I must be missing something.

PR
0
Points
PR 10/12/11 - 12:44 pm
0
0
OK...we've got a start. Now
Unpublished

OK...we've got a start. Now lets get rid of Fed Russell. He runs the city likes its his kingdom. He is accountable to no one. The commission and the mayor all dance to Fred's music. Until Fred is gone the city will continue to be run like a circus.

Brad Owens
4429
Points
Brad Owens 10/12/11 - 02:39 pm
0
0
Austin, you know I do.

Austin, you know I do.

Denali
0
Points
Denali 10/12/11 - 04:15 pm
0
0
So, no disciplinary action

So, no disciplinary action will be taken. And, everybody gets to retire with full benefits. Where do I sign up?

waterman1
4
Points
waterman1 10/12/11 - 05:05 pm
0
0
Well now that the witch-hunt

Well now that the witch-hunt is over … Masters & crew will need to find someone else to blame for their incompetencies. It is a shame that Howard Willis had to become the scapegoat for those whiners. Now we will have to endure months of political wrangling as the commissioner’s jockey for a new chief. What a waste of time and money! Money that could have been used to repay those firefighters for the furlough day deductions or even a pay increase. It is a wonder that we still have people willing to put themselves in harm’s way when we have not given these firefighters a pay increase in 5 years. Really speaks volumes about how much we care that they risk their lives to save our property when we cannot even give them a cost of living increase. Willis may have the last laugh after all. Sure hope that the other board up companies step up to the plate and actually show up for a change. Cannot wait to see McManus next headline: “Homeowners left to fend for themselves as Fire Department abandons the scene without insuring their property is secured”. Be careful what you wish for folks – you just may get it!

elhawthorne
0
Points
elhawthorne 10/12/11 - 07:06 pm
0
0
Brad- Dont waste your time

Brad- Dont waste your time with individuals who really believe that the Grand Jury rhetoric. They hold to this: The Big Top circus that it caused was a win. A sorry or no evidence of crimes committed would have been sufficent. All Clowns love circuses. Now that the Field is open to hire a Qualified Fire Chief along with Qualified Deputy Chiefs they will crank up the rhetoric. As you can see there no true response when an Individual has achieved Family Success, Educational and Professional Success. This one truth will help Augusta- Hire Qualified individuals who are professionals in the prospective fields and Augusta will beat Savannah in Tourism, Attract Manufacturing and All associated buisness. When ever you have a waterway like Augusta you should lead and not follow. Food for thought-Educated Buisness shy away when you have leadership with nicknames. Good or Well liked does not equate to effective leadership

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 10/12/11 - 08:16 pm
0
0
Grammar....it's not just for
Unpublished

Grammar....it's not just for term papers!

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