Originally created 07/10/02

Promotion practices come under heavy fire



Criticizing the performance of some high-ranking fire officials and calling for the resignation or demotion of at least one deputy chief, the Richmond County special grand jury blasted the promotion practices of former Augusta Fire Chief Ronnie Few.

According to the report on city operations - the grand jury's seventh to date - Chief Few's disregard for city hiring, promotion, pay and discipline policies reduced the fire department to a new low by the time he left to lead the Washington, D.C., fire department. The most egregious example, grand jurors said, was Carl Scott, who went from supervising three men as a department captain to securing the city's second-highest rank: deputy chief.

"It would be a minor miracle for anyone to have the administrative skills to make this leap, and operations have suffered the last three years," the report said.

When Chief Few left Augusta, Chief Scott was appointed interim chief.

Chief Scott did not immediately return a message left on his pager Tuesday. He took the day as a vacation and is expected back in the office today, administration officials said.

Grand jurors labeled Chief Scott as an incompetent bully, dedicating an entire section of their presentment to his poor management skills and "incredibly obtuse and tyrannical" use of power. The presentment accuses him of spreading rumors about the results of firefighters' drug tests and says he unnecessarily called a sergeant off from performing CPR on a victim (who later died) to wait two hours for a meeting with him.

Deputy Chief Mike Rogers, the highest-ranking officer on duty Tuesday, said the presentment has been "long expected" but declined to comment on specifics.

"This is a professional organization," Chief Rogers said. "We went through trials and tribulations before, and we're going to continue to support it."

Other examples jurors identified as violations of city policy and procedure included:

  • A failure to be objective during department promotions examinations. The "neutral" consultant who was charged with evaluating someone for a promotion was an old friend of Chief Few, the report said.
  • Although there were accusations of favoritism, foreknowledge of answers and manipulations on test scores, grand jurors said they were never able to verify or debunk the testing process because there was an apparent destruction of materials.
  • Chief Few's practice of ordering on-duty firefighters to work for free at private political functions, including one for former Mayor Ed McIntyre and another for Mayor Pro Tempore Richard Colclough.
  • The department's failure to operate with a valid policies and procedures manual for nearly three years, creating the inconsistent discipline of employees. "Discipline varied from shift to shift, station to station, officer to officer."
  • Jurors described the promotions process as worse off than when Chief Few arrived and said he left behind a legacy of unfair treatment and incompetent leadership.

    "Cronyism occurs when politicians base their decisions solely on how it affects friends and family, and it still troubles us today," the report stated.