Auditor’s report supports Alexander’s firing process

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Posted July 30, 2021 | By Carlos Medina

Shane Alexander, the former Ocala Fire Chief, center, sits with his wife and his attorney, Paul Donnelly of Donnelly Gross, during the Ocala City Council meeting on July 6. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

During the July 20, Ocala City Council meeting, Councilman Jay Musleh mentioned he asked the city auditor to review the process taken by the city administration to fire then Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Shane Alexander.

A recent review of that report, conducted by Randall Bridgeman, the city’s internal auditor, did not show any improper action in the process behind Alexander’s termination. Bridgeman is one of four employees that directly reports to the council, including the city clerk, the city attorney and the city manager.

Ultimately, the audit outlines the city manager’s power to terminate employees, according to the city’s charter.

Those arguing Alexander’s firing was inappropriate noted the former chief never received prior written reprimands for some of the reasons listed in his termination letter.

The auditor found the city’s employee handbook includes an exception for pre-termination action, including official reprimands and meetings, for senior management staff, of which Alexander was included.

Alexander’s termination letter also referenced an excessive amount of idling time, no record of city phone usage and poorly managed internal grant procedures.

Bridgeman noted the requirement for issuing city-owned cell phones to department heads was to ensure the city was complying with the Florida Sunshine Law. Phone calls, texts and other communication are covered by the law and subject to inspection as public records.


Auditor Report

By not using the city-owned cell phone for city business, the city cannot provide the records of Alexander’s communications if requested.

An initial review of city records showed Alexander had very little activity on his city phone for the last year, the report stated.

The idling time reports reviewed showed Alexander’s vehicle had 226 idling violations totaling more than 110 hours in 2021. The city policy allows for up to 10 minutes of continuous idling time. Since May 2019, Alexander’s vehicle had 1,390 idling violations totaling more than 715 hours, the equivalent of 89 8-hour workdays, the report stated.

The idling records were not directly audited by Bridgeman.

He also did not review the issue of the grant, nor did he delve into the charge that Alexander undermined the city council and city manager to the detriment of the organization.

He did interview city employees cited in handwritten memos included in Alexander’s personnel file supporting a charge of eroding trust in the organization by creating a counter-productive and uncomfortable work environment. Bridgeman said he confirmed the accuracy of the content in those memos.

The firing of the chief on June 25 set off a firestorm of criticism, including a move by some on the council to fire City Manager Sandra Wilson, who authorized Alexander’s termination. The council, however, voted 3-2 to keep Wilson on as city manager on July 6. The argument over Alexander’s firing continued at the July 20 meeting when several residents asked for Alexander to get his job back. The council does not have the power to rehire Alexander.

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