Alexander’s firing came after string of reprimands
Shane Alexander was fired from his post as fire chief of Ocala Fire Rescue, in part, for actively campaigning to replace Ocala City Council members so he could be appointed city manager, according to his termination letter.
The letter, signed by Assistant City Manager Ken Whitehead, said several business leaders brought the matter to the city’s attention and were “alarmed by your actions.”
The letter did not detail how he actively campaigned to replace council members. A review of Alexander’s personnel file on Monday also did not shed light on the details.
However, the review did reveal additional details about other incidents cited in Alexander’s termination letter.
The letter stated that several employees, including department heads and managers, reported that Alexander pressured employees to increase Untied Way donations. The incident reportedly happened in early 2020 but was not documented until April this year. Marvin Ayala, the current Ocala Electric Utility director, mentioned the incident to Assistant City Manager Bill Kauffman, who then reported it to Whitehead.
Alexander reportedly told Ayala and Eric Weaver, then interim utility director, that the electric department was “not doing that well” with United Way donations and “if you don’t cooperate you’re at risk.”
Weaver reportedly asked Alexander if he was threatening their jobs at which point Alexander backed down, according to a handwritten report of the incident by Whitehead dated April 28.
In February 2020, Alexander was one of three finalists selected for city manager after then-City Manager John Zobler stepped down unexpectedly. Then-Interm City Manager Wilson and Assistant City Manager Bill Kauffman were the other two candidates.
Ayala said the incident happened about the same time the council was considering the new city manager, according to the item in Alexander’s personnel file.
When it came time to select one candidate, the council split. Councilmen Justin Grabelle and Matt Wardell backed Alexander, then-President Jay Musleh wanted Wilson, and Councilman Brent Malever picked Kauffman. The council’s fifth seat was open at the time, and the council agreed to wait for a special election to fill the seat before voting.
After Ire Bethea was installed into the District 2 seat in June, the council voted 4-1 to offer the position to Sandra Wilson. Grabelle was the only dissenting vote.
Alexander was also accused of abandoning co-workers during a heated town hall meeting where the city’s fire assessment was discussed.
The meeting was hosted by members of the Governor’s West Ocala Neighborhood Revitalization Council. Alexander was scheduled to speak about the agency’s mentorship program and Budget Director Tammy Haslam was going to discuss the fire assessment fee.
During Haslam’s presentation, the discussion got heated and Alexander reportedly left. Both Haslam and Ramona Williams, the city’s community engagement coordinator, felt his support would have been good during the discussion.
“He left when the going got tough,” Haslam reportedly told Whitehead, according to a handwritten account of the incident.
On June 24, just a day before Alexader was dismissed, Whitehead, in another handwritten note, documented how Alexander met with a city employee without John King, the city’s fleet management’s director, in attendance, as was typical. The meeting reportedly made the employee uncomfortable and upset King, according to Whitehead’s note.
Before the recent spate of reprimands, Alexander’s performance reviews were at or above standard.
Whitehead also listed an “excessive amount of idling time and no record of city phone usage to support that you were working” and poorly managed internal grant procedures in the letter.
The “idling” time item is related to the amount of time Alexander’s vehicle remained stationary while the engine was running. A detailed report about his vehicle use was not immediately available for inspection Monday because it was subject to redactions of protected addresses. City vehicles should not remain idle for more than five minutes. Phone records also showed Alexander had not used his city-issued cellular phone since at least April, according to records.
Whitehead, who oversees public services for the city, wrote Alexander’s actions undermined the city council and the city manager to the detriment of the organization, and his actions created “a counter-productive and uncomfortable work environment for city staff.”
Overall, Whitehead wrote he had lost confidence in Alexander’s ability to continue as fire chief after several instances of unprofessional conduct. City Manager Wilson accepted Whitehead’s recommendation to terminate Alexander.
“I am deeply saddened that you sought to pursue a course that was counter to the council’s direction and the good of the organization,” Whitehead wrote.
Alexander declined to comment on Sunday, but a day earlier said he wanted to continue serving the community.
Alexander became fire chief in October 2018 at a salary of $125,000. He joined the department as a firefighter paramedic in 1994.