Monday, November 20, 2017
News Roundup

Largo fire chief plans to retire April 1 as investigation continues

RECOMMENDED READING


LARGO — Fire Chief Mike Wallace, the subject of an internal city investigation for weeks, announced Monday that he plans to retire April 1.

Wallace said he is a victim of frustration, lack of trust and poor morale among firefighters who endured layoffs and stagnant salaries in recent years. With pension cuts on the horizon, firefighters blamed him for failing to stand up for them during budget time, he said.

Wallace finally decided to leave.

"It was more important for me to allow the city and department to move forward without the distraction of political infighting," he said. "I would never have recovered from this no matter how it played out."

Largo City Manager Mac Craig said he could not discuss details of the investigation, which should be completed later this month. But he said that Wallace is not accused of doing anything illegal or immoral. City investigators, he said, have asked more than 50 people about two issues.

"It only dealt with telling us your thoughts about leadership and morale," Craig said.

Most of those interviewed, he said, had similar things to say.

"I hated to do this," Craig said. "As far as I'm concerned, he's a fine, upstanding gentleman and always will be."

Wallace, 57, took over the Largo department in October 2007. It was a kind of homecoming for him. Although he began his career in 1982 as an emergency medical technician with the Madeira Beach Fire Department, he moved to the Largo department in 1986. He served as a lieutenant, district chief and division chief over the next 18 years, until he went to Seminole as that city's assistant chief. Three years later, he returned to Largo.

Wallace followed a chief who had been the subject of two investigations. One concluded Jeff Bullock had used his position improperly to get a discount on a bed topper for his personal pickup. The other was sparked by claims from a firefighter that Bullock had mismanaged the department and mistreated employees. The city closed that investigation after finding no proof Bullock had violated Largo's discrimination and harassment policy.

Karry Bell, the acting chief after Bullock departed, also resigned while under investigation. He said he was the victim of a flood of complaints by firefighters.

Wallace's tenure did not prove peaceful. The county plunged into a debate over the way emergency medical services are provided and the cost of the service.

And Largo, like most local governments, faced hard financial times when the real estate market crashed. The city responded by taking away firefighters' raises, laying off firefighters and looking at pension reductions.

Wallace saw his job as supporting whatever Craig and the City Commission decided. Firefighters saw it differently, he said.

Firefighters saw it as "the city was taking and taking and taking and the fire chief didn't do anything about it," he said.

Complaints soon began about weak leadership and poor morale.

"This is a culmination of a growing frustration," he said.

Comments
Sentencing phase continues in trial of Adam Matos, found guilty in murder of four

Sentencing phase continues in trial of Adam Matos, found guilty in murder of four

NEW PORT RICHEY — The sentencing phase begins Monday in the trial of Adam Matos, convicted Friday of first degree murder in the deaths of his ex-girlfriend, her parents and her new bofriend.Assistant State Attorney Chris LaBruzzo said prosecutors wil...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Trump calls out Marshawn Lynch, who sat for the U.S. national anthem but stood for Mexico’s

Trump calls out Marshawn Lynch, who sat for the U.S. national anthem but stood for Mexico’s

President Donald Trump on Monday added Marshawn Lynch to the list of sports figures he has criticized on Twitter.Lynch has been regularly sitting during the national anthem this season and did so again when his Oakland Raiders played the New England ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Park, Walk and Talk is St. Petersburg police chief’s signature program. Is it working?

Park, Walk and Talk is St. Petersburg police chief’s signature program. Is it working?

ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Tony Holloway has made getting officers out of their cars, walking streets and talking to residents a key plank in his effort to improve relations between his department and the community.But three years into his adminis...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Take small bites.This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who don’t have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the year’s biggest cooking day.It’s the first thin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
3-2-1, BAM! Watch the Georgia Dome being imploded in downtown Atlanta

3-2-1, BAM! Watch the Georgia Dome being imploded in downtown Atlanta

ATLANTA — One of the nation’s largest domed stadiums has been destroyed in a scheduled implosion in downtown Atlanta. Nearly 5,000 pounds of explosives were on hand to blast the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to smithereens Monday at 7:30 a.m. People gather...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: As Jameis Winston faces another accusation, Bucs win with Ryan Fitzpatrick

Rick and Tom podcast: As Jameis Winston faces another accusation, Bucs win with Ryan Fitzpatrick

The Bucs win again behind backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and a defense that creates five turnovers against the Dolphins. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the game, including the calm that Fitzpatrick has brought and ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

The 2017 American Music Awards marked a night of unison, positive vibes and American pride as musicians spoke about coming together in a year dominated by natural disasters, violence and divisive politics.Kelly Clarkson and Pink kicked off the three-...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Charles Manson, cult leader and serial killer who terrified nation, dies at 83

Charles Manson, cult leader and serial killer who terrified nation, dies at 83

Charles Manson, the fiery-eyed cult master whose lemming-like followers staged a bloody two-night murder rampage in Los Angeles in 1969 that gripped the city with fear and shocked the nation, died on Sunday at a hospital in Kern County, California. H...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Forecast: Sunny, crisp conditions across Tampa Bay ahead of a soggy Thanksgiving

Forecast: Sunny, crisp conditions across Tampa Bay ahead of a soggy Thanksgiving

Crisp, refreshing and sunny fall-like conditions will remain over the Tampa Bay region before a pair of cold fronts move through the area during the week, culminating in a soggy Thanksgiving day.Temperatures are starting off around 10 degrees cooler ...
Updated: 5 hours ago