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Madeira Beach fire chief fired in 2009 returns in 2012

MADEIRA BEACH — On Monday, Derryl O'Neal will once again become the city's fire chief.

Since November, O'Neal has been serving on an interim basis, but last week O'Neal accepted City Manager Shane Crawford's offer of the permanent post at a salary of $76,912.

O'Neal, 53, will be required to work during regular business hours and will not be allowed to take on any other employment while serving as the city's fire chief.

He most recently served as fire chief for the city of Minneola in Lake County. He previously was fire chief in Madeira Beach from 2001 to 2009, and also was fire chief and director for Charlotte County and a district chief for Pasco County.

When he came aboard last year as interim fire chief in Madeira Beach, he was also continuing his regular job in Minneola.

O'Neal was appointed by then-Interim City Manager Jim Madden in November after former fire Chief Bill Mallory resigned. Mallory is now fire chief in Treasure Island.

O'Neal was fired in 2009 as Madeira Beach fire chief by previous City Manager W.D. Higginbotham Jr., who said O'Neal was insubordinate for interfering with political debate over a fire service referendum in Belleair Bluffs.

Officials there complained about comments O'Neal made during a meeting with a group of fire chiefs who were considering plans for the creation of a public safety improvement district that would consolidate area fire services.

City Manager Crawford said Friday that some Madeira Beach residents maintain that O'Neal's firing and previous disciplinary issues make him ineligible for the job.

"I have a ruling from our city attorney that he is eligible for rehire," Crawford said Friday.

The city's personnel policies prohibit the rehiring of any employee who was fired for repetitive disciplinary actions.

In 2006, O'Neal also came under fire for creating a hostile work environment within the fire department.

An independent investigator was hired by then-City Manager Jill Silverboard to investigate a series of allegations made by the firefighters' union.

The charges included improper use of city equipment, using and allowing "culturally inappropriate remarks," lying to the City Commission, blocking firefighters from independently talking with the city's human resources manager, allowing supervisors and firefighters to "belittle" each other, and disciplining firefighters inappropriately.

As a result of the investigation, Silverboard required O'Neal to complete a "corrective action plan" or face "immediate suspension and/or discharge."

She did say, however, there was no significant evidence proving the firefighters complaints, misuse of city property or any act of impropriety.

O'Neal has a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's in business administration and is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of City/County Managers, as well as other professional associations.

Madeira Beach fire chief fired in 2009 returns in 2012 03/24/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 4:31am]
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