Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Zephyrhills city manager urges council to fire the fire chief

Verne Riggall was named Zephyrhills’ fire chief in April 2013.

Verne Riggall was named Zephyrhills’ fire chief in April 2013.

ZEPHYRHILLS — Barely a year after City Council members unanimously hired Verne Riggall as the new fire chief — a move cheered by a row of firefighters attending the April 2013 meeting — City Manager Steve Spina is asking the council to fire him.

Spina began looking into complaints about Riggall's management of the 24-member fire department shortly after being hired as interim city manager, following the council's April firing of then-City Manager Jim Drumm.

In a memorandum Monday to City Council members, Spina outlined several offenses he believes violate city policies and procedures — including improperly manning and equipping emergency vehicles and squads, failing to correct safety violations with vehicles and equipment in a timely manner, failing to enforce his order of having fire personnel conduct weekly safety inspections of city businesses, and creating an erratic personal work schedule and not always being available during normal business hours.

Additionally, Spina said Riggall lacks critical leadership and communication skills.

"There is a clear sense of dysfunction and morale issues that impacts the day-to-day operations and I believe hampers the ability to provide top notch fire/rescue services," Spina said.

Riggall, 60, is on paid administrative leave; his employment status will be addressed at Monday's City Council meeting. In the meantime, assistant fire chief Dan Spillman will be the interim chief, Spina said.

"It's not a done deal," said Riggall, when contacted Tuesday. "I've got plenty to say and I intend to rebut each and every point."

But he declined to elaborate Tuesday.

Spina acknowledged Riggall enjoyed the support of firefighters and others when first hired.

"My understanding was there was a honeymoon period," Spina said. "But things changed. I don't know when."

Before he was fired, former City Manager Drumm intended to have an outside source from the county's fire system investigate the complaints against Riggall. Spina said he decided to do it himself since he did not have a prior relationship with Riggall and could therefore be impartial.

Riggall was the fire chief of High Springs when Drumm was city manager of the North Florida city, before being hired by Zephyrhills in May 2011. Riggall left High Springs in September 2011 when city officials eliminated his position to save money. When former fire Chief Keith Williams resigned in September 2012, Drumm hired Riggall as interim fire chief. A selection committee of local business and fire officials recommended Riggall be hired permanently; he was brought on at an annual salary of $66,000.

Council president Charlie Proctor declined to comment on Riggall's suspension, saying he is still reviewing Spina's memorandum and other documents.

Zephyrhills city manager urges council to fire the fire chief 06/03/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 8:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  2. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff's Office on Friday.
  3. Mayor Rick Kriseman says election is about moving forward


    Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office  Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward..

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally
  4. Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed when cars collide at Plant City intersection


    MULBERRY — The local high school has an enrollment of 1,000 but to some it feels like a tight-knit family. Many of Mulberry High School's students have spent all of their school days within the city limits, said principal Michael Young.

    Pepe Salgado, 18, was killed Friday along with his sister Frinzi Salgado-Diaz, 15, in a car crash in Plant City. They were passengers in a car driven by their cousin Edilberto Nava-Marcos, 18, who was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and was listed in critical condition. All three lived in Mulberry and attended Mulberry High School. [Polk County School District]
  5. Assisted living facility owner accused of sexually assaulting employee in Pinellas


    ST. PETERSBURG — An assisted living facility owner was arrested Thursday on charges that he sexually assaulted an employee, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.