Davis terminated as city’s fire chief

Published 1:31 pm Friday, January 1, 2010

Contributing Editor

The termination of Jimmy Davis as chief of Washington’s Fire-Rescue-EMS-Inspections Department during the summer of 2009 had people talking for days, if not weeks.
In a press release issued July 17, City Manager James C. Smith announced that Davis had been separated from employment with the city. A month before he was terminated, Davis had been placed on administrative leave by Smith. That termination is the No. 6 story on the Washington Daily News’ list of Top 10 local stories for 2009.
Within hours after his termination, Davis and attorney Brian Jones said they believed city residents and others have the right to know the circumstances surrounding Davis’ termination. To that end, they filed a formal grievance with the city.
In September, while waiting for a grievance hearing to be scheduled, Davis added attorney Reagan Weaver to his legal team. Davis said Weaver, a member of the Capitol District Law Offices in Raleigh, has been added to Davis’ legal team to respond to the city’s actions against Davis.
In July, Davis and Jones said the public has the right to know the circumstances surrounding Davis’ termination.
Davis, during an interview in July, said allegations against him include, but are not limited to, the following:
• having city employees pick up lunch orders for him;
• having city employees run errands such as making deposits at banks for him;
• having city employees make appointments for things such as haircuts for him;
• taking and making personal phone calls on his city-owned cell phone;
• showing favoritism to some city employees;
• personal use of a city-owned copy machine;
• using city employees and equipment for personal business.
Davis said he’s been accused of confronting city employees, accusing a city employee in his department of having extra-marital affairs and making inappropriate comments at the fire station.
Previously, Jones said he and Davis believe the former fire chief is the target of an unfair investigation.
Davis denies any wrongdoing in regard to his job performance as a city employee. He said the allegations against him are unfounded.
Smith, during an interview in July, said the allegations against Davis are not criminal in nature and that Davis had not been the subject of a criminal investigation.
Davis believes some activities outside his city employment, such as his involvement with the local Cal Ripken baseball league, are a factor, to some degree, in his being placed on leave and then terminated.
“I do feel there are some things that are not connected with my employment that are affecting this,” said Davis this past summer, adding that he believes his association with the baseball league was frowned upon by some city officials.
Davis said he has a right to pursue and enjoy such associations, noting that the city’s mission statement encourages city employees to become involved with the community they serve. Davis said those associations did not interfere with his job.
City officials, citing personnel laws and policies, have declined to discuss the matter.
In November, Davis was hired by Belhaven to serve as the town’s police chief for four months at $5,000 a month. He replaced Derrick Myers, a volunteer, as chief.
“Chief Davis is disappointed that the grievance procedures mandated by the City of Washington did not result in what he hoped would be a meaningful opportunity to examine any evidence the City claimed it relied upon when terminating his employment. Chief Davis has filed a Petition alleging unjust dismissal against the City of Washington with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings,” wrote Jones in an e-mail received by the Daily News on Tuesday. “An administrative law judge has been assigned to the case, and a hearing has been tentatively scheduled for April of 2010. It appears the hearing is scheduled to take place in New Bern, North Carolina, though we are exploring the possibility of requesting that the hearing take place in Washington, North Carolina for the convenience of witnesses.”
“After the city manager ended Chief Davis’ employment with the City of Washington, Chief Davis filed an unemployment claim with the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina,” Jones wrote. “He was informed that the Employment Security Commission Adjudicator, based solely on written statements submitted by Chief Davis and the City of Washington, determined that Chief Davis was not discharged by the City of Washington for misconduct or substantial fault connected with his work. The City of Washington appealed the decision, and we anticipate that an in-person hearing will take place in the near future.”
“While Chief Davis is encouraged by the ESC’s initial decision regarding his eligibility for unemployment benefits, he is working on a short-term basis for the Town of Belhaven,” Jones’ wrote. “I suspect he will do in Belhaven what he did for more than 25 years in Washington — that is to say he will help the Town improve its overall fire protection services and, more specifically, help Belhaven achieve an improved fire insurance rating. Chief Davis has the knowledge and experience to assist Belhaven. It seems to be a good fit.”