The Edmond Sun

October 29, 2012

Ex-fire official seeks reinstatement

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — An ex-fire official recently fired by the City of Edmond has filed a formal grievance with the city and wants his job back, his attorney said Monday.

Earlier in the day, in response to an Open Records Act request submitted by The Edmond Sun, City Manager Larry Stevens cited personnel exemptions in explaining the city’s denial of a request for paperwork related to a grievance filed by former Assistant Fire Chief Tim Wheeler.

Stevens did, however, release two documents related to Wheeler’s dismissal. One was a short memo informing the fire official that he was being terminated for just cause effective Oct. 1, the day the memo was sent.

The second document informed Wheeler that he would be receiving his normal paycheck on Oct. 5, and on the next payday (Oct. 19) he would receive his last check. It stated that the last check would include eight hours pay for Oct. 1, 2012, plus pay for 185 hours of accumulated vacation and 44.5 hours of compensatory time.

Among those who received the documents were Wheeler’s attorney James Moore. Moore confirmed that his client has filed a formal grievance concerning his termination with the local chapter of the International Association of Firefighters, and that the local grievance committee is reviewing the facts.

Stevens said the city is awaiting the committee’s formal response.

Moore said his client wants to be reinstated in his former job and to recover financial loss for items such as pay and benefits. Regarding the outcome of the grievance, Moore said he fully expects the city to deny it. The next step would be to select a neutral arbitrator and schedule a hearing.

Moore said his client is extremely upset about this issue and wants to present it to someone neutral. He also wants his reputation restored. Moore said it’s sad the city took a year before taking the action it did.

“His termination was totally unjust,” Moore said.

 On Oct. 7, 2011,  Wheeler, who was then the city’s fire prevention chief and public information officer for the Edmond Fire Department, was placed on paid administrative leave after a city worker alleged that he pointed a small-caliber pistol at another employee. While he was on leave, the gross pay he received from the city was $106,375.82.

In 2011, Edmond Human Resources Director Anita Breen had just begun an internal investigation into the matter.

The alleged incident occurred Oct. 6, 2011, according to information released previously by the Edmond Police Department. At about 1:30 p.m. on that date, the agency received a call from a Fire Department employee who said he was aware of a “dangerous situation at Fire Station No. 5,” which he felt he had to report, police said. The caller went on to say he believed it had risen to a “criminal situation,” police said.

The reporting party said he had information that Wheeler had allegedly pulled a small-caliber pistol out of his back pocket and pointed it in the direction of a fellow employee, police said.

Wheeler has denied the allegations.

When The Sun last inquired earlier this month about the status of the Police Department’s investigation into the matter, the agency said it was ongoing. | 341-2121, ext. 108