Bradenton Herald

No explanation yet for firing of Parrish fire chief
Herald Staff Writer

PARRISH - For two months now, Parrish fire commissioners have refused to answer the question: Where's the chief?

Since firing former chief Claude Bailey on Jan. 25, commissioners have only alluded to the chief situation publicly. When asked the reason for the firing, commissioners cite only "performance issues."

Tuesday's meeting was no different.

Commission Chairman Gary Combee thanked North River Fire Chief Mike Johnson for acting as temporary chief for Parrish and alluded to the way Bailey has run the district.

"Appreciate your help, chief," Combee said to Johnson. "You've got things back to the way they should've been."

Bailey has not returned telephone calls from the Herald seeking comment on the firing.

Other than a vote on an agreement with North River detailing the relationship between the two districts, the commission was silent on the firing of the old chief and the possible hiring of another.

On Feb. 25, the commission was poised to discuss hiring criteria for a new chief, but postponed any discussion to a later date without providing a reason for the delay.

The commission discussed one item that suggested Bailey was doing something right: the district's annual financial audit.

Edward Leonard, the auditor hired by the district, gave Parrish good grades for having plenty of money. The audit showed that the district spent less than expected and had $246,923 left over at the end of the last fiscal year - more than half of their income.

The only criticism the auditor had was the way Parrish handled paperwork. The audit indicated that paperwork for certain grants and other items was difficult or impossible to find.

"We did have a lot of difficulty getting all the documents," Leonard told the commission. "We asked for months at a time and we couldn't get them."

The auditor also noted that the district was needlessly paying sales tax on several items.

The district has scheduled a public hearing for new tax assessment rates at 7:30 p.m. April 22.