1. #1
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    Post Hillsborough Fire Marshall Dismissed

    County fire marshal fired
    Randy Hinder is dismissed for not fixing a rift. He says he wasn't given enough time.
    By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
    Published April 12, 2005

    -------------------------


    TAMPA - For the second time in less than a year, Hillsborough County's fire marshal has left the department under a cloud of controversy.

    County fire Chief William Nesmith disclosed Monday that he fired Fire Marshal Randy Hinder on March 30, saying Hinder "promoted mistrust and suspicious feelings among his employees."

    He said the firing had nothing to do with sexual harassment claims that two employees in the fire marshal's office lodged against Hinder in recent months. County officials are continuing to investigate those claims.

    Nesmith insisted that he based his decision on Hinder's inability to cure a long-standing rift that had developed among employees in the fire marshal's office. In fact, the chief said, Hinder only exacerbated the situation.

    "He tended to promote a clique atmosphere within the office," Nesmith said. "The new fire marshal needed to bring a team concept into the fire marshal's office. That just didn't occur. Actually, even a bigger wedge was driven into the office."

    When Hinder resigned as Clearwater fire marshal in 2003, department records showed that his management style sometimes angered city officials. The city manager wrote at the time that it would be in Hinder's best interest "to go ahead and move on." But Nesmith said he heard no complaints before hiring Hinder in August.

    Hinder, 42, said Monday that the firing caught him off guard.

    "I had no idea," he said of losing his $80,000-per-year job. "It was rather a surprise."

    Hinder, a former Florida Fire Marshal of the Year, said he felt the expectations of him were unrealistic. When he arrived at the fire marshal's office in August, it already was rife with mistrust, ill communication, and a lack of management and competency, he said.

    "It was a whole series of things I was trying to rectify," he said. "It's just been years of poor management, poor leadership. Six months to correct years worth of problems is difficult for any manager."

    Hinder's departure comes on the heels of a disgraceful exit by his predecessor. Donald Goff resigned abruptly as fire marshal in June amid a federal investigation into activities on his home computer.

    According to an arrest affidavit, Goff spent time in an online chatroom meant for 9- to 15-year-old children and made contact with an FBI agent posing as a 14-year-old Florida girl with the screen name "kdra14fl."

    Over the following days he made numerous attempts to arrange a sexual encounter with kdra14fl and sent suggestive messages such as "love to give you a long deep french kiss right now" and "i would love to make love to you."

    Investigators said he also transmitted images over a Web cam that showed him fondling himself, including one in which he wore "a uniform with a white button-down shirt and dark slacks."

    Goff accepted a plea agreement in August and recently began serving a 37-month sentence in a federal prison in Texas.

    Nesmith said Monday that the turbulence of the past 10 months has shaken an already fractured environment inside the fire marshal's office.

    "It doesn't help the spirit of the office," he said. "It certainly doesn't make me happy. However, we've got to go on. Life goes on."

    For now, Nesmith's assistant chief, Bill Singleton, will continue as interim fire marshal. The department will start over by searching in-house for a new fire marshal. If that doesn't work, Nesmith said, he will conduct a national search.

    As for Hinder, he said he hasn't decided whether to fight his dismissal. And he's still waiting to hear the outcome of the sexual harassment claims against him, though he says, "I'm innocent of them."

    Hinder said Tuesday that he feels blessed to have the unwavering support of his wife and children, and he feels certain that he will land in a better situation down the road.

    "I'm kind of looking for work," he said. "It's time for a career change."

    [Last modified April 12, 2005, 01:24:13]
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Sunday, May 1

    Fire Marshal Job Too Hot To Handle
    By KEITH MORELLI kmorelli@tampatrib.com
    Published: Apr 13, 2005

    TAMPA - The position of Hillsborough County fire marshal has a high career mortality rate, with those of the past two men to fill that post coming to untimely ends.
    One is unemployed, and the other is in federal prison.

    The post has been open since the March 30 firing of Randy D. Hinder, whose stint lasted seven months. The previous fire marshal, Donald Goff, retired last year amid a federal investigation into computer crimes. He is serving a three-year prison term.

    Hinder, 42, took over for Goff on Aug. 22, coming from Hillsborough County Housing and Community Code Enforcement, where he was executive manager.

    The pairing didn't work, said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Bill Nesmith, who fired Hinder after the fire marshal refused to resign.

    Nesmith said two sexual harassment claims filed last month against Hinder had nothing to do with the firing.

    ``Bottom line,'' Nesmith said, ``there were ongoing performance issues, and I had to decide that even if he was innocent [of the harassment claims], could he go back to the fire marshal's office and be effective? The answer was no.''

    Hinder couldn't rebuild the team into what it had been, Nesmith said.

    The chief said the problems within the office were laid out for Hinder when he was hired.

    ``I was right up front with him,'' Nesmith said. ``I said, `You've got a tough job to do.' But a wedge was driven even further in that office. It has gotten worse. We were not making progress; we were going backward.''

    Hinder's job was to oversee arson investigations and fire safety activities, including fire code inspections and fire prevention educational programs. The department included six deputy fire marshals. Hinder said he knew there were personnel problems when he was hired: backbiting and professional and personal jealousy. They were outlined in a labor relations complaint finalized in February:

    ``The fire marshal's office appears to be rife with poor interpersonal relationships between employees and between employees and management,'' the report states. ``It is readily evident that employees have formed `support' groups among themselves. There are certain employees that have been reported as being in the clique aligned with management. The other employees have formed their own clique in opposition.''

    The fire marshal's office was mired in turmoil long before Hinder arrived.

    Goff, a 16-year veteran of the Hillsborough fire service, pleaded guilty in federal court in January to transferring obscene material to a minor and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and three years' probation, court documents state.

    ``The chief brought me in to fix some problems,'' Hinder said. ``I was trying to do team building, but the employees were not even talking to each other. There was a lack of communication, a lack of trust. ... I was trying to break down the walls.

    ``In my first six months, I was trying to overcome years of problems,'' Hinder said. ``I was not given sufficient time to fix those problems. It was a mess when I got there. It's still going to be a mess.''

    In March, the sexual harassment complaints were filed against Hinder.

    ``They are false allegations,'' he said. ``They are from two employees who were disciplined.'' The investigations into those allegations have not been resolved, he said. He has hired a lawyer.

    ``I will fight those complaints aggressively,'' he said. ``I will clear my reputation. I will clear my name.''

    Hinder finds himself out of an $80,000-a-year job, wondering what the future holds.

    He was a fire marshal in Clearwater and an adjunct instructor in the fire science program at St. Petersburg College. He holds a master's degree in business administration and degrees in public safety and fire science.

    ``Right now I'm disappointed and discouraged with the fire service,'' he said.

    Nesmith has begun the process of finding a new fire marshal. He has opened the position to those within the department, and if no one suitable is found, he will mount a nationwide search. If that happens, it could be July before a fire marshal is named, he said.

    Likely, the new fire marshal will find some of the same old personnel problems, Nesmith said.

    ``Most assuredly, it can be fixed,'' Nesmith said. ``There are a lot of good people who work there. They just need direction ... to make them feel they are part of the team.''


    Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 865-1504.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  3. #3
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    Goff indiscretions detailed in memo
    After receiving the note, a commissioner compares former Fire Marshal Donald Goff to John Couey.
    By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
    Published April 13, 2005

    ---------------------


    TAMPA - Former county Fire Marshal Donald Goff had pornographic Web links on his work computer, visited personal ad sites while on duty and once drove his department vehicle to an apartment complex he thought was home to a 14-year-old girl with whom he wanted to have sex, according to a recent memo.

    The memo, sent April 1 by county fire Chief William Nesmith to Commissioner Ronda Storms, offers another glimpse into the indiscretions of Goff, who resigned abruptly in June and later pleaded guilty to federal charges of possessing child porn and transferring obscene materials to a minor.

    Last month, he began serving a 37-month sentence at a federal prison in Texas.

    In the memo, Nesmith told Storms that technicians scanned Goff's work computer and found numerous links to pornographic Web sites dating to 2002. However, officials said Goff was not in the office when some of the sites were accessed and that someone else could have used his computer.

    They said Goff also admitted to visiting several "personals" Web sites while on duty, including Yahoo! Personals. Those sites were not pornographic but were unauthorized, the memo states.

    According to a federal arrest affidavit, Goff participated last June in an online chat room meant for 9- to 15-year-old children from his home computer. There, he made contact with an FBI agent posing as a 14-year-old Florida girl with the screen name "kdra14fl."

    Over the following days, he made numerous attempts to arrange a sexual encounter with kdra14fl. It was during that time that Goff transmitted images over a Web cam that showed him holding his penis while wearing his fire marshal uniform.

    Also during that week, while dressed in uniform, he drove his department vehicle to a Temple Terrace apartment complex where he thought the girl lived.

    "This was the first I had heard of this and I was totally surprised," Nesmith wrote in his memo.

    Storms' first reaction was disgust.

    "It's terrible. It's bone chilling," she said Tuesday. "It's a compete abuse of power, and it shows how frightening people like this are."

    Storms compared Goff with John Couey, a sexual offender recently charged in Citrus County with the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.

    "(They) are the same people; they are the same characters," Storms said, adding that Goff's case is perhaps more troubling because he was a respected fire official. "This was an individual you place trust into. That's what makes it more frightening."

    Storms also had inquired about whether Goff had any unsupervised encounters with children while fire marshal, but Nesmith wrote in the memo that none could be confirmed. He would occasionally drop in on events such as the Florida State Fair, but any exposure to children would have been in proximity to other people, Nesmith wrote.

    It's been a trying year for the county's Fire Marshal's Office, which by all accounts is rife with discontent and infighting. After Goff's resignation, Nesmith hired former Clearwater Fire Marshal Randy Hinder to try to revive the office.

    But on March 30, barely seven months later, he fired Hinder, saying the new fire marshal had only deepened the rifts within the office. A search for another fire marshal will begin soon, Nesmith said Monday.

    [Last modified April 13, 2005, 01:29:17]
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  4. #4
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    Tampa Tribune

    Retiree Earned Pension

    Published: Apr 28, 2005




    Regarding ``Sex Crime Could End County Pension'' (Metro, April 21):
    The recent action by Hillsborough County Commissioner Storms to revoke the retirement benefits of a county employee convicted of a crime is simply inappropriate. Former Fire Marshal Don Goff has committed one of the worst crimes imaginable. However, who has given the county commission the right to be the judge and the jury? Goff has been convicted and is serving his sentence. What the commission needs to remember is that these heinous crimes took place in his private life.

    Commissioners need to think about the legal costs their action might bring. What crime might be added next to the list of acts punishable by the revocation of someone's pension?<

    ANTHONY PAZTampa
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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