More fallout at the Memphis Fire Department. Deputy Fire Chief Claude Talford is out of a job. Another bombshell in City government. Another longtime administrator is out. And his dismissal sent ripples through the fire department.
Word of the Deputy Director's dismissal spread like wildfire at headquarters. But no one was talking in the top offices, at least not to us. "No interviews at this time." And even high-ranking fire officials would say nothing. "We can't talk. If we talk to you, it could hurt us."
Claude Talford is a 24 year veteran of the fire services division, eligible for pension, but out in the latest Mayoral broom-sweep. Sources in City government believe it may be connected to emails, a series of exchanges between Talford and Reggie Davis, the head of the Progressive Black Firefighters Association. It was a digital fight about membership dues and about the union's support of a white candidate for fire director. And then this burning statement from Talford to Davis, "You were not saying that when I was telling you how to move up and what to look for when taking assessment tests." We tried reaching Talford at his home but Talford wasn't there.
The City's Chief Administrative Officer, Keith McGee, says there's no connection between his dismissal and the emails. McGee said, "It's a management team transition and no relation to whatever email it is that's been spoken of." Reporter: "Are you aware that there's some talk that he may have helped some people, some firefighters with assessment tests?" McGee: "I don't have any information concerning that."
Late Friday afternoon, Action News Five got a statement from Talford saying the email was "a personal attack," and he faltered in his response. He says his point was to make sure qualified black candidates are promoted fairly through the ranks. But no where in the statement does it say anything about helping with assessment tests.
McGee says there is no ongoing investigation into the emails, and that at this point, no one has sent them to him. McGee says Talford's position will remain vacant until a new director takes over. Meanwhile, that ball is already rolling.
This isn't the first turmoil the Memphis Fire Department has seen in the past few weeks. The Memphis City Council voted down Jerry Crawford's nomination for Director of Fire Services. The council will conduct a national search to fill that position.
Meanwhile, Fire Chief John Looney will act as chief of administrative services and will be responsible for day-to-day operations.