Carthage firefighters have told city leaders they have no confidence in the leadership of Fire Chief Chris Thompson, and several people, including a retired city fire marshal and the wife of a former fire chief, asked the council to fire the chief at an emotional city council meeting on Tuesday.
Carthage firefighters have told city leaders they have no confidence in the leadership of Fire Chief Chris Thompson, and several people, including a retired city fire marshall and the wife of a former fire chief, asked the council to fire the chief at an emotional city council meeting on Tuesday.
Carthage Mayor Mike Harris said the council discussed the complaints against Thompson in a closed session that was called for legal matters because of the threat of a lawsuit against the city in the matter, but no votes were taken in the closed session.
"This has not ended, but it's close," Harris said after the closed session. "There is a continuing investigation into the matter, but we're close to wrapping it up."
Harris said he received a written copy of the firefighters' vote of no confidence on Monday night. He said most of the the rest of the council received it at Tuesday's meeting.
In what the firefighters billed as their "Notice of letter of no confidence," they said 18 firefighters below the rank of chief officer met on Sunday to cast ballots to decide whether to proceed with their action.
The firefighters' letter said Deputy Chief Roger Williams and City Council Member Ed Hardesty were at the meeting to "witness the vote and attest to the validity."
"The result of the vote was 14-4, or 78 percent, in favor of proceeding with notification of the above mentioned, that we as a department have no confidence in Chris Thompson to perform the duties of fire chief for the Carthage Fire Department," the letter from the firefighters said. "His numerous acts of misconduct and abuse of authority, as well as his poor tactical and personal decision making ability have led us to confidently declare that he is no longer fit to be in command of the men in this fire department."
Thompson declined to talk about the matter or respond to the allegations raised by the speakers after Tuesday's council session and left the meeting before the start of the closed session.
A crowd filled the council chambers at the 7:30 p.m. start of the regular meeting.
Many came to comment on a proposed ordinance that would allow people to raise chickens in the city limits, but some stood to talk about Thompson.
Michael Nixon, a rural Carthage resident and son of former Carthage Fire Marshall Tom Nixon, spoke for nearly eight minutes from a prepared statement about Thompson's actions before Mayor Harris cut off his comments.
Michael Nixon said a "formal complaint" had been filed on Aug. 5, including 26 pages of text message transcripts and a picture, by a former firefighter who said Thompson had propositioned his wife for sex, "while promising her an employment position as a secretary at the Carthage Fire Department."
Joshua Anderson, a former Carthage firefighter, said in the Aug. 5 complaint, that Thompson had sent "sexually suggestive messages to his wife, and even a picture of his genitalia."
In his complaint, Anderson detailed how he had left the Carthage Fire Department for another job in 2012, but asked to come back after about a week, when he realized the new job wasn't what he thought it would be.
Anderson said Thompson declined to rehire him twice, once because he hadn't taken some tests that Thompson required.
After Anderson passed the tests, Thompson told him he didn't rehire people who left the department.
Anderson said Thompson reached out to Anderson's wife about a secretarial job at the fire department and even sent messages giving her information to help her get the job, but he didn't hire her.
Anderson's letter said Thompson continued texting Anderson's wife and "upon finding that we were going through a rough patch, escalated his efforts in seducing my wife."
Anderson said the text messages continued into this summer.
Michael Nixon said this wasn't the first incident of Thompson acting inappropriately and spoke about how Thompson had allegedly used "intimidating and dispiriting behavior towards the men and women of the fire department in order to have them submit and never question the authority of the chief."
Tom Nixon, a 34-year veteran of the Carthage Fire Department and city fire marshall at the time of his retirement at the beginning of this year, asked the council to "make him resign," referring to Thompson.
"He's degraded the men and they're hurting at the fire department," Tom Nixon said. "You can't bury this under the carpet."
Carol Cooper, the wife of retired Fire Chief John Cooper, told the council she was "saddened that the Carthage Fire Department has been tainted, not just in Carthage, but to far reaching areas of the state of Missouri."