Shake up at Liberty County ESD No. 2
A bit of drama unfolded for Liberty County ESD No. 2 after now former Chief Benny Carroll announced his resignation while hurling allegations against the board last week.
That announcement came at the Tuesday, July 26, meeting of the Liberty County Commissioners, when Carroll addressed the court during the public comment period.
“I put in my resignation for the 9th of August because I can no longer work for this organization,” Carroll continued, “including the spending of the money and also how they’re trying to run it. They’re not letting the chief run the fireside.
They think they are the chiefs, and they tell you how to run it.” Carroll questioned the board’s ethics and contended that it was his job to oversee the department, that the board was running interference, that several of the board members were an issue, and that county commissioners, who appoint those members, should make some changes to the board.
“You’ve got to cut off the head of the snake to make change,” said Carroll.
The board responded with a statement that countered Carroll and laid out reasons for the need for their oversight, such as legal reasons and being good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.
“Well, sir, that is exactly right. As we att ended training and learned more about what the board’s responsibility was, we began to take a closer look at the operations of our contracted service provider HDVFD. In the past, we have been giving them a blank check. Checks and balances were not in place as required by law. There was no transparency. The leaders of the HDVFD corporation appeared to be voted in on popularity, not chosen based on skills and experience. Some questionable actions were taking place on scenes and en route to incidences,” the statement read.
The board also cited insubordination by Carroll, which led to taking his official vehicle.
“Unfortunately, his insubordination was brought into question, and disciplinary actions were pending. His public rant is based on feelings and not the facts. One fact, we had to reprimand the chief for his personal use of the squad car. This cost the taxpayers $1,500 in fuel costs just for two months. We had to direct the chief to park the vehicle because the costs were unsustainable and not at all used for business,” said the board.
Carroll rebutted the board and claimed there had been a high volume of calls and that the size of his vehicle, coupled with gas prices, led to the increase.
Earlier in the year, the ESD voided its agreement with the Hull-Daisett a VFD in favor of a new contractor under their banner, which is common practice in Texas.
Following an incident in May of this year, Carroll said he was told to dismiss some department members, which he claimed had around 40.
“May the 12th, our ESD decided to lay a letter on the Chief’s desk to get rid of firemen that we had in our department because of feelings, not because of documentation stating that they were punished or terminated because of some incident they’d done,” said Carroll.
According to board president Johnny Slack, those numbers were skewed, and that department could only realistically provide equipment for around 25 firefighters.
“In 2020, to properly outfit a firefighter, it started at $3,500 just for basic protective clothing. You can only imagine what the pandemic and current economy have done to these costs,” the statement read.
Estimates put those figures near $8,000 today, including air supply for each firefighter.
As for the VFD members, Slack said they were not actually terminated and had all been given an opportunity to reapply and follow ESD policies under the new department, such as background checks on members.
Carroll suggested several department members would follow suit and depart alongside him; however, Slack believes they still have around 20 members, including the board.
Sunday night, ESD No. 2 voted to accept the resignation of Carroll, who, rather than waiting for Aug. 9, stepped down immediately. The board also voted to name J.T. Smith as the interim fire chief while they searched for a new leader.
Slack believes the department is in good shape and that they should know precisely where their membership stands at their next meeting.
“It’s up to them. We are not getting rid of anybody,” concluded Slack.
The board consists of Slack, Sonny DeBarge, Clayton Nugent, Peter Broussard, and Calvin Burk. You can read their entire statement at thevindicator.com.