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Fire chief relieved of duties after resignation

March 13, 2012
By BOB PETCHER, , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief Mike Becker is no longer with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District after tending a resignation to the District and being relieved of his duties by the fire commission. Asst. Chief Darren White will serve as acting chief until further notice.

After a short "special" meeting on Monday with fire administrative and district officials, a District statement was released to media outlets. The release featured a written notice by Becker stating his termination from employment effective June 19, 2012, and followed with the following: "As authorized by Section 20 of Chief Becker's Employment Agreement, the Board of Fire Commissioners has taken official action to relieve the Chief of his duties through the termination of his Employment Agreement on June 19, 2012."

The reason for Becker's resignation was not disclosed in the statement.

When reached by phone on Tuesday morning, White said proposed allegations against the chief were brought forth via a document at an administrative hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 29, to discuss "internal matters." Becker tended his resignation on Tuesday, March 6.

"During the administrative hearing, a document tried to be presented as evidence. It was not related to the case," said White. "In that letter, there were accusations against the Chief."

There have been rumors that Becker has been under a lot of stress with current ongoing impasse hearings, the administrative hearing and past allegations made against him. During a 14-month period in 2009 and 2010, the FMB Board of Fire Commissioners had Becker on investigation twice for two unrelated incidents.

On Oct. 20, 2009, Becker was placed on immediate administrative leave with pay due to allegations relating to prescription drug abuse and an intimate relationship with a district employee. More than a month later, he was back on duty after the findings of an investigation by court certified mediator Roger Benton determined no wrongdoing. No further investigation was pursued and two examinations cleared Becker for duty.

Then, on Nov. 16, 2010, Becker was placed under an informal investigation after it was learned an emailed complaint by a female fire fighter accused him of violating district policies concerning harassment and violence in the workplace. This time, a summarized report by Attorney Bradley Rothman of Weldon & Rothman, PL in Naples yielded no wrongdoing. Rothman stated he did not see any evidence of a substantial threat, a threatening behavior or something that would implicate the board's work place violence policy.

Unresolved issues between Becker and Union officials who represent Beach fire fighters remained and appeared to be an unsettling factor in the workplace. That was evident during public comment sessions at fire board meetings when accusatory comments were sent Becker's way.

Becker, who has served as FMB fire chief since late 2005, could not be reached for comment.

"This does not impede the ability to do our jobs to provide top quality, first emergency care to the citizens of Fort Myers Beach," said White.



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