The fire chief and one other high-ranking leader of the Lake Cities Fire Department have been placed on paid administrative leave in the months after a lawsuit was filed claiming abuses by some in the department’s leadership.
Bob Hart, the Corinth city manager, said Assistant Chief Michael Ross is running the department while Chief Curtis Birt and Deputy Chief Brandon Shepard are away from the controls as Corinth officials conduct an internal investigation into claims Hart and other officials have declined to disclose to the public. The inquiry started three or four weeks ago, Hart said, and is expected to conclude in the coming week.
Ross is named in a September lawsuit, filed in the 431st District Court of Denton County by former firefighter Todd Foust, who claims he was ousted from the department in retaliation for involving human resources on a complaint that his superiors were not enforcing certain codes.
The petition alleges one night in July 2017, Capt. Robert Lambert woke Foust and other firefighters to witness “disturbing behavior of cursing, screaming and extreme hostility being directed at a member of this crew.” The petition does not name the employee who allegedly was berated. Foust expressed to his superiors the event disturbed him.
Foust’s petition says he found chewed tobacco and saliva in the gloves paramedics use when treating patients. He said that, on more than one occasion, his hands touched the tobacco spit when putting on the gloves. He wrote a formal complaint with Corinth human resources officials, saying it was a violation of Corinth’s tobacco policy and a clear health issue.
He claims after he filed his formal complaint, Foust’s captain put him through professional counseling for not following the chains of command, according to court documents.
Foust also says in October 2017, he declined to receive a city credit card because one of his colleagues was put on administrative leave for an investigation into a purchase they had paid, the lawsuit shows. Foust said he returned the card, which prompted Ross to write in his personnel file about not taking the card. In the same filing, Ross wrote Foust was not performing his assigned maintenance duties. Foust denies it and says Ross’ response is part of a larger attempt to retaliate against him.
Ross ultimately launched an investigation into Foust in November 2017. Foust ultimately was fired in May, according to the lawsuit.
The Lake Cities Fire Department is a function of the Corinth city government. The department serves the public in Corinth, Hickory Creek, Shady Shores and Lake Dallas.
Hart said the internal investigation into Birt and Shepard are not related to Foust’s lawsuit. And whatever city officials are investigating, Hart characterized the accusations prompting the inquiry as “groundless,” and he does not expect the results of it to affect anybody’s job.
Foust’s attorney, Chuck Elsey, declined to comment about the case on Tuesday. Foust, a Denton resident, could not be reached on Tuesday.