PORT ORANGE, Fla. — Fire Chief Ken Fustin has been fired over an “inexcusable” verbal attack toward Volusia County official Joseph Pozzo at a Daytona Beach Cracker Barrel restaurant, according to the City of Port Orange and an internal report on the incident.
What You Need To Know
- Port Orange fires its fire chief over a verbal attack toward a Volusia County official
- The city's interim city manager called Ken Fustin's behavior "inexcusable"
- A city report cites a possible "unprofessional relationship" between the chief and official
Interim City Manager Jamie Miller took the action this week after an administrative investigation of misconduct from the April 1 incident, the city said.
A city investigative report said it looked into and sustained a complaint from Pozzo, the county's senior manager for fire and EMS, who had alleged that Fustin used vulgar profanity toward him and challenged him in the restaurant to a fight by saying: “You want to see unprofessional, we can step outside right now and I will show you what unprofessional looks like," according to the report.
The incident happened during a lunch meeting that involved other city and county officials to discuss Fustin's desire to initiate a "24-hour transport unit," records show.
Fustin became angry and verbally abusive toward Pozzo upon hearing that the transport unit "was not able to happen," according to a witness account in the report. He also threatened Puzzo with contacting a specific media member about the matter, according to the report.
The tension reached a point where one witness said he recalled thinking, “'oooh! Get the popcorn' because there is about to be a show," the report said.
“Mr. Fustin’s actions were inexcusable and did not meet the city’s standard expectation of employee behavior, especially from our Executive staff," Miller said in a news release. "This type of conduct will not be tolerated as per our city policies and Core Values and has been dealt with quickly."
Fustin, who had been the city’s fire chief since 2016, had been on administrative leave since April 7.
"It is unfortunate that this incident occurred," Kevin A. Captain, Volusia County's director of community information, wrote in an email to Spectrum News 13 in response to our email to Pozzo for comment. "... County staff cooperated with the City’s investigation and it is not our practice to comment on the personnel actions of another agency."
Spectrum News 13's efforts to reach Fustin have been unsuccessful.
Britt W. Gerdes, a human resources employee relations specialist for the City of Port Orange, wrote in the city’s Final Investigative Report that the city “did observe that there may be a strong history of an unprofessional relationship between Chief Fustin and Chief Pozzo which may have been a contributing factor to the reported conduct.”
“However,” it continued, “the investigation focused on the reported allegations and if Chief Fustin did engage in the reported conduct.”
The report said Fustin “sincerely apologized” during the interview process “for using profane and vulgar language while in the workplace and most specifically towards Director Pozzo. It was a culmination of many months of frustration towards Director Pozzo for stalling our 24-hour ambulance coverage, placing the citizens, visitors and members at risk.”
Port Orange is a city of about 65,000 residents just south of Daytona Beach.