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Suspended fire chief returns, then quits

WINDER - Barrow County's fire chief resigned after a public battle with the commission chairman. He is the eighth department director to leave this year.

Robert Post, a retired Gwinnett firefighter who took over the Barrow office after another embattled chief retired, served his last day Friday. He agreed to not make disparaging remarks against the county, according to a severance agreement.

In Post's resignation letter, dated March 25, he said he enjoyed his 20 months working with the department's employees. "Unfortunately, it is now time for me to move on and put my skills and experience to work elsewhere," Post said in the letter.

The resignation came the week Post returned to work after a five-day suspension for "insubordination."

He was placed on unpaid administrative leave for failing to obey new policies as the county's Board of Commissioners tried to cut costs, including allowing people to drive home county vehicles and allowing training that was not required.

Post was aggressively trying to expand the county fire department, but a hiring freeze left the department without enough staff to man the county's six fire engines and six ambulances, he said. A new ladder truck was not put into service because of the staffing issue.

Post, who made a salary of $70,107.30, joined the department in July 2007.

He will receive $4,954.70 to compensate him for accrued vacation and sick time.

Human Resources Director Norma Jean Brown said Assistant Chief Mark Melvin will act as chief. A search for a replacement will not begin immediately because of a hiring freeze, she said.

In 2007, Chief Mitch Kitchens retired after serving the second of two suspensions. He had been accused of mishandling two grant applications, and in May of 2005 he was accused of falsifying insurance reports and not reprimanding an employee.