Barrow Co. fire chief suspended

LAWRENCEVILLE - Barrow County Fire Chief Robert Post has complained that a county hiring freeze has kept him too short-staffed to keep ambulances on the street.

Now, the department is down one more man, after Post was suspended for "insubordination" for disobeying new policies as the Board of Commissioners tries to cut the county budget.

Post has been on unpaid administrative leave since Tuesday, and assistant fire chief Mark Melvin is serving in his place.

Barrow Chairman Daniel Yearwood wrote in a memo that Post has been "untruthful" and failed to follow written and verbal directives about new policies as the county tries to cut its budget.

Yearwood said Post claimed a training session for employees was mandatory, but the chairman learned it was not required for staffers to maintain certifications. Yearwood said he questioned the expense of the training in the current fiscal climate.

In the memo, Yearwood said Post's actions demonstrated "a disrespect for the efforts of the Board of Commissioners in trying to control costs and manage the budget."

He also said the chief "refused to heed" orders that no one was to drive home a county vehicle without Yearwood's permission.

Post was not in the office Thursday. Yearwood did not return a call left at his office.

In a five-page memo in February, Post said the county's hiring freeze has left the county without enough firefighters to cover the county's six fire engines and six ambulances. A new ladder truck has been sitting unmanned because of the shortage.

"In a time when we are seeing the number of fires increasing ... and the increase of requests for emergency medical service, further reductions to an already understaffed department cannot be warranted," Post wrote, saying the department already reduced salaries and cut operating expenses. "We are now at a critical point."

Post took over the department in July of 2007 after retiring from the Gwinnett County Department of Fire and Emergency Services. His salary is $70,107.30.