The former St. Johns County Fire Chief who said he was forced to resign from his position this month is fighting to get reinstated as a firefighter.
Scott Bullard and his supporters addressed county commissioners on Tuesday morning. A firefighter who is head of the union also spoke against him.
Bullard doesn’t necessarily want to be chief again, but he wants to stay with the department.
Bullard said a county administrator told him he would still be able to work with St. Johns County Fire Rescue in another capacity if he tendered his resignation as chief and asked his supporters to remain quiet. This came after Bullard was involved in a series of disputes with the county and the firefighters union.
“I’m here to speak on my own behalf, and I’m speaking because I refuse to be intimidated,” Bullard said during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
Bullard, 49, told county commissioners he could live without being the fire chief of the department where he’s worked for 22 years. But Bullard said he wants his former position of battalion chief back, saying he had a verbal agreement with Interim County Administrator Joy Andrews.
“The false promises made to me by a particular member of this administration that I would be allowed to revert to my former position if I stop my campaign of supporters are shameful,” Bullard said.
Bullard filed a grievance against St. Johns County and said the county violated the law by refusing him employment with the department. His wife also spoke publicly on Tuesday along with colleagues he’s worked with over the years.
“As for the fire department, past practices are that former chiefs can revert back to their position as battalion chief, the chiefs are able to revert back to their position, why not my husband?” Amanda Bullard said.
″I worry that reputation will be tarnished by the wasteful dismissal of Scott Bullard. I understand he’s not your choice for fire chief, but he should be allowed to return as battalion chief,” said Barry Dunn who served under Bullard.
Supporters of Bullard pointed to a Change.org petition calling for his reinstatement which has been signed by nearly 800 people, but not everybody said Bullard deserves to be back on the force.
“He misled an entire department, saying the uniforms were safe, when we said they were not. He’s not a victim here, and this is one instance,” said David Stephens, head of the St. Johns County firefighters union.
Stephens is referring to Bullard’s decision to move away from National Fire Protection Association-approved uniforms. Stephens said the new uniforms ordered for 24 new hires were made out of polyester and would be detrimental to firefighters’ safety.
Bullard also came under fire during Hurricane Idalia, when some of his colleagues expressed concern about a lack of communication and inaccuracies in the fire incident plan. Bullards sat down with News4JAX last week and said his employment with the county is protected by the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
″I’m not ready to walk away from this job, I’ve done it for 22 years,” he said.
St Johns County Officials issued a statement about the search for Bullard’s replacement which reads in part: “Through a national search, we are optimistic we will be able to bring on a top-notch Fire Rescue leader who embraces the principle of servant leadership, who is not afraid of showing compassion and care for our team members, who recognizes the value of internal and external collaboration to ensure effective emergency response.”
St. Johns County officials did not provide News4JAX an answer to our direct question if Bullard was promised a job if he tendered his resignation.