Currituck fire chief responds to intimidation claims

CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — The chief of the Currituck Fire and EMS Department is breaking his silence after current and former staff members complained he created a hostile workplace.

Chief Robert Glover told his department Monday that he will leave his post and accept a position with the North Carolina Office of EMS. So, Tuesday morning he spoke with 10 On Your Side about the anonymous complaints given to County Manager Dan Scanlon in May.

Glover said the complaints did not force his hand: “I have not seen the letters, so I don’t know what the letters said. They were anonymous letters, and so I didn’t react to letters,” Glover said.

Current and former employees, who did not want to reveal their identities, say the culture in the department was one of fear.

“They felt like there would be retribution for just about anything, not necessarily for their jobs all the time, but for the threat of transfers,” said one former employee.

A current medic said Glover was not open to input from his staff: “There is no room for questioning. If you disagreed or questioned Chief Glover, You found yourself transferred to Corolla, Knotts Island, to a different shift.”

Former county medic Richard Labounty said he was transferred to a different station forty miles away.

“I filed a formal grievance with the county. I sat down with Chief Glover, and he basically told me I had no right to grieve that,” Labounty said. “I was an employee of his, and I would do anything he told me to do.”

But Glover said he transferred seasoned staffers so they could teach others who were less-experienced: “Transfers in this department are relatively new, and they have always been with some emotion. A lot of folks feel that they’ve been here and their tenure allows them to stay put.”

The staffers who complained about Glover’s management style say the number of staffers complaining, and the turnover rate since Glover became chief in 2010, prove their point.

“There are so many of us. It’s more than half of the department that made the initial complaint,” said a current medic, who wants to remain anonymous. “And the turnover is unprecedented. We have lost such good providers.”

Glover said turnover has not been abnormally high, and most of those who have left the department in recent years have moved on for career advancement or family-related decisions. But as he prepares to leave the department, Glover acknowledges he’s the one held accountable for the complaints that went to the county manager.

“I’ll take full responsibility for what they feel and their perception,” he said. “It’s trying to create a new culture. It’s trying to reason with the old culture. It’s not been easy. Some of them aren’t comfortable with that. They feel that the more rigorous of an organization, a paramilitary type of style, as we progress with that, it takes away a sense of leniency.”

The assessment team that is looking into the complaints against Glover includes the county’s human resources director, a county paralegal, and an outside attorney specializing in labor law. Scanlon said he hopes to have their report by July 31.

Glover’s last day as chief is August 1.

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