By Michael Howell
The Florence Volunteer Fire Department Board of Trustees has launched an investigation into allegations of mismanagement and possibly criminal actions by past and present employees including current Fire Chief Charlie Lambson.
Accusations of mismanagement and possible criminal activity have surfaced and resurfaced at the department over the last few years. The most recent complaints led the board to hire a private attorney, Kim Christopherson, and a company called Maverick Management Solutions to look into the allegations.
At a meeting held last week, Board Chairman Keith O’Brien said that he had received a report from the investigator and that the board would be discussing it in a closed meeting. A few people in attendance, including Fire Chief Charlie Lambson and a reporter from the Bitterroot Star, protested the closure of the meeting. After some discussion it was decided not to go into closed session to consider the report. Instead, the meeting was simply cancelled.
Asked what allegations were being investigated, O’Brien said the same allegations that were recently made public in an e-mail that was disseminated to the press.
In that e-mail, Jason Sorlien claims that the Florence Fire Department “is plagued by frequent immoral, unethical, and illegal activity.” He states that the problems have been ongoing for years but worsened under current Fire Chief Charlie Lambson’s leadership. He claims Lambson is being protected by relatives and friends on the board.
In what he calls a partial list, Sorlien lists several general accusations including “witness tampering, criminal negligence, falsification of public documents and records, bullying, sexual misconduct/harassment, unethical use of funds, defamation/slander, retaliation, discrimination, putting department members’ lives at risk, misconduct and law violations on medical calls/scenes, and frequent use of extreme vulgar language.”
Lambson claims there is no truth to any of the allegations.
“In my opinion I have done nothing wrong,” said Lambson. He also said that he has nothing to hide and would like any discussion of any accusations against him to be done in public.
“Right now I don’t know what accusations they are really investigating nor any of their findings,” said Lambson. He said it was not fair to be victimized by the kind of anonymous allegations about activity at the department that have surfaced and resurfaced for years without any evidence ever being presented.
“Accusations like this can be damaging,” said Lambson, “but what I want is for the truth to come out. I have nothing to hide and the truth is the truth.”
Board Chairman O’Brien said that the investigation was instituted following a grievance that was registered with the board and is currently in the process of being addressed. He said the board had privacy concerns to consider but the report was going to be turned over to an attorney representing the grieving parties on Friday, March 14 and that the Board had scheduled a meeting for Monday, March 17 to consider the report.