The investigation into the chief’s behaviors came after department employees said he smelled like alcohol, slurred his words and acted indecisively at an apartment fire on Dec. 31.
Authorities have cleared Everett’s fire chief of accusations that he responded drunk to a New Year’s Eve apartment fire that killed one, displaced dozens and injured 15 people, according to findings from an independent investigation released Monday.
Before responding to the fire at The Bluffs at Evergreen, Chief Murray Gordon had one glass of wine at a restaurant, though he was not impaired, according to a summary of the review’s findings. He will not face disciplinary action.
“There is credible evidence that Chief Gordon had consumed alcohol before responding to the scene, which [he] admits was poor judgment on his part,” the summary says. “There is no credible evidence that Chief Gordon responded to the scene under the influence of intoxicants or impaired by his consumption of intoxicants.”
City officials hired an attorney with Seattle’s Summit Law Group to conduct the investigation after three fire department employees made allegations last month that Gordon smelled of alcohol, slurred his words and acted indecisively at the fire, as if he were drunk.
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Since Gordon’s blood-alcohol level was not tested, the investigation relied on reviewing audio recordings and interviewing witnesses, many of whom are former and current city employees. The investigation cost about $13,000.
Gordon, who has been at the helm since 2001, has denied the allegations. In a statement released Monday, he said he is pleased with the investigation’s results and he looks forward to “putting this behind us.”
In light of the findings, Paul Gagnon, president of the Everett Firefighters Union, said in a statement the city’s firefighters support a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to consuming alcohol on duty or on call, adding all employees should be held to the same standards.
“Public employees should not drink on duty, period,” he says. “The public and the firefighters who serve and protect them expect nothing less.”
The Dec. 31 fire started in a mattress. More than 90 firefighters and emergency-medical personnel responded.