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Consultant gives input on BCFD chief

It’s been nearly three months since Will Gray was terminated as chief of the Boulder City Fire Department.

While no permanent replacement has been named, discussion regarding the city’s decision continues to swirl around town via discussions, emails and social media.

Prior to Gray’s termination, the city hired an independent, third-party consultant to investigate several allegations made against Gray by a former employee and to assess the department’s morale, temperature, work environment and culture. The consultant recommended that unless things changed, the city may want to consider looking for a new chief.

“The comments, and sentiments from over 97% of the interviewees overwhelmingly relayed that Chief Gray created and fostered an atmosphere of distrust, discontent, and disconnection with the staff,” consultant Jerry Keating wrote in his six-page report.

Keating concluded the report by writing, “Depending on the outcome of the BCFD cultural assessment and Chief Gray’s willingness to address the issues raised, the city may want to consider the possibility of leadership change within the department to restore trust and morale among staff members, as well as hire the correct person who will work at creating a work culture for success, cohesiveness, confidence, and effective communication.”

But the city had terminated Gray 12 days before it received Keating’s report.

Third-party investigation

Keating, of Core 4 Consulting, was retained by the city on March 12 as a consultant to conduct the third-party investigation following a complaint received by the city on March 4.

Core 4 Consulting, according to an invoice obtained by the Boulder City Review, was paid $10,000 for the report. Gray was terminated on April 4, although the city did not receive Keating’s report until April 16, according to an email from Keating to then-City Manager Taylour Tedder. City officials have said that since Gray’s termination is a personnel matter, they could not comment.

The complaint, which was filed by retired firefighter Walt West through the city council and city manager’s office, alleged that Gray created a hostile work environment for the city’s fire department employees.

“In addition, the complainant specified that the climate created by Chief Gray fostered an atmosphere of disconnection and disagreement among personnel,” the report states.

Concerning the scope of the workplace cultural assessment, Keating was asked to determine whether the allegations of a hostile work environment, discrimination and harassment were credible and, if so, whether they constituted a violation by Gray of the city’s policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Keating reported interviewing 21 members of the fire department. Of those, two employees alleged that the fire chief had discriminated against them. One of the employees filed a grievance following the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

“After evaluating both issues, talking to each of the respective interviewees, and reviewing all the information provided, the consultant concludes that neither issue discussed by the two noted employees rise to the level of a ‘hostile work environment,’ per the definition provided by the” Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the report states, adding that the allegation was unsubstantiated.

However, Keating found that a second allegation — whether Boulder City Fire was experiencing an atmosphere of disconnection and discontent, conflicting directives, poor decision-making, and a lack of trust between Gray and department personnel — was substantiated.

Boulder City Fire Department Capt. Nigel Walton, son of Councilman Steve Walton, also experessed concern to Tedder about Gray.

“I will let the third-party investigation speak for Mr. Gray’s leadership, and the city manager’s action in relation to his employment, stand as statement enough regarding Mr. Gray’s acrimony and lack of credibility,” the fire captain told the Review in a recent email. “I have no desire to wallow down in negativity and discontent, our community deserves better.”

The former fire chief said Nigel Walton’s complaints were never investigated or supported by any evidence.

Gray’s response to report

Gray said he was surprised by the content of Keating’s report.

“The consultant did not include a single statement from our two-hour-and-45-minute discussion,” Gray said. “He also did not include the many false allegations that were made and we cleared up. He only included statements that make me look bad.”

Gray said the only aspect of the report that seems accurate is that when he is frustrated or angry with another person he tends to go to his office and not engage them until he’s in a place where he can visit without saying something he might regret.

“This is how I have always been,” Gray said. “I do not believe in yelling or arguing as it is unhealthy behavior. I did not yell at a single person in my entire time in Boulder City.”

Gray went on to say that the allegation of discrimination was not only “garbage” but was vetted by the city attorney, the city manager, human resources manager and the city’s labor attorney in Carson City.

Consultant mum on report

Keating was contacted and was asked why none of Gray’s comments were included in the report and whether he was asked to complete the report even after Gray’s termination.

“I was retained by the city on a personnel matter and evaluated the FD staff and culture,” Keating said in an email. “Since this is a personnel matter, I cannot provide you with any additional comment.”

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