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Florence fire chief under investigation


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.

2 Responses to Florence fire chief under investigation
  1. Rebecca
    March 12, 2014 | 2:13 am

    There are several current and past members on the Florence Fire Dept. who feel that by being a bully, intimating, and being vindictive to Chief Lambson and his staff will persuade the District board to remove the chief and make one of these bullies the new chief. The allegations that these bullies allege have been proven false and untrue and that the defamation and slander towards the fire chief is unfair and unjust. It is time that the Florence Community rally and show there support for Chief Lambson and finally be done with the ignorant bullies trying to take over the department.

    • James
      March 12, 2014 | 8:19 pm

      I totally agree! If you look further back you will see that these same bullies have managed to run off three other chiefs and several members who had years of experience. The accusations against Charlie are way out of line. The board needs to support Charlie and get rid of the bullies!!
      These bullies have done in the past that they were never held accountable for! They need to stop spending tax payer money on this crap! The bullies need to be stopped as well as removed from that department permanently.

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