Published: January 23, 2024
Bartow, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2024) — In accordance with Polk County Employee Handbook Policy 9.6 concerning county disciplinary procedures, Battalion Chief Charles True formally requested a pre-disciplinary conference opposing his termination on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. True was initially terminated following an investigation that substantiated Compliance of Orders and Insubordination, Failure to Supervise and Untruthfulness related to deployment to Levy County in 2023 to provide hurricane recovery assistance.
True met with Fire Rescue Chief Hezedean A. Smith, D.M., on Tuesday, Jan. 23. At that pre-disciplinary conference, True admitted that he failed to comply with direct orders from Deputy County Manager Joe Halman, Chief Smith, and Assistant Chiefs Rick Parnell and Ben Cassista, and said, “In hindsight, if I knew then what I know now, my first call would have been back to my command staff to advise them of what we needed to complete the objectives, but again, I thought I had the latitude as a chief officer to make those decisions.”
Chief Smith has proposed reinstating BC True to county employment, with discipline to include demotion to the rank of Fire Captain and a probationary period. Following the completion of the Performance Improvement Probation which will include a Performance Improvement Plan, True may reapply for a battalion chief position with PCFR through the promotional process.
According to Chief Smith, True’s longstanding dedication to the department, the balance between his acknowledgement of the errors, his intentions, and consequences from his actions were factors in this case.
Per the county’s grievance procedures, True has up to 10 calendar days from the date of the Pre-Disciplinary Conference to notify the county of his acceptance of Chief Smith’s reinstatement or file an appeal requesting a hearing from an Appeals Council. The Appeals Council would be composed of four members appointed by the county manager.