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Alderman says city 'mean-spirited'
Former fire chief denied unemployment
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The controversy between the city of McMinnville and its former fire chief Keith Martin is heating up again, rekindled by the state’s denial of Martin’s unemployment benefits.
According to information received by the Southern Standard, Martin’s unemployment benefits were denied based on termination reasons the city gave the state after he applied for unemployment.
When contacted, Martin refused to comment on the situation other than to confirm the information is accurate. He worked for the city for nearly one year before getting fired in March.
The situation hasn’t been well received by one official, who sounded off on the city board. Alderman Billy Wood says a firefighter was terminated at the same time and for the same reason as Martin and he is receiving his unemployment benefits.
“I want someone to explain how two people from the same department can be dismissed for the same reason, yet one is allowed to draw unemployment and attempts to stop the chief’s benefits are ongoing,” said Wood.
Wood says the city is treating Martin unfairly after he relocated to McMinnville and moved across the country for the fire chief job.
“This administration is mean-spirited and cruel,” Wood said. “We brought Martin here from Idaho. They are now stranded here with no money, no means to survive, and no prospects. They suffer at the hands of this board. Martin and his family deserve to be treated better than this.”
City procedure when former employees apply for unemployment benefits is for a human resource official to fill out the state’s form using information from the employee’s personnel record. Being a department director, the reasons for termination would have been placed in the file by the city administrator.
Mayor Jimmy Haley is the interim city administrator. Haley says the state, not the city, denied Martin’s benefits.
“The city does not approve or deny unemployment,” Haley said. “The state does that.”
When asked if he listed negative reasons about Martin’s termination that would have prompted the state to deny his request for unemployment benefits, Haley refused to comment.
“This is a personnel matter,” Haley said.
The controversy between Haley and Martin began in September when Haley offered Martin four months severance pay to resign in an effort to stop complaints from employees within the fire department who were not happy with new restrictions that limited dining out, use of personal communication devices, increased training hours, and decreased TV viewing.
At that time, Alderman Mike Neal called for the city to begin the process of finding a permanent city administrator. Neal said Haley’s actions may have violated Martin’s rights and Martin had no negative blemishes in his personnel file that would have warranted an offer to resign.