Tuesday, June 25, 2024

WB Fire Chief Josh Haraway resignation effective March 28

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — Fire Chief Josh Haraway has resigned two months after Wrightsville Beach Fire Department staff began a petition raising misconduct allegations against the former public official.

READ MORE: Wrightsville Beach fire chief on administrative leave after ‘vote of no confidence’ petition

Town Clerk Lance Heater confirmed Haraway’s resignation will go into effect March 28; Port City Daily requested his resignation letter but Heater said the document is part of the town’s personnel record and cannot be released.

Heater and interim Fire Chief Matt Holland told PCD Friday they did not believe a process is in place to find a new chief.

Holland previously told PCD the town put the former chief on administrative leave January 19, the same date former town manager Tim Owens retired. The town’s board of aldermen held a special meeting two days before on Jan. 17 to discuss a complaint against a public employee.

The fire department staff’s “vote of no confidence” petition began on Jan. 11 and closed after receiving 556 signatures. It raised a number of allegations regarding Haraway’s leadership of the department, which began in 2022, including:

  • Changes to mutual aid agreements with Wilmington and New Hanover Fire Departments led to over 80 instances in 2023 where WBFD were off the island responding to other calls, leaving no fire personnel on the island.
  • The chief improperly responded to an active shooter on Scotch Bonnet Lane in contradiction to FEMA and National Fire Protection Association guidelines. The petitoners state WBFD currently does not have a standard operating procedure to respond to active shooters.
  • Making sexist or degrading comments to female staff, leading to the departure of six out of seven of the department’s female employees.
  • Causing ocean rescue director Dave Baker to go on leave due to stress from the hostile work environment created by Haraway.
  • Mishandling personnel issues, dismissing concerns raised by staff, and at times retaliating against employees who spoke out.
  • Lack of support for the WBFD volunteer fire program, causing 2023 to be the first year in decades the department did not have a volunteer program. The petition states numerous volunteers were terminated or left of their own accord, citing Haraway’s leadership.

Tips or comments? Email journalist Peter Castagno at peter@localdailymedia.com.

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