PBC fire rescue chief resigns amid sexual harassment mishandling


Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Chief Jeff Collins is resigning amid allegations of sexual harrassment in his department, Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay told The Palm Beach Post.

McKinlay said Collins submitted his resignation Friday, and it is effective next week. She did not have an exact date.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker has selected Michael Mackey to serve as chief.

McKinlay said she expects to learn more about why Collins resigned next week.

She added: “However it’s my understanding and I’m sure the administrator will confirm, there have been some questions as to how cases or reports of sexual harassment have been handled. In this day and age I have zero tolerance for not handling those types of incidents as quickly as possible and not addressing them so if that’s the case I believe his resignation was the right decision.”

The Post reported in December that Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Division Chief Chris Hoch was reprimanded in 2017 for violating county policy after a female subordinate complained in 2015 that he made inappropriate sexual comments about her and repeated “rumors” she was having sex with her supervisor.

The officer who complained about Hoch, Capt. Amanda Vomero, and her supervisor, Administration Division Chief Joey Cooper, have both sued the county, painting a picture of a department where racism, sexual harassment and retaliation is casual and rampant, according to documents obtained by The Post.

Vomero’s suit, filed Dec. 14, claims that county officials did nothing to stop Hoch’s and other officials’ harassment of her or their discrimination and retaliation against her after her Oct. 7, 2015 complaint that Hoch was sexually harassing her by taunting her in his office, telling her “rumor is that you are” having sex with Cooper and adding that he was “a little offended” that she wouldn’t have sex with him.

Cooper’s lawsuit, filed May 26, is a whistle-blower suit claiming Fire Rescue officials, including Collins, retaliated against him for participating in the Office of Equal Opportunity investigation of Vomero’s complaint against Hoch by giving a statement in support of Vomero.

Check back for more information on this breaking news story.

Staff writer Wayne Washington contributed to this story.



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