Tulsa Deputy Fire Chief Scott Clark confirmed Thursday that Chief Ray Driskell was issued a handgun by the department despite not being CLEET certified.
“He is not CLEET certified, never was, and he was issued a gun,” Clark said.
Clark’s statement comes a week after an attorney representing firefighter Nicholas Gillespie released a statement calling for Mayor G.T. Bynum to suspend Driskell and “begin an investigation to uncover the disgraceful manner in which Chief treats our firefighters.”
The attorney, Joel LaCourse, also alleges in his statement that Driskell violated state law and Fire Department policy by directing his staff to use city funds to purchase a handgun for Driskell.
“Without proper training and certification non-law enforcement officers cannot posses a weapon on city property, but records indicate Chief Driskell did just that,” LaCourse’s statement says.
Fire Department equipment logs obtained by The Frontier show Driskell was issued a .40 caliber handgun – a Glock 27 – on Aug. 10, 2015. Meanwhile, Steve Emmons, executive director of the state’s Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, said this week that his agency has no record of Driskell’s ever receiving certification.
“We have six Driskells in the system and none of them are Ray and none of them are associated with the Fire Department in Tulsa,” Emmons said.
State law requires that all peace officers who carry a weapon in the line of duty be CLEET certified, and typically the only employees in a fire department who are classified as peace officers are fire marshals and fire inspectors, Emmons said.
Deputy Chief Clark did not discuss how or why the gun was issued to Driskell but made clear that the chief was not carrying the weapon while on duty.
“He has never carried it, to my knowledge,” Clark said. “It’s been in his desk every day that I know of.”
Initial media reports on Gillespie’s claims seemed to suggest that Driskell was walking around with a gun on his belt, Clark said.
“That is simply not true,” he said.
He also noted that Title 13 of the city ordinances covering Fire Department operations states that the fire chief “shall have the police powers of a member of the Police Department.”
Clark said Driskell was out of town on vacation Thursday and unavailable for comment.
City officials declined to comment on whether Driskell violated city policies and state law by obtaining a city-issued firearm without being CLEET certified.
LaCourse’s statement referenced no specific state statutes or city policies to support his assertion, but in an interview with The Frontier this week he cited state law, city policies and Fire Department procedures he believes support his position.
The Fire Department’s Administrative Operating Procedure states that “officers shall only use firearms in accordance with departmental policy.” The AOP defines an “officer” as personnel “who are CLEET (Council on Law Enforcement, Education and Training) certified and commissioned by the Tulsa Fire Department as a law enforcement officer.”
LaCourse also noted that under state law even private citizens with a valid handgun license are not permitted to carry a weapon into a government building to conduct business with the public.
Title 13 of the city’s ordinances, meanwhile, states that all Fire Department members or applicants must “meet the qualifications of the laws of the state of Oklahoma.”
No sworn member of the Fire Department, including the chief, can be removed from his job “except for good and sufficient cause and then only upon written charges filed by the Mayor or the Chief of the Fire Department,” according to the City Charter.
Title 13 defines “good and sufficient cause” as any violation of a firefighter’s “duty, drunkenness, any conduct unbecoming a fireman, disability of any kind, violation of the rules and regulations for the governance of the Tulsa Fire Department.”
The city’s Personnel Department would be responsible for investigating Driskell should the mayor decide an investigation is warranted. The department would then forward its recommendation to the mayor.
The city declined to say whether the mayor has requested such an investigation.
LaCourse also released an audio tape of a conversation in which Driskell repeatedly swears at Gillespie as they discuss a letter the firefighter had written to the chief seeking clarification on his job status.
The recording was made by Gillespie without the fire chief’s knowledge.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In July 2016, Gillespie, then a captain, was reassigned to administrative duty in the supply department after Driskell learned that Gillespie had sat down and closed his eyes in the bucket of a fire truck after working a blaze in Chouteau.[/perfectpullquote]
In July 2016, Gillespie, then a captain, was reassigned to administrative duty in the supply department after Driskell learned that Gillespie had sat down and closed his eyes in the bucket of a fire truck after working a blaze in Chouteau.
In October of that year, Gillespie sent a letter to Driskell seeking to clarify his job status. It was that letter that led to Gillespie’s face-to-face meeting with the fire chief and the audio recording that has been made public.
In the recording, Driskell makes clear that his meeting with Gillespie is not the first time he has had to sit down with the firefighter to discuss his job performance.
“I am fed up with your bullshit,” Driskell says.
He later tells Gillespie: “You’re the one who put yourself here, Nick, not any of us. So why are you bitching and complaining about how bad it is for Nick? F— Nick!” Driskell says.
The Fire Department’s AOP states that all managers, supervisors and employees are prohibited “from any form of conduct which has the purpose and/or effect of interfering with another individual’s work performance or which creates a hostile, offensive or intimidating work environment.”
After an administrative hearing, Gillespie was demoted to a driver, effective in March. He is appealing the demotion through the firefighters’ arbitration process.
“We believe an investigation will show that Chief Driskell’s actions are not isolated simply to Nick Gillespie but that this represents a practice and pattern of his behavior in the administration of the Tulsa Fire Department,” LaCourse said Wednesday.