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Former Nashville Fire Marshal address insubordination at hearing

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - “I’ve been with the fire department for 42 years and I consider it an honor and a privilege to be Fire Marshal for this city.”

Allison Thomas made that comment at a department hearing on Dec. 15. One week later, he was terminated from his position.

News4 Investigates obtained a copy of the hearing following an Open Records request.

“This October I was instructed by Chief (William) Swann to have Captain Lawrence Hutchinson shadow me for six months. I’ve never had anyone shadow me in the past and it was very new to me,” Thomas said.

Fire Director Chief Swann terminated Thomas on Tuesday.

In a letter obtained by News4 Investigates, it states the Fire Marshal’s office was the only area within the department that was “lacking a succession plan,” and that Thomas became combative when it was announced that Hutchinson would be temporarily re-assigned to the Fire Marshal’s office to shadow Thomas for a six-month period.

The letter stated in part:

“Since Chief Swann ordered the re-assignment of Captain Hutchinson to the FMO, you have been insubordinate to Chief Swann and Chief Henderson. You were insubordinate on numerous occasions within the department.”

“I realized that I didn’t, um, follow Chief Swann’s order. To uh, to immediately bring him in and start having him shadow me. Trying to juggle the tremendous amount of work we had going on, this basically was an interruption to what we were trying to do,” Thomas said.

The letter went on to say:

“There have been several issues in your role as the Fire Marshal regarding your attitude towards the treatment and staff, lack of response to emails, and the length of time it took to finalize a project.”

“I was never, ever intended to be disrespectful in any way,” Thomas said.

Thomas also stated in the hearing that he believed someone else was qualified for the role of the Fire Marshal position if and when he chose to leave the position.

“To be honest, I initially did not believe that Captain Hutchinson was the most qualified person to ultimately take over my job because I had no intention of retiring anytime soon, and that Deputy Fire Marshal Maggie Lawrence was ideal for the position. I voiced my opinion to Chief Swann and I continue to hold true to that belief, however the decision to ultimately take my place is not mine, but the Chief’s,” Thomas said.

In the end, Swann stated in the letter that Thomas’ attitude toward superiors when given direction and the treatment toward staff did not meet the acceptable standards.

Robb Bigelow, Thomas’ attorney, provided News4 Investigates with a statement:

“After more than four decades of dedicating himself to this city and building strong relationships with his amazing staff and the people of Nashville, Mr. Thomas is extremely disappointed in the Chief’s decision to terminate his employment as the Fire Marshal. After excellent evaluations and no written warnings, he was fired after he told the Chief that certain individuals were significantly more qualified to take over for him in years to come than the person the Chief wanted. Ironically, one of those individuals is the woman who is currently running the day-to-day operations of the Fire Marshal’s office.”

Nashville Fire Department told News4 that Swann is overseeing the Fire Marshal’s Office.


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