By Reggie Connell, Managing Editor
The Apopka Voice has learned that Lieutenant Alex Klepper of the Apopka Fire Department has resigned from the AFD Safety Committee. In his statement, Klepper cited City Attorney Michael Rodriguez and Fire Chief Sean Wylam as stopping the committee's post-incident critique of the June 30th incident at Fire Station #1 that took the life of AFD Firefighter Austin Duran as the primary reason for his resignation.
"The fire administration appears to be bending over backward to exclude us, its
own safety committee, from doing a simple Post Incident Critique," Klepper writes.
In a public records request, The Apopka Voice has also learned that, according to Klepper's statement, confirmed by AFD District Chief Gerald Maynard's response to Klepper, Rodriguez and Wylam instructed the committee to cease the Post Incident Critique.
"In regards to the post-incident critique, I also understand the importance of this process
and have advocated for it to be completed on many different occasions," Maynard writes. "If you remember, one of my first actions upon joining this committee was to start the
process for it to be completed. With that being said, we have been instructed by the City
Attorney and the Fire Chief that we cannot proceed forward at this time."
In questions emailed to Rodriguez, The Apopka Voice has also learned that Austin Duran's family has filed a notice of claim against The City of Apopka.
"It is the city’s policy not to comment on active litigation," Rodriguez responded. "On October 18, 2022, the City received a Notice of Claim from counsel for Duran’s family, which serves as the first step in litigation."
In his full resignation letter, Klepper writes:
"I am sending this email as confirmation of my resignation from the Apopka Fire Department
Safety Committee. Rest assured, this resignation is extremely upsetting for me for many
reasons. I personally went in front of the City Council on behalf of our fire department to
plea for this safety committee to be reformed and be put to work in the wake of Austin
Duran’s passing. Unfortunately, I find that I cannot continue in this capacity as a member
of this committee. There appears to me and others to have been various actions by outside
influences on this committee that, in my opinion, remove any credibility held.
I would like to further explain my reasons, not only for clarity but on behalf of the other
committee members and Fire Department members, who I know were upset with the recent
outside influences. The importance of this committee cannot be overstated, its sole purpose
should be to make sure not only a safe working environment is provided but that every
employee can go home to their family in the condition they came to work in. In the short
time I have been a member of this committee, I, unfortunately, feel that the committee has
been looked down upon by some as a burden to the fire department administration and the
City. For some reason, certain issues brought up with the committee are met with an
unprofessional attitude or apathy toward trying to get to an answer we need. An example
would be the following: policy states that the safety committee is to receive written
decisions from the Fire Chief or designee within 45 days of the fire chief receiving the
safety committee’s recommendations. To date, there have been in excess of twenty (20)
recommendations made to the fire chief. A few have had written response decisions back
to the committee, others have conspicuously been acted upon without being addressed
publicly (to the members), and several have been ignored, delayed, or attributed negatively
toward us without explanation. In short, we have no idea what actions are being taken on
Now, the main issue that has caused me and others to consider resigning from the safety
committee. Our fire department administration named something the “Austin Duran Safety
Initiative.” Although we all know it is actions and not words that mean something, we were
eager to get on board and do something positive in Austin’s name. Ever since this
committee has started looking into Austin’s accident, we have been met with pushback, to
the point that fire administration appears to be bending over backward to exclude us, its
own safety committee, from doing a simple Post Incident Critique. What could possibly be
the motive behind allowing multiple outside agencies to review this situation while excluding
your own people? It has even been pointed out by our own administration that the
completed State Fire Marshal's report has errors in it, yet the Safety Committee is forced to
My frustration came to a head when Division Chief Maynard related to the committee on
11/01/22, that the Safety Committee was not allowed to continue the Post Incident Critique
of Austin’s accident per Chief Wylam, and that was based on the advice of counsel,
because of a possible pending lawsuit. The committee then sent a request that Chief
Wylam respond to them in writing as to why they were not allowed to perform a post-incident
critique, as that is part of their responsibilities. I and others feel this stems
from when the City Attorney, unannounced, came to a safety committee meeting relaying
that our committee performing a Post Incident Critique could possibly cost the city money in
a lawsuit. Now jump ahead to our next meeting, 12/6/2022 where Division Chief Maynard
came in and read a statement from Chief Wylam saying he instituted an “Ad Hoc” review
board consisting of NIOSH, Gannon Emergency Services and an Unnamed City Legal
Team. Fire administration has already said the completed fire marshals report is not
accurate, so If this “Ad Hoc” has three parts, why not four? Why not include the people
who know the most about the department and situation? What really bothers me is that we
have been told two stories: one about potential legal complications and monetary loss,
forcing the need to step away and a second saying that there already is an “Ad Hoc”
investigation ongoing, so we are not needed. Why two stories? What don’t they want us
to see or find? I am at a loss, if the fire chief does not want the safety committee to critique
and review the most important incident in the history of the Apopka Fire Department, then
The fire department Standard Operating Guideline identifies that the Safety Committee,
under its normal duties, would be expected to perform post incident critiques as cited
SOG 6200.02.00: Safety Committee
● II. Safety Committee Duties
○ “Investigation of injuries, near misses, incidents, injuries, illnesses, diseases,
fatalities and or damage to vehicles or equipment will be conducted to identify
causation and methods for future prevention. The analysis will be in accordance with
SOG 6500.02.00 Post-Incident Critiques. The results will be recorded and
The below SOG was referenced in the letter read by Division Chief Maynard, from Chief
Wylam. There may have been more information, but a copy of the letter was not given to
the committee members, wording was not added into the meeting minutes, and multiple
requests by safety committee members for a copy or the wording have been denied.
SOG 6200.03.00 City Accident Review Board
● The Fire Department's Safety Committee will review any and all accidents that occur
during the quarterly scheduled meetings. Understanding the need for an urgent and
independent review under some instances, the Fire Chief may create an ad hoc review
board responsible for immediate investigation of a serious incident.
As we have been told, Gannon Emergency Services is performing a “health and safety
evaluation of the Apopka Fire Department,” not a post-incident critique, they have even said
when asked, “we are not specifically investigating the accident,” and expressed
confusion toward their inclusion which would lead me and others to believe that they have
no idea they are part of an “Ad Hoc Committee” performing a post-incident critique.
NIOSH will be investigating the incident with a possible report ready 8 months or more from
now. Nobody on the committee including our health and safety Chief is aware who
comprises the “City legal team” or what role they would serve in a post-incident critique
toward the benefit of our firefighters. Furthermore, not one of these seems to fall into the
urgent or immediate category as stated in policy.
There is nothing most of us want to do more in the wake of losing Austin than make this
place even better. I have had serious conversations with family, colleagues and several
members of this very committee about resigning prior to this last meeting that unfortunately
have led me to this choice because I feel like we are being sold a false bill of goods.
In conclusion, the above is what led me to resign from the safety committee, this was not a
decision easily made, but I feel it was a necessary one since the explanation in the
proposed meeting minutes was severely lacking. Additionally, I find it telling that I expected
the Fire Chief to reach out to me and ask why I have resigned and he has not.
Thank you all for your time.
In response, Maynard, the Chairman of the Safety Committee, displayed surprise at Klepper's assertion of unprofessionalism.
"Lastly, the fact I find most alarming is that never once during any meeting until your
resignation on 12/6/2022 and subsequent email have I been presented with your claims
of unprofessionalism and apathy," Maynard writes. "...and feel the lack of communication and open dialog up to this point is one of the main reasons we as an agency are in the position we are in today."
The Apopka Voice emailed Maynard questions about the specific instructions given by Rodriguez and Wylam and requested any written documents that Maynard may have read to the safety committee but was told to contact Rodriguez for that information.
In his full response, Maynard writes:
I would like to take a moment and first acknowledge and accept your resignation from
the Apopka Fire Department Safety Committee and secondly, address some of the
statements made in your email.
I agree that the job of a Safety Committee is one of great importance and is the hinge
point that creates positive change within an agency like ours and most importantly is the
foundation laid to support a culture where everyone goes home and safety is the number
one priority no matter the expense.
Knowing this is why I accepted to take on this new role and have worked tirelessly to
ensure that the concerns of every member in our department are heard and the process of
needed changes is started and constantly moving in the right direction.
I can not speak on behalf of the time you spent on this committee prior to my arrival 2
months ago however since joining these meetings I have made it my number one goal to
work together as a group and to enact the changes our department needs to ensure no
further tragedy happens and most importantly to honor the life and sacrifice of our
brother Austin Duran.
In fact we have had many conversations as a group and individually as to the importance
of transparency and working together now more than ever.
Never once has an issue or an individual within this committee been met with an
unprofessional attitude or apathy and quite frankly I am taken aback that you feel it
appropriate to make a statement like that in a email and not address this matter in one of
our previous meetings or conversations.
At no time in my tenure has the committee or its recommendations been looked upon as
a burden to the Fire Administration or City as you put it. On the contrary myself and
other members of this administration and committee (including yourself) have been
working together to make the much needed and desired changes you speak about. Some
of these actions include but are not limited to the repairs to fire department facilities, our
trailer training program with the FWC and future training with the department, upcoming
Saws class, working to safely reinstate our suspended operations, stopping of and
correction of unsafe practices, and many more.
In regards to the post incident critique, I also understand the importance of this process
and have advocated for it to be completed on many different occasions.
If you remember, one of my first actions upon joining this committee was to start the
process for it to be completed. With that being said we have been instructed by the City
Attorney and the Fire Chief that we cannot proceed forward at this time.
Lastly, the fact I find most alarming is that never once during any meeting until your
resignation on 12/6/2022 and subsequent email have I been presented with your claims
of unprofessionalism and apathy and feel the lack of communication and open dialog up
to this point is one of the main reasons we as an agency are in the position we are in
today. I have always and will continue to encourage open lines of communication as the
backbone of any shared successes and hope that in the future we can work together to
make the Apopka Fire Department the place we both know it can and should be."
This developing story will be updated in future editions of The Apopka Voice as more details are learned.
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