The Apopka City Council, at its April 5th meeting, voted 3-2 on a motion to express no-confidence in Apopka Fire Chief Sean Wylam, concluding there is a lack of transparency and clear direction. The council advised removing Wylam from his position.
The decision came after the president of the firefighter’s union, Alex Klepper, presented a four-phase plan to improve the AFD. The plan's second phase suggested a change in the fire department's management team.
"We have a fire chief who has shown extreme difficulty with communication, planning, execution, and listening to the needs of his department," said Klepper. "Those are the top things you should have in that role."
Earlier during the council meeting, Wylam shared a presentation about fire safety training updates. He announced Engineer Cody Bennet as the Apopka Fire Department health and fitness coordinator, who will now manage the department's health-related program.
"Engineer Cody Bennet has completed the required training for the IAFF wellness ambassador and ISSA personal trainer and nutritionist courses to become our fire department's health and fitness coordinator," said Wylam. "This is a new position for Cody, and it's something we are really excited about."
Wylam said they would send two more department members to the International Sports Sciences Association to complete the required courses to become peer fitness trainers and work alongside Bennet.
"Once certified, they are going to assist engineer Bennet with managing our health and related fitness programs," said Wylam.
The firefighter fitness program, NFPA 1583, consists of annual fitness assessments for all members, an exercise training program, education and counseling regarding health promotion, and a process for collecting and maintaining health-related fitness program data.
Wylam said the department's goal is to reach NFPA 1500, a fire department occupational safety, health, and wellness standard. He explained that the plan would take at least three years to accomplish.
"This standard is on a five-year revision cycle, as are most NFPA standards, and this standard particularly incorporates 75 other documents, 56 of which are other NFPA standards," said Wylam.
Throughout March, the AFD staff participated in safety training courses. These included 40 hours of hands-on aerial operations, pediatric trauma training taught by the head of the emergency room and trauma surgeon from Arnold Palmer Hospital, and air care training taught by flight medics and nursing staff from the Air Care team.
Wylam also informed that all department members completed their annual physical with My Heath Onsite clinic and their annual physical agility test between March 20 and 22.
"We do have a few makeups with PTOS and people being off and things like that, so to date, we are moving forward with that," said Wylam.
The fire department facility also conducted mold and quality air tests at stations one, two, three, and four last week.
"We are still awaiting results. I'm going to review those to see if there's any remediation that needs to be accomplished with those stations," said Wylam.
Commissioner Nick Nesta said the fire department must promptly report the results to the Apopka City Council to prevent unforeseen spending.
"I just want to make sure when we get the results that we are actively and quickly taking care of this, said Nesta. "It can be costly, and I want to make sure that we are not waiting for a new budget or anything like that. Let's make sure we're jumping on that immediately."
Klepper said that Wylam has lied in multiple public statements about expense coverages, training programs, and completion of recommendations.
"There is too much, half truthing, sugar coating and just flat out lying going on, and it doesn't help or add any value to any discussions or movements going forward," said Klepper.
At the end of the eight-hour meeting, Klepper explained to the City Council that things would stay the same unless there is a change in the management team.
The motion to remove Wylam was made by Commissioner Kyle Becker and supported by Nesta and Commissioner Diane Velazquez, while Mayor Bryan Nelson and Commissioner Alexander Smith voted against it.
Becker said to Nelson that it's important to listen to the opinion of the staff members of the fire department.
"There is no more compelling evidence, I mean, the membership, this council has taken a strong voice and said no confidence, we have to respect that," said Becker. "It's not politics here. It's people's lives."