The Apopka Voice has learned that a second Apopka Fire Department Safety Committee member has resigned. AFD Firefighter/Paramedic Pablo Echevarria sent a letter of resignation to committee members on Wednesday, December 14th informing them of his resignation.
"I write to you today with deep regret that I am resigning from the safety committee," Echevarria writes. "Please understand that this decision comes after many conversations with my wife and many days of prayer. Please let me explain my position and the reason for my decision.
I was asked to join this committee by the former committee chairman Chief B. Bowman. I have a very busy life with other obligations to the Fire Fighter Association, Our Union Eboard, along with personal obligations. It was going to be an added task that would take more of my time away from family. But I decided to do it because it was something we needed as a department. With the passing of Austin Duran, it was something I felt needed to be done. I was excited that as a collective group we would be able to review and make recommendations to our fire Administration that could save a firefighter’s life and make sure we all go home safely.
Due to a conflict in schedule, I was not able to attend the last meeting. But I heard through other members of the committee that a letter was read from Chief Wylam explaining that as a committee we were not going to be allowed to participate in a critique of Austin’s Incident. That an ad-hoc committee had been formed and that the safety committee was not going to be allowed to be a part of it. I asked Chief Maynard in an email if the group received a copy of the email. He replied, “The letter was read and documented in the minutes.” I was informed that a copy of the letter was not provided to the safety committee members. The letter was mentioned in the minutes but was not written in its totality in the minutes of the meeting. This is concerning.
I already felt uneasy and was troubled about the unannounced meeting with the city attorney, where he had suggested that it may not be a good idea to have a critique by the safety committee due to the potential cost to the city with the pending litigation filed by Austin’s Family.
Now even more troubling to me is how the rest of the story has unfolded and this Ad-hoc committee has now been formed. The fact that two organizations and a legal team have absolutely no idea how we function as fire department and is going to critique a LODD of one of our own. With the exclusion of the safety committee that was formed in the name of Austin. Just does not seem right.
I am a man of integrity and honesty. I will tell you my thoughts and share my ideas even when I know others may not agree with me, but I will always be honest. I can’t be a part of something that compromises my values, my morals and just feels wrong. I have lost sleep over this and have asked God to please help me find peace with my feelings and to help me “Do the right thing.” Unfortunately, this does not feel like the right thing. My heart is telling me that it is time to separate myself from this and move on.
I pray that as a group you can do the work necessary with no restrictions and roadblocks so that others may live and go home.
Regretfully, Pablo A. Echevarria FF/PM Sta.-3"
Echevarria is a 27-year veteran firefighter and has been a member of the AFD for five years.
Last week, AFD Lieutenant Alex Klepper also 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 wrote.
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.
According to a public notice on the City's website, Nelson will respond to the resignations in a press conference he called for today at 5 pm at City Hall. The announcement was made on the following day - December 20th.
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