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Apopka City Council

Gannon's critical report on AFD finds its way into City Council meeting


The Gannon report.

It's a 45-page document that analyzes and critiques the Apopka Fire Department. The City of Apopka ordered and paid $20,000 for the Gannon report, but they may have gotten more than they bargained for.

The report, marked as a "draft for client review", is critical of the AFD in a multitude of areas, including:

  • Years of neglected safety or health programs or attention towards safety and health.

  • Lack of a dedicated and experienced safety professional to ensure compliance with basic safety requirements citywide.

  • Young, inexperienced department with an average staff tenure of three years, according to information provided.

  • Incomplete and overloaded organizational structure.

  • Lack of Strategic Planning.

  • Lack of accountability

And that was just in the executive summary.

The City and Fire Staff pushed back on the draft with gusto, marking-up the document with comments and edits in the margins and right in the middle of the report's text. There were 91 edits under the title "Fire Staff Comment" and 54 more edits from the City on the margins in pink.

And despite not being on the agenda, the Gannon report found its way into a large portion of the February 1st Apopka City Council meeting. Despite public comments getting moved to a later part of the meeting, some waited to deliver their thoughts on the report.

"So the Gannon report is out in draft form, and it's no surprise they (the City) continue to hold this to the last possible moment, and they continue to push back and refuse to accept accountability," said Michael Duran, the father of deceased firefighter Austin Duran. "Mind you, the city hand-selected this company to complete this holistic review. The report is full of city failures. There is organizational unity and shared grief over Austin. Other than that, the department is dysfunctional in many key areas."

Duran was also critical of the City for its rebuttal of the report.

"[The] City Attorney rebuts the statement is not properly defined in order for proper legal conclusion and analysis to be made and asked for legal conclusions or just to evaluate the department. Gannon reports. It is accepted firefighters' role will expose them to danger and unpredicted situations responding to emergencies in the field, but not at a fire station where workplace safety should be exemplary. The fire staff's comments? 'Comment is subjective. ..Only narrative only negative comments published.' How is this subjective when it's a fact that the lack of safety and training at the station killed Austin?"

AFD Lieutenant Alex Klepper was a member of the AFD Safety Committee that was told to stop the post-incident critique of the accident that killed Austin Duran. Klepper resigned from the committee because of this but had plenty to say about the Gannon report and how the city and the AFD administration were handling its findings.

"Let's talk about this Gannon report, and the rebuttals sent back because it affects the safety... and safety is said to be our number one priority," said Klepper, the President of the Apopka Professional Firefighters Association. "I can resolutely say I've never been more embarrassed and ashamed reading a document in quite some time. This is unacceptable, and I have a dictionary if anybody needs to look up that term."

Klepper was referring to a City edit that asked for multiple words to be defined.

"Chief Wylam and Mayor Nelson hand-picked a professional organization to review this fire department. We were told that our own people weren't allowed to perform any review or critique because industry-leading subject matter experts were conducting them instead. Gannon Solutions was part of the ad hoc committee that Chief Wylam stated that he put together. Do you believe us now that it was in an effort only to exclude his own safety committee? Now the subject matter experts have rendered their report, and suddenly, this company has gone from experts to enemy number one for exposing the reality that the rest of us live in, and we're to believe Chief Wylam and Attorney Rodriguez are the subject matter experts."

Klepper ended his remarks with critiques of both Mayor Bryan Nelson and Fire Chief Sean Wylam.

"Now that the truth has come out, our Chief wants every single employee comment stricken from the record? Our Chief is clearly choosing to wear a blindfold. You do not want change, you don't want to "come together" unless that's come together and "agree with only me." Our firefighters want to know who is the fire chief. Is it Chief Rodriguez? Chief Nelson? Is it you (turning to face Wylam)? I'd like to send my rebuttal now and ask to define "Fire Chief" because this unattributed and unsubstantiated term without proper context needs to be re-examined."

After public comments concluded, Commissioner Kyle Becker questioned Rodriguez about the definition of public records and for striking the anonymous quotes of firefighters published in the report.


"I haven't read the whole report," Nelson responded.

"You haven't read the whole report?" Becker asked rhetorically and with a raised voice. "Are you kidding me? Are you serious? That is a punch in the gut. I don't have any other words to say tonight."


"We've had residents that have sought public record of this report," Becker said. "In my opinion, and I'm not the clerk, but in my opinion, the draft that they sent is a public record, not a version that has fire response, legal response, and the draft that they sent as a public record. That has to be delivered to the people that requested it. That's public record if you don't think it has any bearing on the litigation in its purest form. Now it's littered with the fire department's remarks, your remarks, and then we can't clearly see what's going on. Their second point, the purpose is there are a lot of strike-throughs on the verbatim quotes from people, and if they were given certainty from their leadership that they were to remain anonymous, then these reports damn well better be anonymous."

But Rodriguez said his intent was to protect the firefighters' anonymity.

"My statement was, 'did Gannon advise, via the firefighters or any of the staff, that their comments would be publicized or printed in a report that was going to be a public record?' Rodriguez said. "I am also looking for the concern of the firefighters because they can speak on the condition of anonymity. Gannon could make a conclusion based on their quotes without actually putting the quote verbatim in a report. At that point, that quote is verbatim in your report. It is outside of the control of anyone for any other person, a person, or I can't control who may try to identify who that is. That's a concern I raised with Ganon. I wasn't looking for Hey, who said that?"

"Sir, there are notations in the document that ask 'who made this quote? Who said this?... so if that's not your intent..."

"That's not my statement. I did not ask who made these quotes," Rodriguez said.

"There is a statement in the report that we received on one of the pages that says, 'Who made this comment?' Every single quote in the report has been struck through. So I'm assuming the intent is you're going to tell Gannon that in their final product, all quotations need to be removed?"

During City Commission Reports, Becker returned to the Gannon report and asked Nelson to divulge his plan for the AFD.

"There's a lot of things in there [the report] that are not contested, and how they got to that condition, how we're communicating what we're doing to resolve those issues," he said. "You know, every budget cycle that I've sat up in our city council [I ask] do we have any critical needs across the departments that would preclude us from making these types of spends that are viewed as kind of luxury spends, like Camp Wewa? That's always met with a resounding 'no, we've got everything covered, budgets, great,' and then you look at this report... every station house, even station five, has some material findings. So we can spin-doctor this thing... even the notation in the report talking about understaffing the facilities. We can say that it was outside the scope of that report. But facts are facts, right? If we're down people and facilities, and we're not able to address pressing safety needs within our facilities, it's something that we need to know as counsel and react to it. There are some pretty material and damning findings in this report. And what are we going to do about it? Yeah, we've got a training officer and a life safety officer, but there are a lot of things beyond that that need to be squared away. quickly. So what's the plan? You, mayor, and the staff have had this report for quite some time. What's the suggestion?"

"Let's listen to the Chief," said Nelson.

"I want to know your suggestion," Becker said. "You're the leader of the city. What is your point of view? Granted, you can argue back and forth about whether or not people that talk during public comment or frequently talk at the city council if you agree or disagree, fine. But this is a department within the city that you manage. You've seen this report. What do you want to do?"

"I haven't read the whole report," Nelson responded.

"You haven't read the whole report?" Becker asked rhetorically and with a raised voice. "Are you kidding me? Are you serious? That is a punch in the gut. I don't have any other words to say tonight."

It's hard to imagine what could have taken priority over a report so critical of the AFD that Nelson wouldn't read it in its entirety, given the amount of time (an estimated 2-3 weeks) the City has had the document. But during the Mayor's Report, he offered an explanation.

"Although I haven't read the whole report, I spent probably four hours with the Chief going over it line by line," said Nelson. "There are a lot of things in the Gannon report... they didn't know that there were protocols on the internet that firefighters have to check off, to be able to qualify, that they've done certain training, and so I'd rather go through it one time and do it right than speed read it and not get all the facts. So, in the next couple of days, we'll get through the whole report in the next couple of days, and we'll have recommendations and what we need to change. But it's interesting if we want to talk about Gannon, and I'll say this... it's interesting that he's willing to help us for this first agreement for $20,000... but now he wants to help us for $150,000 per year for three years. That's what he thinks we need. Sounds out of line, but that's what he thinks we should be spending."

Commissioner Nick Nesta offered the City and AFD advice on using the report outside of adding 145 edits and comments.

"It's a critique," said Nesta. "It's supposed to make us a little uncomfortable. So I ask that you guys just look at it and take it for what it is. It's a critique. I know. I've read many of the rebuttals that were put in there, and I get it. It's just... it's a critique, it's meant to hurt. So it's meant to make us better. So please look at it in that capacity."

He also wanted to know why it took the City so long to deliver the report.

"I asked for this Gannon report [at the previous City Council meeting] and didn't get to it until last night," he said. "So we need to figure out why that took so long when we had it. I don't know if there needs to be an official vote or what that needs to be, but how long that took was unacceptable. And we need to make sure that that doesn't happen again."

Apopka City Council, Gannon Report, Apopka Fire Department, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson


7 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • MamaMia

    I watched the City of Apopka council meeting yesterday, and I will comment some of my thoughts later, but right now, I want to address all the opposition to the city attorney. All the nasty commenting, disrepect, and calling for him to be fired by some, especially "the one and only". I believe this is a classic case of hating the messenger, because you don't like his messages.

    Thursday, February 2, 2023 Report this

  • MamaMia

    At least City of Apopka attorney, Michael Rodriguez, will answer a member of the public, if they don't understand something, and explain things, but former city attorney, Joe Byrd, stood up there and said he doesn't answer questions from the public. So I was glad when he packed up his bags, and got out of town. He treated us citizens badly, as we the public, are at the top of the hierarchy of the city. Yeah baby.....!

    Thursday, February 2, 2023 Report this

  • MamaMia

    I am so very sorry Young Sheldon got a punch in the gut at the last city council meeting. I hope you are doing okay....LOL. What in the world is Nesta thinking? He needs to stay away from Sanford City Hall. He wants to serve dinner to the staff that stays over for the council meetings. What's next? Renting them an overnight suite at the Hilton Garden Inn, and furnishing them open bar? Nesta also wants a workshop before the city council meetings. He got this idea from Sanford. He is hell-bent on workshops. That was apparent during his campaign when workshops became the running joke. How is that going to workout, when they have CRA meetings before the council meetings sometimes and some budget meetings before the council meetings? I guess six hour city council meetings is just not enough time for you all to spend together.

    Thursday, February 2, 2023 Report this

  • MamaMia

    Commissioner Velazquez seemed a little down from the very start of the council meeting. Is everything okay? Just wondering......

    Thursday, February 2, 2023 Report this

  • MamaMia

    I think that when the council members vote they should do a roll call afterwards, on how they voted. Like a 3-2 vote, 4-1 vote, and 5-0 vote, for or against the motion, call each member's name and how they voted. That will make things more clear for the public listening. This last 4-1 vote was confusing to some people listening.

    Thursday, February 2, 2023 Report this

  • MamaMia

    I am hearing some of the comments out of the fire department, at the council meetings, that mental help is needed for some on the job. I want to point out that their health insurance, that the city pays for, includes mental health coverage, as well as the regular medical coverage. I am not familiar with which health insurance company they have currently, but to my knowledge, they have coverage for mental health needs, and I don't think that has changed from the past.

    Saturday, February 4, 2023 Report this

  • MamaMia

    I think Commissioner Nesta is handling the Gannon report logically, when he states that it is a critique, and is meant to be hurtful, but we need to move forward, and do the best we can to address, and fix things. Sitting up there arguing and pointing fingers is unproductive. I will give Commissioner Nesta credit for his insight, as that is the mature way to handle things. He is good at moving the council proceedings forward also, when things are bogged down in discord.

    Saturday, February 4, 2023 Report this