‘Our hiring practice was thin at best’: Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department to ramp up hiring, disciplinary procedures

Montgomery County ESD No. 10 meetings are held at Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 181, located at 18215 Buddy Riley Blvd., Magnolia. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County ESD No. 10 meetings are held at Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 181, located at 18215 Buddy Riley Blvd., Magnolia. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)

Montgomery County ESD No. 10 meetings are held at Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 181, located at 18215 Buddy Riley Blvd., Magnolia. (Kara McIntyre/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department is revamping its policies related to personnel and employment following allegations of misconduct that has resulted in an investigation into the department and the emergency services district it contracts with.

Fire Chief Jeffrey Hevey, who replaced former Fire Chief Gary Vincent, who retired in early March, discussed shortfalls with the current procedures and upcoming changes at the April 7 Montgomery County ESD No. 10 meeting. The issues relate to hiring practices, the standard code of conduct and the disciplinary process.

Conversations at public meetings regarding the hiring of Communications Director Elisa Noriega as well as a lawsuit filed by a former assistant fire chief have brought scrutiny to the fire department’s hiring practices.

“Our hiring practice was thin at best,” Hevey said. “... a new hiring process ... is long overdue.”

Hevey said he is working on creating a new hiring policy, which includes writing job descriptions for positions such as fire chief, which does not currently exist, as well as updating its employment manual.


The new hiring policy is being reviewed by attorneys and will be ready to submit to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by around the middle of May, he said.

Other situations also raised alarms. For instance, Hevey said after he took the position, he was made aware of a complaint to the EEOC that he claimed had not been addressed for three years.

The fire board will also be addressing its apparent lack of standard of conduct and disciplinary processing, Hevey said.

“I can look at people who have been disciplined, but I can’t find anything in their files. It’s baffling,” he said.

Presentations regarding harassment and retaliation will also be delivered to the fire department in May. Although Hevey did not elaborate on the reason for the presentations, it follows a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Grant that alleged his position was wrongfully terminated. Grant is now employed with the department again.

Following executive session, the ESD board approved completing settlement documents and issuing payment of Grant’s lawsuit, although details of this were not discussed during open session.
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.