Tulsa, OK - Ray Driskell, the Tulsa Fire Department Chief who ordered thin blue line decals to be removed from the city's fire trucks earlier this month, is on the hot seat again for his alleged unethical treatment of an employee and violating state law.
He is also in trouble because he was issued a handgun by the department despite not having the required certification, according to The Frontier.
According to Jarrell Wade with Tulsa World, firefighter Nicholas "Nick" Gillepsie met with Chief Driskell in October, 2016, over a grievance that Gillepsie had filed. Recordings of that meeting have surfaced, and Driskell can be heard cursing Gillepsie, humiliating him, and threatening him. The recording is approximately 24-minutes long, and was made by Gillepsie apparently without anyone else's knowledge.
According to Gillepsie's attorney, Joel LaCourse,Chief Driskell can be heard in the recording cursing throughout, with some profanity directed specifically at Gillepsie, humiliating him repeatedly, and even inviting Gillepsie to fight him.
LaCourse said that in the recording, “Chief Driskell not only invited Mr. Gillespie to try and ‘tear his ass’ but ‘wished he would try’ and do so. This berating occurred at a time when Chief Driskell was in possession of a Glock handgun.”
In releasing the statement, LaCourse said, “... — it’s time to stand up. We have a mayor who is making amazing decisions and doing so from a platform that I think wouldn’t tolerate this.”
LaCourse also called for Driskell's suspension, and 'an investigation into his treatment of employees,' including the hostile work environment that Gillepsie has had to work in.
Gillepsie is involved in arbitration over a recent demotion, but it is a separate issue from this meeting. Union employees such as Gillepsie can file grievances if they feel their contract has been violated.
In his statement, LaCourse said that Driskell is carrying his gun illegally, in violation of Oklahoma state law and fire department policy. He said that Driskell had his employees purchase the gun, with unauthorized city funds because he couldn't.
He also said, "Without proper training and certification non-law enforcement officers cannot posses a weapon on city property, but records indicate Chief Driskell did just that."
Tulsa Fire Department records show that Driskell was issued a Glock model 27 .40 caliber handgun on August 10, 2015. In a statement that was issued on Thursday, June 22, Tulsa Deputy Fire Chief Scott Clark confirmed the issuance of the handgun to Chief Driskell, and also his lack of required certification. He said, “He is not CLEET certified, never was, and he was issued a gun."
On its website, CLEET stands for the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training. It is an organization that provides training to first responders and law enforcement officers in Oklahoma, and ensures that licensees operate within the laws. Steve Emmons, executive director of CLEET, said that his agency has no record of Driskell ever receiving certification.
State law requires that all peace officers who carry a gun in the line of duty have to be certified. Usually the only fire department employees that would be considered peace employees are fire marshals and fire inspectors.
Deputy Chief Clark also said that he was not aware of Driskell carrying the gun on duty, despite media reports to the opposite, and said that he kept the gun in his desk. He noted that Tulsa city ordinances state that a fire chief "shall have the police powers of a member of the Police Department.”
LaCourse's statement said that "Chief Driskell must be held accountable to his staff and the public for the way he treats the most valuable asset of any organization, but especially our Tulsa Fire Department, its men and women."
A spokesman for the City of Tulsa and Mayor Bynum declined to comment because it was a personnel issue. Driskell commented through Tulsa Fire Department spokesman, Stan May, and said “The only statement he (Driskell) has got is that he hasn’t had a chance to review the tape. And even if he had, he couldn’t comment because it’s a personnel issue.”
In the first week of June, Driskell ordered that the small thin blue lines on Tulsa fire trucks be removed because it sent "the wrong message to people." His decision came shortly after the acquittal in the trial of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby.
Driskell said at the time that "It hit me in my heart that this was the right thing to do for the City of Tulsa and for the citizens. Some people made a connection that, with Officer Shelby, the blue line meant that they supported her or that they back her or that they backed the decision from the jurors."