Accusations of a “good old boy system,” cronyism by city manager, fire department

Published 12:28 am Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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In the nearly three years Greg Benson served as fire chief for the city of Port Arthur he was subjected to a highly toxic, hostile work culture fostered by members of the fire department, according to Benson.

He likened it to a good old boy network, cronyism and was subjected to a lack of trust and transparency from his supervisor, the city manager.

Benson, who was terminated from his position as chief by City Manager Ron Burton April 25, aired his grievances as a speaker during Tuesday’s city council meeting in Port Arthur.

Port Arthur City Manager Ron Burton looks on at Wayne Dolcefino, a Houston-based investigative journalist and founder of Dolcefino Consulting, as he addresses the city council and him on Tuesday. (Mary Meaux/The News)

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All was fine until a shift in attitude occurred around the time of the ambulance EMS change, Benson noted regarding his position as chief.

Acadian Ambulance, seeking to be the sole provider in the city, pulled out, leaving the newly hired City Ambulance to handle the service.

Just two weeks before Benson was fired, Burton praised him at a Port Arthur Rotary meeting. Burton also told Benson, “I have your back” when Benson brought concerns to him, he said, which makes the former fire chief wonder just how transparent the city manager is and if he is truthful.

Benson used the acronym C.H.A.O.S. as he spoke to councilmembers and Burton.

“C.H.A.O.S. is City Hall Achieving Organizational Sabotage,” he said.

Benson also said a formal complaint was launched by City Ambulance on April 12 regarding the interim fire chief allegedly allowing Acadian to transport a patient from a local hospital while not having a permit to do so.

Benson finished his talk and presented documents to the city secretary before going back to his seat in the audience.

In related talks, Wayne Dolcefino, a Houston based investigative journalist and founder of Dolcefino Consulting, boldly addressed council, starting off with a line from a rock song by Lynyrd Skynyrd called “That Smell.”

Wayne Dolcefino addresses the city council and the city manager in Port Arthur. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“And right now the smell in this place reeks of cronyism. It reeks of public corruption and it certainly reeks over a city council that has allowed its city manager to use so much arrogant power,” Dolcefino said.

Mayor Thurman Bill Bartie attempted to stop Dolcefino, saying he was to speak on the ambulance contract as was listed on the agenda. Dolcefino said no one from his office specified the topic, only that he requested to speak.

This wasn’t the first time Dolcefino addressed the city council. Several months ago Dolcefino spoke with Burton about reportedly falsified Acadian response times, and Burton said he would leave no stone uncovered while investigating the issue.

And now, as of May, nothing has been done, Dolcefino said.

“The fire chief helped me expose falsified response times, and what was his reward? His reward was to get fired,” Dolcefino said. “And you know why? Because this good old boy system. I’m kind of an expert in good old by systems and Texas government. This good old boy system is willing to protect the people that were here before. I think every member of that command staff of that fire department and the city manager too should have to give financial disclosure of any tickets or travel or anything of that kind from any ambulance company.”

Dolcefino noted the ambulance response time with City Ambulance in March was 97 percent, and the city actually got better public safety. This occurred under Benson’s tenure.

None of the council members or Burton responded to Dolcefino’s comments.