City manager, outgoing fire chief share concerns with Port Arthur leadership change

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Information that former Fire Chief Greg Benson is on administrative leave as opposed to being terminated is up in the air while Port Arthur officials wait for Benson to sign a separation document.

City Manager Ron Burton told Port Arthur Newsmedia Tuesday that he could not comment on the employment status, as the legal department is handling the matter.

And while that employment status is seemingly at an impasse, there comes another shake up of fire department leadership.

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On Sunday, Burton was informed that Interim Fire Chief Robert Havens stepped down from the recently appointed post due to medical reasons.

Burton said he instructed staff Sunday evening to begin the process to appoint Captain Antonio Mitchell as interim chief.


The sequence of events following Benson’s termination is coming to light but leaves many questions unanswered.

Burton informed Benson of the termination at approximately 4:15 p.m. April 25 while in the presence of the Interim City Attorney James Black and Assistant City Manager Albert Thigpen, Benson said on Tuesday.

Benson said he received a written separation agreement that he believes included incorrect information and what he called defamatory comments made by Mayor Thurman Bartie, saying he was terminated following a vote of no confidence by the Port Arthur Professional Firefighters Association.

A secondary meeting was held April 29 due to the inaccurate information and an update to the document was to be made. Benson received the revised separation document May 1, sent by Thigpen with the city manager copied on the document.

According to city policy, the city manger is the person in charge of employment, Benson said.

On May 10 Benson received a letter electronically from the interim city attorney referencing the separation agreement but not including the document.

Benson said city policy requires the city manger to provide a written document with the reason the person was terminated.

He never received this.

“It was all just verbal,” Benson said.

Benson has 21 days from May 1 to sign the document, Benson said.

In addition Benson has filed an appeal and a grievance with the city.

City Council was set to discuss Benson’s termination during an executive session May 7, but since Benson was scheduled to speak at the regular session, council opted to table the issue, Bartie said.

“Technically, from a legal standpoint, he is still an employee,” Bartie said


Benson was hired in 2021 for the fire chief’s position and on April 25, 2024, City Manager Ron Burton informed him of his termination.

Benson said he asked Burton why he was being terminated and was told Burton was not happy with the direction the department was going.

When Benson pushed for specifics he was not given one, Benson previously told Port Arthur Newsmedia.

Bartie, who was out of town at the time, said he was aware of the situation and believes the termination stems from issues between Benson and the command staff with the fire department.