‘Culture of fear’ at Horry County Fire Rescue addressed by former, current employees

‘Culture of fear’ at Horry County Fire Rescue addressed by former, current employees

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Fire Rescue’s leader faced some criticism during the Horry County Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, but a current employee came to the fire chief’s defense.

During the Horry County Council meeting July 9, councilman Danny Hardee brought up concerns to Tanner about a “culture of fear” within the department.

Hardee said he’s heard from HCFR employees who are scared to share concerns about Tanner’s leadership for fear of losing their jobs.

Hardee also said the “culture of fear” needs to change because HCFR has had trouble over the last several years retaining employees. Hardee said taxpayers shouldn’t have to spend so much money on training new employees, only to have them leave shortly after they start.

Tanner said during the meeting last week that he has an open door policy where anyone can share any concerns they have with him.

During the Public Safety Committee meeting, former HCFR employee Leigha Powell claimed that the “culture of fear” is real.

“I can tell you there is a culture of fear that exists at Horry County Fire Rescue,” Powell said.

Powell also claimed Tanner’s open door policy isn’t real.

“I’ve tried to meet with Chief Tanner since May of 2018. Text messages, phone calls to his county cell phone, messages left, emails all went unanswered,” she said.

Immediately after Powell spoke during the meeting, current HCFR employee Autumn Wagner spoke, defending Tanner.

Wagner is a captain for the department.

“There was a culture of fear,” Wagner said. “There was a time when you weren’t allowed to speak. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

Wagner said in her time at HCFR, previous chiefs have been responsible for harboring a “culture of fear,” but not Tanner.

“I’ve been the firefighter EMT and the lieutenant who sat in a room under her previous administrations who was screamed at, and I mean screamed at, for over six hours because a piece of equipment got misplaced from one firetruck to another,” she said. “Six hours. From a supervisor. At the chief level. Our administration doesn’t deal with people that way anymore.”

Tanner declined to comment, instead referring members of the media to his spokesperson Tony Casey. Casey also declined to comment.

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