Hall County is giving little information about the resignation of Fire Chief Jeff Hood or the ongoing investigation into David Kimbrell, the former emergency management director.
Hood resigned Tuesday. Kimbrell was fired Oct. 26 after an illicit video was discovered on county servers that he says he had accidentally uploaded from a personal device. No available information suggests Hood’s resignation and Kimbrell’s firing are related.
On Wednesday, interim Hall County Administrator Jock Connell refused to say that Hood was not asked to resign.
“People … leave organizations and resign from organizations for a variety of reasons. What I can tell you is Chief Hood resigned his position as fire chief,” Connell said. “If he cares to elaborate on what his personal reasons may have been, I’ll let him do that. Quite frankly, I don’t know all of those reasons.”
Connell added that he has the “utmost respect” for Hood, but when it was clarified that the question was not Hood’s reasons for resigning, but whether anyone at the county requested the resignation, Connell said, “I know what the question was. That’s my answer.”
Hood could not be reached for comment Tuesday or Wednesday. In his resignation letter, Hood wrote that he was leaving “after giving a great deal of consideration and thought to my employment with Hall County.”
Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Stephen Wilbanks said no new information was available about the office’s investigation into Kimbrell. Hood is not part of that investigation or any current investigation by the Sheriff’s Office, according to Wilbanks.
Had he not resigned, it would have been Hood’s job to find a replacement for Kimbrell.
With two emergency services leaders gone in less than a week, the county has tapped interim leaders to keep the departments rolling.
Deputy Fire Chief Mark Arnold was appointed interim fire chief on Tuesday. He’s put to the task of managing the department and handling its upcoming review by the Insurance Services Office, which rates fire departments in the United States.
A fire department’s ISO rating affects the cost of insurance for property owners in the area. Hall County’s current rating is a 3 out of 10, where 1 is the best and 10 is the worst.
“We’ve submitted all of the requested data … by the end of July. We’re waiting now for our site visit,” Arnold said Wednesday. “When ISO decides it’s time for them to visit us, we’ll get about two weeks’ notice. They’ll arrive and spend a day with us to verify the information that we have submitted and do a hands-on inspection of our equipment.”
It’s not clear when the inspection will take place. ISO had scheduled a visit for October but later asked to delay the inspection, Arnold said. The group has not been in touch since.
Outside of that particular duty, Arnold will lead the department for at least the rest of the year. Connell said it would be January “at a minimum” before he could make a recommendation to the Hall County Board of Commissioners on how best to replace Hood.
“I don’t think we have got a definite and clear path with how we’re going to do that,” Connell said. “I’m going to spend some time talking with a wide variety of leadership of fire and emergency services — getting their input on what they view the state of the department is, what they do well, what their areas of improvement (need to be).”
Kimbrell served as fire chief and Emergency Management Agency director until he was relieved of his duties as fire chief in 2014. He retained his role as EMA director while Hood was named interim fire chief, which later became a permanent job.
In the Hall County Emergency Management Agency, Casey Ramsey is filling in as interim director. Ramsey is a captain within Hall County Fire Services.
His job will be closing out work left over from Tropical Storm Irma.
Hall County didn’t qualify for private assistance for storm cleanup from the state and federal government, but it qualified for public assistance, meaning those larger governments will help reimburse the county’s cost of responding to storm damage.
“There’s still a good bit of work on that, but that’s not uncommon with any disaster that we have,” Ramsey said. “... What we’re in the process of now is, as a county as a whole with all agencies that were affected, we’re submitting that information and data to (the Georgia Emergency Management Agency).”
That information will be used to help reimburse first responders for their costs during the storm.