WF City Council approves one WFFD promotion after controversy

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 6:56 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - The topic of promotions within the Wichita Falls Fire Department ignited some controversy at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The department abides by Texas Local Government Code 143, which gives fair and equal opportunities for promotions. But, WFFD Fire Chief Ken Prillaman presented promotions at the meeting that would not align with this government code. It was a move the city council did not agree with.

“The way he wanted to present it today, kind of opened the door for what is my opinion a civil service violation,” Bobby Whitely, City of Wichita Falls counselor at large, said.

When positions open in civil service departments, like the Wichita Falls Fire Department, a promotional exam is taken by qualified employees. High-level positions are expected to be opening soon, but they need more qualified employees to go through the ranks before being eligible.

“In order to have captain-level rank, we have to have lieutenants to choose from,” Prillaman said. “So today was to put in place one or more lieutenants so that down the road we can add a captain. When the next fire marshal retirement, resignation or reassignment occurs, we have a method within the division to consider people that already have the training and experience.”

The promotions are given in order based off the score the employee receives on the promotional exam. Prillaman was looking to promote three people to lieutenant, but to do so, he was going to skip the second highest scorer because he is looking to pursue a promotion in suppression.

However, the promotion he would have been up for, per the state code, was in arson investigations. Although the second highest scorer said they were okay with being skipped, the council believed the move was in violation of Texas Local Government Code 143 and could cause issues in the future.

“Those rules are about fairness and timeliness and they have simply worked for decades,” Whitely said. “That is the procedure that we need to follow, we don’t need to circumvent that. It is not a perfect document, civil service is not a perfect document, but it is the most fair way for departments to function when it comes to promotions.”

The council agreed to amend the original proposal and change it to only one promotion to lieutenant, awarded to the person with the highest score on the exam.

“That will allow us to get one promoted, the individual on the top of the list has been in the division for a very long time,” Prillaman said. “He is certainly well deserving of the promotion and we will make that happen right away. At some point in the future, we will come back and ask the council to add two more.”

With this single promotion, everyone listed now moves up one position. The person who Prillaman wanted to skip is now number one.

“One of his arson investigators can promote to lieutenant,” Whitely said. “It leaves the guy that is next on the list at the top of the list. When a lieutenant’s position comes open in suppression, he can then promote to that position. Then, the next two guys are arson invesitgators and Chief Prillaman can come back and request those other two positions and they can be promoted.”

The test score rankings only last for one year. If promotions are not available and given out before that timeframe ends, everyone will have to take the test again. But, Prillaman believes those promotions will be made in the next 12 months.