Details revealed on nature of former LaGrange fire chief’s resignation

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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Former LaGrange Fire Chief John Brant was accused of violating several department regulations, including improper conduct and indecent language, before his sudden resignation four days before Christmas last year.

The LaGrange Daily News obtained investigation documents through a Freedom of Information request that show Brant was accused of violating City of LaGrange policies and procedures while performing his duties as fire chief, including lying or misrepresenting the truth and basic employee standards. Brant worked for the city of LaGrange for 27 years before his resignation and had served as fire chief since November 2018.

Specifically, Brant was alleged to have violated the following fire department regulations:  being civil and respectful to fellow fire department members; using profanity; improper conduct and indecent language while on duty; making derogatory remarks to anyone about a member of the department that might subject them or the department to ridicule.

City Manager Meg Kelsey sent a letter to Brant on Dec. 9, 2022, outlining several conduct violations that allegedly occurred over the previous 15 months. The allegations in the letter included the following:

On or about Sept. 23, 2021, Brant was alleged to have told an exclusively male leadership training class that Sgt. Michette Moon, a female, was no different from them, in that “she is after the same [expletive] as them.

On Nov. 8, 2022, Brant had finished an investigation regarding the disclosure of a firefighter pay study. According to Kelsey’s letter, Brant had accused Lt. Caleb Harrison of disseminating the pay study information. Brant also allegedly said Kelsey and City Attorney Jeff Todd told him to fire Harrison.  Kelsey has since confirmed that neither she nor Todd told Brant to fire Harrison, who is still employed by the fire department.

At the time, Brant reportedly told Harrison that he intended to save his job, but also allegedly told him on numerous occasions during the same investigation that he was a “cancer” to the fire department and an “[expletive] employee.”

Following the resignation of Division Chief Garrett Brubaker, Brant informed Harrison that he would be taking over the EMT-B, EMT-A and Paramedic Program as well as their accreditation process. When Harrison did not agree to take over the programs, Brant reportedly lashed out, yelling and cursing at him that he had a direct order to take over the programs, according to the investigation documents. He also allegedly canceled Harrison’s pre-planned vacation, which had been on the calendar for a year to teach a class in North Georgia.

“He told me he was canceling my vacation this morning after plans have been made for a year. I teach these classes on my own vacation time because he refuses to give me school time to teach,” Harrison said in a complaint sent to Kelsey that was part of the investigation documents.

On Aug. 16, 2022, during the pay study investigation, Brant reportedly yelled at Firefighter Zack Domantay, calling him a liar and saying he had bad character. Domantay had previously been named Firefighter of the Year in 2021 for the department.

Following a survey of employees in early 2022, Brant allegedly had a heated discussion with Firefighter Gary Casper regarding the departmental grooming policy, according to the investigation documents. Brant later met with Casper and Lt. Johnathan Williamson during which Brant reportedly yelled that he would not tolerate Casper’s disrespectful behavior. Brant also yelled that he was going to fire Casper, although he did not do so.

After being informed of the allegations, Brant was placed on administrative leave with pay and requested to meet with Kelsey Dec. 15, 2022.

Chief Brant resigned on Dec. 21. No reason for his departure was given by the city at the time.

During the LaGrange City Council meeting on Feb. 28, Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Mitchell said Brant resigned due to the incidents in the administrative investigation, which Kelsey determined code of conduct violations.

“She investigated that and after that investigation, the fire chief decided to resign instead of possibly being demoted,” Mitchell said.