Bluffton Fire Chief Clay Graves resigns; budget audit scheduled

October 31, 2007 

The chief of the Bluffton Township Fire District resigned Tuesday. The official reason for the resignation was "personal reasons." But at least one official said there are financial problems within the department.

Bluffton Fire Chief Clay Graves announced his resignation during a closed meeting of the Bluffton Fire Commission on Tuesday, commission chairman Bob Rogers said.

After the nearly four-hour session, the commission also announced its intention to meet with auditors to discuss the fire department's budget for this fiscal year.

Rogers said the commission -- at the request of its auditors -- will discuss "how to best deal with the budget." That meeting will take place as soon as possible, he said.

Graves did not comment, but Rogers said the chief's resignation, effective at midnight Tuesday, was for "personal reasons."

"He felt there was too much pressure on him," Rogers said in a phone interview following the announcement. "He wanted to get out of Dodge."

Rogers said that members of the commission were not expecting Tuesday's resignation and said cost overruns in the budget likely contributed to Graves' decision.

"It is his responsibility to manage the budget properly," Rogers said. "It's incumbent on the chief not to overspend, even for the good of the department."

The commission said nothing illegal happened in the management of the budget, but mismanagement likely led to cost overruns, Rogers said.

Graves has been with the fire department for 17 years, and has served as fire chief for the past two.

Assistant Chief Barry Turner, who oversees the department's administrative functions, will take over as interim fire chief. Commission members do not know when the search for a permanent chief will begin.

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