Fire Chief Resigns In Moore County Feud
Posted August 7, 2003 9:11 a.m. EDT
WHISPERING PINES, N.C. — A feud in the Moore County town of Whispering Pines is anything but "hush hush."
The fire chief has resigned along with seven others in the department. They all walked out after a disagreement with the new public safety director.
The move has ignited serious concerns.
Although the pines may whisper in Whispering Pines, residents raised their voices about the dispute at a village council work session this week.
"I'm sorry," a resident said to council members. "I'm not going to allow you to shut me up. You'll have to drag me out of here."
Residents are unhappy with Louis Gregory, the new public safety director and police chief. They say he forced the resignations of a police Lieutenant and one-third of the fire department.
"It really hurts my feelings to have to leave those guys or the village or the citizens there unprotected the way they are," said Mike Cornell, who resigned as fire chief Tuesday, followed by seven other volunteers.
Residents also are upset over Gregory's handling of fire department disputes that go back months before Gregory took charge.
"It just never was resolved," Gregory said, "and it finally came to this point."
Cornell said Gregory took away his authority and now has a department short on experience and active members.
"The ones that left are pretty much the 90 percent of the guys that show up for calls," Cornell said.
Gregory said the fire department remains in good shape.
"They are able to handle any emergency," he said of the remaining firemen. "We have got the very best qualified professionals out here."
Gregory said 17 active members remain. Cornell disputed that.
"Eight, counting myself, walked out," Cornell said. "So that leaves seven guys to fight your fires."
Some fear the walkout could affect the village's fire rating and raise homeowners' insurance rates.
As for the personnel issues involved, the mayor and city council refused to respond.
Some residents are also concerned about the police chief's qualifications. When the village hired him, he did not have required state certification.
Gregory has temporary certification, but he must complete 96 hours of training.