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Utah officials under fire for demoting dept.’s first female battalion chief

A report said the department lacked evidence and allegedly manufactured allegations to demote Chief Martha Ellis

By FireRescue1 Staff

SALT LAKE CITY — Fire officials are being criticized for the demotion of the department’s first female battalion chief.

A report by the Salt Lake City Public Service Commission said that Salt Lake City Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Robert McMicken lacked evidence and seemed to have manufactured allegations against Battalion Chief Martha Ellis, a 22-year fire veteran.

The commission said Chief McMicken was “looking for reasons” to punish Ellis when she was demoted to the rank of captain in May 2016.

Chief McMicken said Ellis demonstrated an “apparent lack of engagement with [her] current assignment, a lack of ownership of [her] job responsibilities, an inability or unwillingness to follow instructions and a lack of respect for [her] chain of command.”

Before her demotion, Ellis had angered some officials by not endorsing a fire station makeover and failing to approve the narrowing of a street that would have violated the fire code.

Out of the seven allegations Chief McMicken made against Ellis, the commission found none of them to be credible.

The commission added that the allegations “appear as an attempt to manufacture misconduct and alleged failure of performance to justify disciplinary action, when there were no performance issues.”

The commission ordered that Ellis be returned to her former position as battalion chief.