Former Surfside Beach fire chief cites hostile work environment in retirement letter to council

Local News

SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – The former chief of the Surfside Beach Fire Department said in a retirement letter he was leaving due to conditions he described as hostile “at the absolute best.”

News13 obtained the retirement letter sent by Prentice Williams, who was promoted to chief in November, through the Freedom of Information Act. Williams retired effective June 1, according to acting Fire Chief Larry Carter Jr.

Williams was promoted to fire chief on Nov. 20 by the town council. He was a battalion captain before his promotion with 30 years of fire experience. He had been assisting the previous fire chief for many years, the town said during his promotion.

But after six months as chief, Williams said in the letter, the conditions he had to endure became unbearable. He said, “fire chiefs before me never had to go through what I am going through. It makes me wonder if the reason I was not being supported by the administration is because of my skin color.”

Williams says in the letter that human resources was given false information about him and he never had a chance to respond. “From the start, Human Resources kept information away from me that I should have been made aware of that pertained to the department.”

At some point, Williams was placed on administrative leave due to what he calls “false accusations,” according to his letter. He also says he was suspended because he was falsely accused of threatening someone’s job.

“The letter advising me of my administration leave was full of false accusations that I was never allowed a meeting to discuss them,” Williams wrote. “I wrote a rebuttal letter on each of the trumped-up charges in my own defense since I was not interviewed nor given a chance to respond to the charges.”

“I was suspended because someone said I threatened them of their job, which never happened and was verified as such by personnel in the meeting,” Williams continued.

“I wish that there had been support from the Town Administration as I wanted to bring the department back to the standing of prior chief administrations.”

Willams said he was open to discussing the issues if the mayor and council wanted him to remain as fire chief.

“Working in that type of environment has caused my family and I a tremendous amount of stress, which has caused me to have medical issues. High blood pressure, anxiety, and not being able to sleep at night. Going into work every day not knowing how the day was going to go is no way for any person to work when knowing that your subordinates are out to get you fired because they feel that someone else should have been the fire chief.”

News13 reached out to the town administrator on Monday afternoon for a response. We have not received a response as of Tuesday evening.

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