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Pensacola, Pace Fire Chiefs Sidelined For Probes

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Pace Fire Rescue District
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Fire chiefs and top administrators in the Pensacola Fire Department and Pace Fire-Rescue are on paid leave in two separate investigations.

Santa Rosa County officials confirm that Pace Fire-Rescue Chief Donnie Wadkins and Sec. Pat Watkins are under investigation for an undisclosed reason or reasons. Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille confirms that the investigation has been ongoing for a period of time.

“I would anticipate that it will continue for at least several weeks before we make a decision,” Marcille says. “At this time, we’re in the process of obtaining documents, financial information, as well as interviewing witnesses.”

While Marcille is limited in his comments about this specific case, he did walk through how such cases are handled. For instance, the case can be brought to the State Attorney’s attention either by individuals, or by government agencies.

Whether or not a grand jury gets involved, says Marcille, depends on the facts of the case and how complicated they may be.

“If we determine that there’s insufficient evidence to go forward, then more than likely we would close that out without any sort of grand jury review,” says Marcille. “If we determine that it’s appropriate for our office to file criminal charges, then most times we would do that on our own, and not seek that from a grand jury.”

Also, if prosecutors feel it’s a matter of particular interest, they may present it to a grand jury, or the case could be presented for clarification.

Meanwhile, Pensacola Fire Chief Matt Schmitt and Deputy Chief Joseph Glover were placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday, by what’s termed “City Hall management.” No further details were given, but a city spokesman did say that the investigation would be performed by an “outside source.” David Allen, the City’s Fire Marshal, is serving as Interim Chief.

Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille says the Pace and Pensacola cases, and a series of raids on pharmacies in Pace and Jay, are each “stand alone.”

“To my knowledge, what we’re looking at is specific to the Pace Fire Department,” said Marcille. “It is not related to any other matters that may be investigated by either other agencies or other jurisdictions.”

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.