Trussville Fire Chief Russell Ledbetter and Fire Marshal Steve Reasonover were officially placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday night following a lengthy closed-door executive session of the City Council.
Following the announcement made by Council President Anthony Montalto, Councilman Alan Taylor moved to hire a private law firm to conduct the investigation.
“Information has come to our attention and it has become necessary for us to look further in to this,” Montalto said. “For the record, no one has been found guilty of anything, this is just an investigation,” he added. “We want to make this clear and hopefully we’ll get good results.”
City officials are refusing to make any further comment while the investigation is ongoing.
The executive session was listed on the council’s agenda simply as the vague “Vote to go into Executive Session to discuss good name and character,” leaving the approximately 30 citizens of Trussville in attendance guessing how long the closed-door session would last.
While two city councilmen-elect were invited back among the sitting members for the meeting, current Trussville Mayor Gene Melton, who lost his seat in August, remained in the main council chamber.
The Trussville Fire Department operates under an unusual arrangement where part of the department is paid and part is volunteer. Both Reasonover and Ledbetter work for the paid department.
Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in a string of recent investigations and arrests of fire officials from municipalities and counties with volunteer fire departments across the state. In March, Blount County Fire Chief Paula Robertson was arrested on felony charges she stole thousands from her department over two years. In Elmore County, Deatsville Assistant Fire Chief Chad Ellis was arrested for arson. And just last month, Chilton County Fire Chief Shawn Carlisle was arrested on charges he stole $20,000 from his volunteer fire department.
Trussville Assistant Fire Chief Tim Shotts was named acting chief while the investigation is ongoing.