A 12 News investigation in May led to the demotion of Phoenix Fire Marshal Jack Ballentine for soliciting and directly accepting a $100,000 check from a philanthropist for the charity The 100 Club of Arizona while in his official role. Ballentine appealed his demotion and requested a private hearing.
That hearing, before a hearing officer under contract to the Civil Service Board was supposed to take place this month. But 12 News has learned, Ballentine recently withdrew his appeal as part of a resolution with the city, so no hearing will be held.
City communications director Julie Watters says Ballentine is still in the same city position he was demoted to, permanently assigned to the Fire Department's Homeland Security Section in a middle-manager position.
We don't yet know why he withdrew his appeal, but he was vigorously fighting his demotion. Documents obtained by 12 News from the city of Phoenix lend some insight into his strategy.
Part of his defense included throwing his colleagues at the Phoenix Fire Department under the bus.
In his appeal, Ballentine's attorney John Charland wrote, "He had permission to work on 100 Club of Arizona matters during his work hours."
His appeal specifically states, "Other members of the fire department such as video services personnel spend work hours on 100 Club of Arizona matters." It also reads, "Evidence will show police and fire employees have a history of delivering donations from third parties to the 100 Club of Arizona."
We asked the Phoenix Fire Department for a response to the accusations leveled against his colleagues at the fire department as well as the police department where Ballentine used to work prior to coming on board at the fire department in 2007.
City communications director Julie Watters responded by saying: "Mr. Ballentine's attorney drafted the arguments in his appeal. These arguments are unproven and constitute the attorney's opinion only.” Watters further wrote in that same email, “It would be inappropriate for the City to comment on an employee's attorney's legal arguments at this stage of a disciplinary appeal. The employee is entitled to a fair process, and we decline to intrude on that."
The 100 Club of Arizona collects monetary donations for the families of fallen police officers and firefighters.
We brought the basis of Ballentine’s appeal to the attention of the 100 Club of Arizona. During an on-camera interview with 12 News late August, spokesman Matthew Benson told us that Ballentine is still a volunteer with the organization but he has not been active through 2016.
Benson went on to say the charity was unaware of Ballentine’s activity.
“The 100 Club does not determine when they volunteer, in what manner, what time of day or whether they're on the clock or off the clock," he said, "and frankly, that's a matter between the employee and their employer.”
Benson further stated, “We certainly don't want any kind of accusations, unfounded or otherwise that hurt the public's trust in the organization that damage fundraising, whether what he's saying constitutes that, I can't really say.”
In other documents obtained by 12 News, Ballentine did a point-by-point rebuttal of the city investigation. He took aim at the investigator, Larry Lockley from the city human resources department in an attempt to poke holes in his investigation, citing that Lockley made "contradictory statements."
Ballentine further wrote, "He makes personal opinions that are inconsistent with the evidence that was reported to him and is biased toward his personal conclusion that the employee solicited or took for personal use a fee or gift in the course of their work which led to favoritism or the appearance of favoritism."
He also accused Lockley of repeatedly making inflammatory statements and characterized it as an attack on his ethics, integrity and professionalism.
The documentation related to the resolution Ballentine apparently reached with the city of Phoenix is still being processed and finalized.
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