The long-promised and long-awaited investigation into the long list of equipment problems within the Huntington Fire Department has been completed and delivered to Mayor Steve Williams, according to his spokesman.

Right now, what is unknown is who did the investigating and what that individual or entity found.

The last public comment about the report came in early June, when the mayor's office said the city had collected preliminary information to begin an investigation and someone had been selected to conduct the investigation. However, the city said the investigator could not be revealed because the investigating entity had not yet secured clearance to publicly disclose participation in the investigation and to make comments, the city said then.

On Friday, The Herald-Dispatch asked Bryan Chambers, the communications director for the mayor's office, who would perform the investigation and what the timetable was for completion.

"The mayor announced to City Council in February that an external investigation would be conducted," Chambers responded in an email. "An entity was selected to conduct the investigation. It has been conducted and has been completed. Mayor Williams has had follow-up conversations about the findings and next steps are being determined. He will advise City Council, interested parties and the public of the findings within the next couple of weeks."

There was no mention of who did the investigating or what the investigation found.

In February, Williams said there would be an independent investigation into the department after two ladder trucks broke down, raising concerns for the safety of firefighters and the public. A fire rescue boat had been inoperable since May 2018, 12 months after it was inspected for possible repairs.

This whole process has been clouded in secrecy. Very little has been said in public about the inquiry into how the department allowed its equipment to get in such bad shape. Last week when Williams attended an event to introduce the city's new fire truck - painted green and white in an homage to Marshall University - he could have made a few comments about the investigation, but didn't. He didn't even say it had begun.

The only way The Herald-Dispatch learned it was over was when an editor asked whether it had begun and who was doing it. A followup request for a copy of the report went unanswered at the time this was written.

The public needs to know who did the investigating and how that entity was selected. What are the next steps? Will the public see the raw report or only a version that will be released after city officials - some of whom could come in for stinging criticism - have edited it?

City officials were quiet in January when state fire marshals put the Fire Department on probation because of equipment problems. The problems became public in February when the department's boat was not able to respond to a call about a man who had jumped or fallen from the East End bridge.

Let's get the secrecy out of the way so the public can have confidence that the causes of the equipment problems have been corrected and that those responsible have been held accountable.


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