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Sumter firefighter sues city for misconduct | News

He officially retired in November 2023. He currently serves as the North Carolina Fire Chief.

But his retirement was far from voluntary, attorney Elizabeth Millender said in an interview. Millender is one of Christmas’s lawyers at the Columbia firm of Cromer, Babb & Porter.

“Retirement wasn’t his choice,” she said. “He was basically given an impossible choice: Either you retire or we fire you.”

According to the lawsuit, Christmas became suspicious of the officials’ conduct as early as 2020, when Deputy Chief Dollard allegedly intervened in a fire investigation involving his uncle.

On Oct. 28, 2020, Christmas initiated an investigation into a fire that occurred at the 46,000-square-foot former VB Williams Furniture Co. warehouse located at South Lafayette Drive and Fulton Street in south Sumter.

The fire engulfed the warehouse, which is in a mixed residential and commercial area of ​​the city, and burned for several days. Thick black smoke could be seen for miles. Crews and equipment from Sumter, Shaw Air Force Base, Clarendon County, Camden and Columbia were brought in to fight the blaze.

The lawsuit claims it was one of several fires at the facility over a four-year period, prompting public speculation that the building owner may have been involved in the arson.

In 2020, Christmas contacted the Division of State Law Enforcement and the Sumter Police Department to investigate, according to the lawsuit.

However, the lawsuit says that once Dollard arrived on the scene, he took control of the operation — despite the fact that the building was owned by his uncle, Charles Hodge.

Christmas reportedly told Ford, the fire chief, that it was a clear conflict of interest. But Ford and Dollard reserved their anger for Christmas because he had hired an outside agency, according to the lawsuit.