GARY, Ind. (STMW) — Four firefighters with four separate complaints against their chief expected to present evidence Thursday at a special meeting set by the Gary Fire Civil Service Commission to hear the first of 24 cases filed against Chief Teresa Everett.

But after more than four hours of testimony, the board was still on the first matter, a complaint by retired division chief Theodore Williams, who claims he was wrongly moved to a position that constituted a demotion.

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The move, his attorney MacArthur Drake argued, was retaliation for remarks made by Williams’ brother, Commissioner Randall Williams III, during a city council committee hearing about changes in the department proposed by Everett.

Everett, who was appointed by the mayor early in 2012, testified she has the authority to transfer staff members based on “their skill sets and operational needs.”

But Commissioner Juana McLaurin observed the chief had transferred more than one division chief and replaced them with lower ranking battalion chiefs. All positions within the fire department, except Everett’s, are obtained through testing by the commission.

Theodore Williams testified he was a division chief from 2006 until he accepted a city buyout late in 2012, shortly after Everett removed him from his administrative spot over operations to a fire suppression job. Although his pay remained the same, Williams said he lost opportunities for overtime, estimating the loss at about $20,000, he testified.

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Everett maintained her decisions were made as part of the department’s normal routine. “You’re used where they’re needed,” she said.

McLaurin observed, however, that several division chiefs were transferred to battalion chief roles and those battalion chiefs assumed duties in the higher rank.

Commission attorney Rinzer Williams called a halt to testimony before both sides could complete their presentations.

The hearing will continue as part of next month’s regular meeting on May 15. The remaining three cases will be held then, too, the board decided.

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