Clearwater vows fire dept. change after scandals, alleged energy drink theft

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Clearwater Fire & Rescue is caught in controversy. On Thursday the department acknowledged the latest incident in a series of embarrassing and disappointing occurances.

It began with a series of sex scandals throughout the last few years. Now, Ronald Gemsheim, the assistant chief of health and safety, is accused of applying his own five-finger discount to a 5-hour ENERGY drink.

Gemsheim allegedly stole the energy drink, which costs $3.29, and after putting it in his pocket and walking out of the 7-Eleven, which is down the street from the fire house. The store’s manager confronted him, officials said. The manager said Gemsheim walked back in and put the drink on the counter.

City leaders are now sounding off about this behavior. They say it’s unacceptable.

“It’s an unfortunate incident,” Clearwater Fire Chief Robert Weiss said. “It’s very embarrassing for our department.”

“This is an avoidable mistake,” Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne said. “Let’s put it that way.”

Horne said sometimes people can’t have a second chance. Enough is enough, he told News Channel 8.

Horne said he’s ready to clean Clearwater Fire & Rescue up.  “Well, that’s my job,” he said. “In the life of an organization, you’re going to have employees who make mistakes.”

The city manager and the fire chief both said the department’s employees work for the people. “It’s a big black eye on the fire department when anything like this happens,” Chief Weiss said.

Surveillance cameras will be installed in each of the city’s eight fire houses, although a timeline hasn’t been publicly offered yet. Horne said the city has about $100,000 to budget for those cameras.

Horne said members of the city’s top brass have made unannounced visits within the last few days and they will be making many more.

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