Fire Truculence

Is it a case of rogue firefighters or meddling city managers? Whatever it is, the Phoenix Fire Department isn't used to the scrutiny it's getting from City Hall.

Covey also complained that Johnson spent much of her work time writing the lengthy e-mails to fire and city officials. They argued over a number of issues, from leave slips to the tone of his voice, according to e-mails from Johnson and Covey. He eventually prepared a detailed log that included how frequently he saw her using her work computer to write e-mails and his growing frustration over her performance and attitude.

Still, fire officials--who had for months been meeting regularly with city managers and attorneys to discuss Johnson--agreed to let her work from home. In previous months, they had rearranged her office cubicle at Johnson's request because she was uncomfortable with the way it was arranged. At one point, they considered putting mirrors up around her desk because of her concerns over retaliation from the Gibson investigation.

Johnson began working out of her home in late August, using her own computer. The department spent about $12,000 on new computer equipment and phone lines to improve Johnson's home office, but then never actually installed the equipment.

Instead, partly because of problems with Johnson's work, the department last month decided it could get the data entered into the computer in a different way, and Johnson's "pilot program" has been discontinued, according to Hamblin, the assistant city attorney, and Sharon Marksbury, management services administrator for the department.

Whether Johnson will return to work at the department is unclear. And neither Brunacini nor Marksbury nor Wallace knows what the city will do next to accommodate her.

"Our intent is to make Barbara a productive part of the Phoenix Fire Department," says Marksbury. "Where that ends up, I can't tell you.

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