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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -
Butch Browning is being re-instated as State Fire Marshal, sources tell WAFB 9 News. His reinstatement will be effective Monday.
Browning retired from his job in April. Browning says he resigned to take a job as a superintendent at a plant in Ascension Parish, not because of an investigation by the Inspector General against the Fire Marshal's Office.
The Fire Marshal's Office falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety. State Police spokesman Doug Cain in April confirmed a trooper had been assigned to work alongside the Inspector General's Office as they investigate "several complaints" surrounding the Fire Marshal's Office. Cain would not elaborate but pointed out that the investigation will determine if the complaints have any credibility or if they are unfounded.
State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson in April said Browning has been credited with making sweeping changes to the Fire Marshal's Office through reorganization and cross-training of personnel. "The citizens of Louisiana have been fortunate to have had Butch serve as their Fire Marshal," Edmonson said. "His commitment to fire safety and prevention was unparalleled."
Browning was quoted in a news release about his retirement in April. "I leave the Fire Marshal's Office proud of our accomplishments and the dedicated service of the Office of State Fire Marshal employees with whom I've served," Browning said.
According to Col. Mike Edmonson, there was no criminal misconduct based on the initial allegations, and no criminal intent. The Inspector General's report is still pending. Edmonson says all policies at the Fire Marshal's Office will be reviewed.
Stay tuned to WAFB 9 News for more on this developing story.
The following is a news release from the Department of Public Safety:
Butch Browning will be reinstated as the Louisiana State Fire Marshal effective Monday, May 7th, following a State Police investigation which found that there is no factual evidence to support an attempt to defraud the department or public trust. Colonel Mike Edmonson, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Public Safety, announced today that he asked Browning to reconsider his decision to retire and rejoin the Department.
State Police investigated the same complaints and allegations that were forwarded to the Office of the Inspector General. The complaints were assigned to supervisors in the Internal Affairs Section, which is responsible for administrative investigations within the Department of Public Safety. The investigations included reviewing the complaints, inspecting documents, examining departmental reports and conducting interviews.
Browning submitted his intent to retire to Colonel Edmonson on April 17th and informed the Colonel that he had been offered a job in the private sector. Colonel Edmonson announced Browning's intentions to the public the same day while also taking Browning's decision to retire under consideration.
"Butch and I have had several conversations since he announced his intent to retire. We discussed the opportunities afforded to him in the private sector. We have also spoken about the distractions caused by the allegations made against him and the subsequent investigations," said Edmonson. "I reminded Butch about the successes of the Fire Marshal's Office under his leadership over the past four years and the goals we have yet to accomplish."
Edmonson added, "I respect the role of the Inspector General and appreciate his efforts and partnership. As such, I assigned a trooper to assist his office with their investigation. I take any allegation against Departmental personnel or operations very serious. That is why I directed Internal Affairs' supervisors to conduct an internal investigation and review every piece of information to determine if departmental policy was violated or if criminal activity occurred. That investigation has shown me that Butch did not abuse his power or violate the public trust."
Edmonson continued, "Butch has been a dedicated public servant in the fire service for over 27 years. He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and leadership to the Office of State Fire Marshal. Under his leadership, sweeping changes were made to the department through reorganization and cross-training of personnel. I have received an outpouring of support for Butch since he announced his intention to retire and I am proud to now announce his return."
Browning said, "After much thoughtful reflection over the last couple of weeks, it is clear that there is important work left to be done at the Fire Marshal's Office. I am humbled by the support I have received from the community and sincerely appreciate Colonel Edmonson's leadership and guidance as I reconsidered my decision. The allegations made against me have rested heavily on my heart. The integrity of the Office of State Fire Marshal is one of my top priorities. It's what the public expects. I welcome the opportunity to make positive changes and appreciate the input from the Inspector General. I remain proud of the great strides we have made to protect the public we serve. I also remain committed to continuing to work with our partners to enhance economic development and improve the quality of life for our citizens. I can think of no greater service."