SHERMAN – Sherman Fire Chief Jeff Jones calls it one of the most trying times he's ever had to go through, and he's excited to get back to the job. His fellow firefighters say they are even more excited and that they hope to put all the negativity behind them.
Jones was welcomed back to Central Fire Station with open arms by a group of men he calls family. Those men say they see him as a father figure.
"In the ten years that I’ve been here, we've seen chiefs come and go, but this guy right now really seems to care about us. He's conscientious and seems to really care about what’s best for the men and so we're just thankful for a man that we know cares about us and the future of our families," says Sherman firefighter Oliver Mowat.
Chief Jones made the rounds shaking each man's hand. It was a very different atmosphere than what they've experienced over the past month.
"There’s been so many so many rumors going around talking about how things are wrong, and Chief just brings us together as a family," adds Sherman firefighter Rick Bullocks.
On Thursday morning, Sherman city manager George Olson reinstated Chief Jones after placing him on administrative leave with pay on July 13th.
During that time, an outside investigator looked into allegations that Jones supplied department members with test answers for the national incident management system 800 series and that Jones might have permitted certain fire personnel to receive training cards without attending training.
Both allegations were determined to be unfounded.
"I really didn’t expect it to take as long as it did, and I missed a really crucial time," said Chief Jones.
"You really can’t put a time frame on an investigation because every person that’s talked to, every door that’s open, you don’t know what’s going to be said or where that’s going to lead you." Sherman city manager George Olson said of the investigation.
While Chief Jones was cleared of all allegations, the investigation did find serious administrative deficiencies in the department, and Olson says he will ask for an outside auditor to look into those problems.
Until then, firefighters like Mowat are hoping to get back to the way things were.
"We really had a hard time keeping our spirits up because we know how important it is to us that are leader to be here with us and motivate us and inspire us to do the things we do on a daily basis."
Unlike Chief Jones, Captain Doug Blackburn remains on administrative leave pending the results of a current investigation.
Details of that investigation are not being released at this time.