Last week a veteran firefighter was removed from his job as an instructor in the training academy after a whistleblower informed local news of an alleged cheating ring within the fire department in DeKalb County, Georgia.
Veteran firefighter Donald Malbrough was accused of leaking confidential exam information to recruits after a female informant told investigative reporter, Erica Byfield of Channel 2, WSBTV Atlanta that she knew someone who was cheating.
DeKalb County Fire Chief Darnell Fullum said, “We did find this information shocking. We took immediate action.”
The results of an internal investigation by DeKalb County officials included the penalization of the instructor, Donald Malbrough, not the recruits. Malbrough was removed from the academy on Tuesday after being accused of ‘sharing in-depth test information with his student recruits.’
According to the report, the recruits say they didn’t even know they were cheating. They believed they had access to a ‘study guide’ provided by their teacher, according to officials.
The investigation called into question the training and performance of at least 23 [current] recruits and an entire class of recruits that graduated in 2014 who Malbrough helped to cheat on their Emergency Medical Training exams as well.
Records obtained in the investigation included recruit’s test scores which showed most of them failing quizzes and excelling at the exams. The report indicated that some recruit’s grades “jumped 111, 130, and 150 percent.”
In her investigation, Byfield demanded assurances for the public that ‘the way they were taught [wouldn’t] put any DeKalb County citizens in jeopardy.
“I’m convinced and rest assure to the community that those individuals [who] are doing the job right now are well-trained [and] capable to provide excellent service,” the chief said. “If it’s found through their investigations that these people [the recruits] need to be retrained we will do so.”
Byfield obtained Malbrough’s personnel file and found that in 2011 he was reprimanded for ‘neglect of duty’ for not properly monitoring the quality of student’s exams. About six years ago, he began working in the department’s academy and had only glowing reports until now.
DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester told Byfield she is eager to see what else is discovered in the national and state investigations.
“Pursuant to any of the investigations, folks need to be held accountable to the extent that they have done anything wrong,” Jester said.
Since the first report and the start of the investigation, documents were found that tie Malbrough to other firefighters in DeKalb, Rockdale, Gwinnett, and East Point who are also accused of improper behavior nationally, according to the report. There is concern that the information was shared with employees of a private ambulance company in the metro.
Malbrough has since apologized, and says that it was not his intention to cheat and he was sorry for his actions.
He is connected to five recruit classes that may have participated in the unintentional cheating that may have effected upwards of 120 DeKalb firefighters that he taught the EMS course to, according to officials.
Firefighter Ramel Spruill was a former student recruit in Malbrough’s class. He now faces suspension for ‘conduct unbecoming of a firefighter off duty’ after investigators found out that he took a photo of a deceased person while working for another department, a clear violation.
The whistleblower was in contact with Spruill and questioned his activity before bringing it to the Byfield’s attention.
The national investigation is continuing. It is not known how long it will take.
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