Fire Chief Still On The Job After Admitting He Stole Drugs
May 16, 2006
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. -- A local fire chief admitted he stole drugs from the fire department, but five years later he's never faced criminal charges. The firefighter was able to avoid arrest and even stay on the job.
Dale Kenny Merritt rose through the ranks of Brevard County Fire and Rescue, becoming a district chief in 2000. Then, his career took a sudden turn.
"We started noticing an increase in the amount of breakages of the vials," said Chief Bill Farmer, Brevard County Fire And Rescue.
The vials of morphine were supposed to be used to treat pain wracked patients during EMS calls, but internal documents obtained by Channel 9 show Merritt admitted to stealing the drugs.
Reports sent by the department to the Drug Enforcement Administration in October of 2001 indicate 42 ampoules were stolen. Chief Farmer pulled Merritt in to question him.
"He looked over at me and he said, 'Chief, I do have a problem. I did do this and I'm sorry,'" Farmer said.
The chief demoted Merritt to the lowest level in the department, firefighter. That cost him $**** a year in pay.
But that appears to be all that happened, even though theft of morphine is illegal. The sheriff's office said it questioned Merritt, but he denied any wrongdoing so it dropped the case and it was never forwarded to the State Attorney's Office.
Chief Farmer insists he notified the sheriff's office. He did notify the Drug Enforcement Agency of the theft but that same report indicates the theft wasn't reported to police. The DEA said there was no indication it investigated.
"I fully expected he would be arrested. I believe he fully expected to be arrested," Farmer said.
Farmer did notify the State Fire Marshal's Office and the State Department of Health, but the state never took any action. Merritt still has all of his certification and licenses. In fact, he could still have access to the drugs if Farmer would allow it. But, Farmer said, on the HAZMAT team he has no access to narcotics.
"No, he does not, nor will he ever, at least while I'm here," Farmer said.
As long as Farmer is chief, he said, Merritt will never rise above lieutenant again, a punishment he considers adequate for a career firefighter.
Merritt declined an interview on the advice of his attorney.
Prosecutors said the statute of limitations has run out on the case.
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