Charlotte County Firefighter Resigns Following Facebook Posts

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FL — A longtime Charlotte County Fire/EMS employee resigned Friday after county administrators began examining some of his social media posts.

Don Morley, 60, was under investigation following a complaint to county administration that some of his posts on Facebook were racist. His personal Facebook page, which was deleted Thursday afternoon, showed him dressed in his firefighters uniform standing in front of a county truck as his profile picture.

Brian Gleason, Charlotte County spokesman, said the county doesn’t investigate private social media pages of employees. He said their speech is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However because a complaint was made about racists posts on Morley’s page where he’s in uniform, the county did investigate. Morley’s page listed his profession as a Charlotte County Fire/EMS employee.

Commissioner Bill Truex, the county administration, county attorney and fire department leaders all received the complaint last week. Gleason said the county took swift action.

Sarah Norris, who organized a diversity and understanding rally with Truex, Charlotte County law enforcement, African American leaders and community members in Punta Gorda earlier this month, complained about the post. She questioned Morley’s judgment and medical decisions as a first responder.

In one post, Morley wrote “hahahaha” on a post about a Black man who “coded twice” in an ambulance after being hit by a downed Confederate statue.

He also reposted comments about George Floyd, who died while being held down by police officers in Minneapolis. The post said, “Mourners are invited to join violent demonstrations to honor George’s memory. Molotov cocktails are requested in lieu of flowers. Murdering an innocent police officer with a wife and young children would also be an acceptable way of demonstrating our respect for George.”

Several of Morley’s posts were flagged by Facebook as false claims. One was a photo of a battered woman allegedly brutalized by George Floyd in 2007. Facebook coded it as “false information,” explaining the image was of a woman in Madrid in 2018 and not from the U.S. in 2007. Morley wrote, “it doesn’t make it any less real.”

Morley posted several times that he’s sick of being blamed or shamed for slavery or being white.

Truex called the more than 20 racist posts “inflammatory.”

“I know we preach inclusion and diversity, and the board set the example from the top, even though we are all White, middle- and upper-aged men,” Truex said.

Truex said he understands employees paid with public funds walk a tightrope on social media. He said Morley has rights like any other employee.

Gleason said after receiving the complaint, the county administration directed the Human Resources Department to “convene a team to review our diversity and inclusion practices with the intent of implementing annual diversity training. The task force will explore ways to reinforce a culture that embraces diversity and mutual respect.

“We are adding a diversity committee to determine next steps for increasing our training initiatives,” wrote Heather Bacus, Human Resource director, in an email to the Sun.

A review of Morley’s 319-page personnel file shows he received above satisfactory reviews most of his career including in 2016-17. He received an excellent score in 2018 under the category for “sensitivity to the needs, feelings, concerns and compassion of others including co-workers.”

Since coming to the department in 1997, Morley was disciplined a couple of time for taking a day off without proper notification and a written warning once for tardiness.

Bacus said Morley’s resignation and investigation paperwork is still being processed.

The Sun attempted to contact Morley through a message to his Facebook account when it was still active, but he did not respond.