This week, a team of fire experts investigating the Sofa Super Store fire of 2007 in Charleston released e-mails containing complaints about the Charleston Fire Department and the mayor. Although the six-member team says it tried its hardest to remain neutral during their investigation, in private e-mails they had a great deal of criticism and complaints against the Charleston Fire Department’s leadership.
The e-mails spoke of Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, saying: “He is a master old southern politician, and he is working hard to make something ugly smell like a rose.” In his initial reactions, Riley stood firm that now-retired Chief Rusty Thomas, and the Charleston Fire Department were among the best in the country.
Mayor Riley responded to the emails: “It was disappointing. It was informal chit-chat, e-mail chit-chat that was not the same kind of a discussion that they were having with us. But the fact of the matter is, what the story is and should be about is that immediately after the tragic fire, we brought in an independent team to analyze our department and give us recommendations. They did and we followed every recommendation.”
The City of Charleston paid consultant Gordon Routley and the team of fire experts $284,000 to investigate the details of the tragic 2007 Sofa Super Store fire. Riley says the e-mails were very informal and not all the way factual.