Smith County fire marshal resigns effective Oct. 1

‘My life situation has changed dramatically over the last couple of years’
Smith County Fire Marshal Jay Brooks
Smith County Fire Marshal Jay Brooks(KLTV)
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 10:35 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:35 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County Fire Marshal Jay Brooks has submitted his resignation.

Brooks’ resignation is effective Oct. 1. Commissioners accepted the resignation in a unanimous vote at Tuesday’s meeting.

In a letter obtained by KLTV, Brooks cited a need to spend more time with family as his reason for resignation.

Brooks served Smith County as a volunteer recovery diver and firefighter/EMT-B beginning in 1998. He became a peace officer and joined the Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office in 2008 as a volunteer deputy. Brooks was appointed as fire marshal in 2014, and then again in 2019. He said he is leaving to take a position as a software developer in the private sector.

In the spring of 2022, the county reprimanded Brooks for “concern regarding your ability to properly and effectively act” in his position. Brooks said the reprimand did not factor into his decision to resign.

KLTV obtained a copy of the reprimand, along with Brooks’ response through a public information act request. KLTV requested copies of disciplinary records after Brooks’ position was a part of the commissioners court’s agendas on March 29 and April 5.

In the reprimand, dated April 11, Brooks is cited for failure to provide documentation for disciplinary actions, lied about and concealed a material fact concerning an internal investigation and improper use of county resources.

The reprimand states Brooks used county-maintained computers and law enforcement databases to access sensitive information related to personal matters. It states the searches occurred in conjunction with allegations made by Brooks, which resulted in an investigation by the sheriff’s office and a pending prosecution. The reprimand states Brooks’ searches could compromise the investigation. It states Brooks was dishonest about his access to the county database.

In his rebuttal letter, Brooks argues there is no law in which he is aware which keeps him from seeing information in a local information system in which he has access. He argues there is no evidence which suggests he did anything improper with any information he may have acquired. Brooks also denies lying to the sheriff’s office, as no evidence to this was presented to him.

The reprimand also states Brooks did not properly document disciplinary actions related to his chief deputy and he did not manage staff properly, fostering “an environment of distrust and discord among current and former employees.”

In Brooks’ rebuttal, he denies any discord among his employees. Brooks states his staff has been available to speak with human resources and the commissioners court, but they have not been interviewed.

“This leaves me only to assume that you are solely basing this ‘reason supporting your decision’ based on rumors of past employees…As managers, we all know that we can’t make everyone happy. We have to make decisions based on what is best for the office and for Smith County. In doing this, naturally you will have people who will find fault for various reasons.”

The reprimand states the following disciplinary actions taken against Brooks:

  • Written reprimand
  • 10-month probationary oversight by HR and commissioners court
  • Requirement to attend a management seminar
  • Re-evaluation of appointment as fire marshal, prior to expiration on Dec. 20

Brooks said in an interview on Tuesday the reprimand did not affect his decision to resign.

“No, absolutely not,” Brooks said. “In fact, I had followed everything that they’d asked me to do to the T. My intention was to always retire in this office. But the wife and I had discussed this almost a year ago that because of the situation that we’ve been going through, this office was just not conducive for our family. And so that was my final decision. Just move on and go do something else.”

Brooks said he did not fight against the reprimand.

“There was a definite misunderstanding on some things that had occurred,” he said. “And we can go into more detail at some point on what kind of brought that about. At the end of the day, I did not fight, I did not stand up, I did not speak up. It was a no-win situation. I just wanted to move on. And no that really had nothing to do with this conversation with my wife about moving on had started way prior to this. And so like I said, it’s one of those things I just wanted to kind of move on. It was best in my mind, it was best for the court, it was best for me to just gloss over. So, I didn’t even go back. I wrote a letter to the court, but it never got presented to the court. It just went into the file. We are just going to move on and leave it at that.”

Brooks said two of his deputy fire marshals also are resigning, effective Oct. 1.

“Like I said, incidentally some of the things that are talked about in those reprimands they were never interviewed, those two,” Brooks said. “Anytime you’re running an office, like I said, there’s going to be differences of opinions. And unfortunately, at the end of the day, I made the decision to just move on and it may have bitten me in the rear on this particular case.”

The county’s human resources department confirmed the two deputy resignations. Chief Deputy Chad Hogue will now cover the duties of the fire marshal until a successor is appointed. One deputy will remain in the office along with an administrative assistant.