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Columbus Names New Interim Fire Chief

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City of Columbus
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Jeff Happ is a 27-year Columbus Division of Fire veteran who most recently oversaw the city's Fire Training Academy.

Columbus' mayor has named an interim Chief of the Division of Fire to replace the man who's leaving the position in the wake of a division payroll scandal.Mayor Andrew Ginther says Jeffrey Happ will take over for Kevin O'Connor, whose retirement takes effect Thursday.

Ginther told O'Connor that he would not be appointed to another five-year term as chief. Investigators assert that Jeff Reall, a deputy chief working under O'Connor, falsified payroll leading to overpayments of about $440,000. 

O'Connor denied any involvement in the overpayments. A city investigation recommended Reall be terminated and O’Connor be suspended 96 hours without pay for failing to adequately supervise division personnel.

“I am confident Chief Happ will take this opportunity to make additional advances, changes, innovations and reforms to improve the culture within the Division of Fire,” Ginther said in an emailed statement.

Happ is a 27-year Columbus Division of Fire veteran who most recently oversaw the city's Fire Training Academy.

“Chief Happ is a collaborative leader with strong team building skills," Ginther said. "I am confident he will surround himself with the talent and expertise needed to change the culture of the Columbus Division of Fire."

A city statement says Happ is also tasked with "laying the groundwork for implementing recommendations that will result from a third-party, independent review of the  Division’s policies - especially those designed to create an inclusive environment and provide opportunities for women and minorities in the fire service."

The city intends to name a permanent chief by the end of the year.