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Pace Fire Chief Donnie Wadkins

A day after the city of Pensacola placed its top two officials at the Pensacola Fire Department on administrative leave, Santa Rosa County officials have confirmed the Pace Fire Rescue District Chief and the department secretary have been placed on leave pending an investigation by the State Attorney Office.

A county spokesperson confirmed Pace Fire Chief Donnie Wadkins and his wife, district secretary Pat Wadkins had been placed on paid administrative leave, effective January 12. Officials say the separate administrative actions appear to be unrelated but did not disclose a reason why the fire chief and secretary are under investigation.

Pace Battalion Chief Robbie Whitfield is the acting fire chief at this time.

Last year, it was discovered that both the East Milton Volunteer Fire Department and the Pace Fire Rescue District were placed under internal investigation due to the handling of department budgets. Officials with the State Attorney’s office say the investigation involving the couple is unrelated to last year’s investigation.

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Secretary Pat Wadkins

The investigations revealed major deficiencies and discrepancies in their fiscal budgets and both organizations made staff changes in the wake of the investigations.

The investigations led to the termination of Pace Fire Rescue District’s Chief Financial Officer Lee Pitts, while the East Milton department hired a new fire chief. Both organizations also hired new bookkeepers to address financial issues. It is not known at this time how much of Pace’s funding was misplaced prior to the investigation.

In 2007, the Pace Volunteer Fire Department was re-designated as Pace Fire Rescue District, becoming a combination Career and Volunteer Department. The district is currently staffed with six fire fighters as well as a battalion chief and department chief. Three 24 hour shifts are manned with two career Fire Fighters on each shift supplemented by volunteer firefighters.

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