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Pensacola city employees are prohibited from speaking publicly about an ongoing investigation into two fire department officials, according to an email sent by city administrator Eric Olson to all employees this morning.

A City Hall source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, provided The Pulse with a copy of Olson’s email.

All City Employees,

In your capacity as a city employee, you are not authorized to speak on behalf of the City about the following subject matters:

1. any ongoing investigations within the fire department;
2. any pending EEOC claims against the City; or
3. any current City employees placed on administrative leave.

“If you should do so, you may be subject to disciplinary action,” Olson wrote.

Pensacola fire chief Matt Schmitt and deputy chief Joseph Glover were placed on administrative leave last week. Olson has said that outside legal counsel advised the city to place the men on leave after both men reportedly filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints. An investigation is being conducted by Russell Van Sickle, an attorney with Pensacola-based Beggs & Lane.

Van Sickle has declined to provide city council members with information about the investigation.

City officials have described Van Sickle’s investigation as “independent,” despite the fact that the attorney was selected and is being paid by the city. Asked Wednesday if such an investigation could truly be considered independent, Olson highlighted Van Sickle’s credentials. “We chose a professional who’s board-certified in labor and employment law, who’s well-respected by the [city] council,” Olson said. “He’s bound by his profession to do this in a fair and impartial way.”

Olson and other city officials have declined to comment on the subject of the EEOC complaints or the pending investigation. “[Schmitt and Glover] may make it public, but we don’t talk about the personnel issues,” Olson said Wednesday, citing city policy and the potential of future litigation.

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