DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Nearly two dozen DeKalb County firefighters cheated their way through the academy, according to a voluminous internal investigation.
“We did find this information shocking. We took immediate action,” said DeKalb County’s Fire Chief Darnell Fullum.
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Erica Byfield’s questions prompted that problem.
A few weeks ago a whistleblower told Channel 2 Action News that a firefighter she is connected to cheated on his exams.
As a result of their internal investigation DeKalb County officials penalized the class instructor, not the recruits.
They say the recruits did not know they were cheating.
Investigators removed veteran firefighter Donald Malbrough from the training academy on Tuesday.
They say he helped at least one entire 2014 recruit class cheat on their Emergency Management Training or EMT tests.
“Let me say there was no pressure from my office to make sure these individuals passed,” said Fullum.
The investigation calls into question the training 23 recruits received.
Malbrough is accused of sharing in-depth test information with them.
Records show most of the recruits failed quizzes and then excelled when it came to test time.
Some of their grades jumped 111, 130 and 150 percent.
Byfield wanted to know if the way they were taught put any DeKalb County citizens in jeopardy.
“I’m convinced and rest assure to the community that those individuals are doing the job right now are well-trained capable to provide excellent service,” the chief said.
He added his department is now working closely with state and national investigators.
“If it’s found through their investigations that these people need to be retrained we will do so,” Fullum said.
National leaders want to know if 20 DeKalb firefighters improperly received answers to the National Registry Emergency Management Training exam.
The stack of documents in the DeKalb County internal investigation also includes a flow chart.
It suggests a Gwinnett County Firefighter had the answers or “study guide” first and then the document made its way to DeKalb County, Rockdale County and East Point Firefighters.
It also indicates the document was shared with some employees of a private ambulance company in the metro.
Malbrough is tied to the national investigation as well.
He is accused of giving the “study guide” to three other people.
In a taped interview for the internal DeKalb investigation he told an investigator he felt uncomfortable with the document and eventually destroyed it.
“Like you said the other day I’m borderline cheating, maybe even over the border on cheating. Those were not my initial intentions,” Malbrough said.
He went on to say that he was sorry for his actions.
Fullum told Channel 2 Action News that Malbrough will be suspended for multiple days.
He is connected to five recruit classes. Officials say he has taught EMT course work to 120 DeKalb firefighters.
Firefighter Ramel Spruill will also be suspended for conduct unbecoming of a firefighter off duty. Investigators found he improperly took a picture of a deceased person while working for another department.
Spruill was a part of Malbrough’s recruit class. The whistleblower questioned Spruill’s activity.
It is unclear how long the state and national investigation will take.
Gwinnett County Fire officials have launched their own internal investigation.