Flint, MI–Former fire chief Raymond Barton has hired an attorney after alleging that he was fired from the Flint Fire Department for his statements following a May 28, 2022 house fire that claimed the lives of two children and led at least two firefighters to resign.

The office of Attorney Arnold E. Reed & Associates, P.C. confirmed to Flint Beat that Barton has retained their services. As of publication, Attorney Arnold Reed declined to comment on any charges the office plans to file on Barton’s behalf against the City of Flint, Mayor Sheldon Neeley, or other parties.

Since his departure from the fire department, Barton has told multiple news outlets that he was removed from his position, at least in part, for speaking out about his recommendation that two firefighters be suspended without pay for their conduct in responding to a house fire at 637 W. Pulaski St. on May 28.

Those two firefighters, Sergeant Daniel Sniegocki and Firefighter Michael Zlotek, were among the first to arrive at the scene of the fire and were tasked with searching the home for occupants. During their search, they failed to find and rescue two children, LaMar Mitchell, age 12, and Zy’Aire Mitchell, age 9.

Other emergency responders later discovered the children and transported them to Detroit Children’s Hospital, where both died. According to Barton, the delay caused by the two firefighters could have made the difference between life and death.

In a subsequent investigation, Barton determined that Sniegocki and Zlotek did not carry out their search as trained. He also told Flint City Council on Oct. 19 that the firefighters knowingly filed false reports on their actions during the incident.

“When I’m trying to figure it out during the investigation … I’m like, ‘If you did everything in this report, there’s no way you missed these children.’ So, that’s why they were disciplined: for submitting a false report,” Barton told Council.

Barton told City Council that he had first recommended that the two men be fired, but his initial decision was ultimately changed to suspension with pay “through advisement” from City Attorney William Kim, City Administrator Clyde Edwards and Flint Human Resources Director Eddie Smith.

Sniegocki ultimately resigned after the investigation, and Zlotek returned to the department after two weeks of suspension and completion of additional search-and-rescue training. However, Zlotek also resigned by mid-November.

In a subsequent interview with ABC12, Barton said he believed that he was “fired for telling the truth” about the Pulaski Street fire incident.

So far, the city administration has only commented on Barton’s departure through a Nov. 17 media statement thanking the former fire chief for “his decades of service to this community.”

A communications team member told Flint Beat that she had no information on the circumstances that led Barton to exit the department.

According to the City of Flint’s website, Barton served in various roles in the fire department for over 25 years. Barton was fire chief for almost six years, as he was appointed to that role by former Flint mayor Karen Weaver in February 2016.

Former Flint fire chief Theron Wiggins has been serving as Flint’s interim fire chief since Barton’s November departure.

Zachary Marano

Zachary Marano is Flint Beat’s local government reporter. Zack is originally from Milford township and returns to southeast Michigan after reporting for a daily newspaper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula....