Leesburg fire chief accused of spending $32K on unnecessary training equipment

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LEESBURG, Fla. - Leesburg's Fire Chief is accused of wasting tax dollars on training equipment he didn't need.

Some city officials said Fire Chief Kevin Bowman misled them so he could build a new fire training center, even though the county already had one.

Bowman's five-day suspension letter from the city manager said, "Your desire for your own facility likely overtook your normal good judgment and served you badly."

At the old Leesburg landfill sit $32,000 metal boxes the size of railroad cars.

The boxes were recently purchased for the city Fire Department and are stacked up to make a building. The Fire Department starts a fire inside and firefighters train by rushing in and putting out the fire.

Robert Sargent with the city of Leesburg said Lake County already has a training facility in the Sunnyside area just a few miles away that the department could use free of charge.

Bill Polk with the Leesburg city commission said the city has to make a decision about its leadership, "whether we want to have people there, in high authority, stand in front of the public and not present the truth to us."

Bowman was suspended for five days without pay and put on probation for six months. He was not available for comment at headquarters on Thursday.

Sargent said there were several options that might be available for the boxes, but did not say if getting money back would be one of them.

"Let me express that nothing has been determined what to do," Sargent said.

The city might be able to sell them, or it's possible Lake County could use them at its fire training center that Leesburg will likely be using now.