Just hours before Covington’s city leaders were scheduled to meet at a special called meeting and discuss his future, embattled fire chief Michael Naifeh resigned.
Accused of using the city-issued credit card to make personal purchases, Naifeh has been on suspension with pay since being indicted on March 5 for official misconduct and theft under $1,000.
Naifeh's resignation letter, in its entirety, reads:
Mayor Hanson and Board of Aldermen,
The past 3 years and 11 months have been a real honor. I’ve met many new people I am humbled to now call my friends as well as reunited many great relationships with others in our community. The men and women of the Covington Fire Department are some of the best this community has to offer. It has truly been an honor to serve alongside each of them. I’ve worked tirelessly to better the fire department, this city, and our community. For over 30 years, I have served in the public eye without so much as a blemish on my name or record. I extended grace and mercy to those that worked for me and those that worked with me. I have always tried my best to do the same with anyone with whom I’ve ever come into contact.
I believe public safety is the foundation on which every great community is built and I plan to continue to do what I can to make that a priority in my future endeavors.
I would like to thank my family, the hundreds of friends, colleagues in this community, region, and around the country that have contacted and prayed for us during the past few weeks. These are the people that know my true character and know for what I stand. Their support will never be forgotten. I wish the members of the Covington Fire Department and the citizens of Covington nothing but the best. As a member of this community, I will continue to promote our county in a forward-looking way.
After much prayer and consideration, I have chosen to do what is best for my family, the Covington Fire Department and the City of Covington. Therefore, I hereby resign my position as the Fire Chief for the City of Covington, effective immediately.
May God bless each of you. I know He has a plan for all involved.
“I am grateful for Mr. Naifeh’s contributions to our fire department and our community, and for his dedication to public service,” said mayor Justin Hanson. “We wish him the best in all his future endeavors.”
Naifeh was hired to lead the Covington Fire Department in May 2015. Beginning as a volunteer at the Mason Fire Department, he has spent the last three decades working as a first responder.
He was suspended with pay for 30 days by the mayor on March 5 and, as that suspension came to an end, suspended with pay for another 30-day period by the board of mayor and aldermen on March 21. Hanson cast the tie-breaking vote.
Assistant fire chief Richard Griggs has been named the acting fire chief. Tonight’s special called meeting has been cancelled.
Naifeh is set to appear in Tipton County Circuit Court for a status hearing on July 26. If there is no plea or plea deal his trial is expected for Aug. 26.
Naifeh also represents Covington’s District 2 as a county commissioner. There is not yet word on whether he plans to resign from office.