ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — An Allegan County fire chief is suspended without pay as authorities investigate child pornography allegations.
A source close to the investigation tells 24 Hour News 8 Allegan Fire District Chief Matt Gillies is accused of viewing child pornography while at the department. Sources also say Gillies is accused of creating child porn.
Sources say the investigation started with federal authorities, who got a tip about Gillies through Twitter. Twitter found disturbing images involving minors being shared through the social media site. The IP address was traced back to the fire station. And a search warrant was issued and at least one computer was confiscated.
Allegan Fire District board member Jon Cook said the board was informed of the investigation Friday. Cook said the board immediately suspended the firefighter whom he would not identify.
A source confirmed the firefighter in question is Gillies. He will remain suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
24 Hour News 8 was told the case will be passed along to prosecutors on Monday. They’ll decide what, if any, charges the chief will face.
Gillies was promoted to fire chief on Sept. 7, according to the Allegan Fire District’s Facebook page. Cook said Gillies has a wife, three children and two stepchildren; they all attended the surprise ceremony.
Cook confirms Gillies joined the Allegan Fire District in 2008, filling a variety of roles. He was promoted to deputy fire chief in 2015. Cook said Gillies was named interim chief on May 1 when longtime fire chief Bruce Hoyer was fired. As assistant chief, Gillies complaints against Hoyer were part of the reason he was fired — leading Gillies to be promoted has chief. The Allegan native also served as a firefighter for the U.S. Navy.
“I’m shocked. I don’t know what else to say,” said former co-worker Tim West. “He was always dedicated to helping people.”
24 Hour News 8 reached out to Gillies Wednesday for comment, but no one responded.
Thursday, the Allegan Fire District Board released a statement saying that it is cooperating with the investigation into Gillies.
“Upon learning of the law enforcement investigation, the Fire District Board immediately placed Fire Chief Gillies on administrative leave without pay and took actions to ensure that his prior duties will be fulfilled by other employees,” the statement reads in part.
The statement went on to say that the board would not comment further on the matter because it involves personnel issues and because it does not want to affect the investigation.
–24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.