Laurel chief's academic claims under fire

A fire is blazing in Laurel but Mayor Melvin Mack says it's one he's willing to let burn out.

His recently appointed Fire Chief David Chance allegedly claimed to receive a doctorate from a college he never really attended, throwing his qualifications into doubt.

For the last 20 years Western State University in Missouri has issued degrees from bachelor's to master's, and even Ph.Ds.  Recently Chance was quoted in a Missouri newspaper as stating he received a Ph.D. from this unaccredited college in 2003. Chance says although he took no classes to earn the degree he did submit a lengthy paper about his life's work.

Now that statement to the Kansas City Star is raising questions about Chance's credibility.

But Mack says whether Chance has a Ph.D. or a GED, he's sticking by his chief.

"He's my fire chief and he's going to always be my fire chief until he gets ready to retire," Mack says. "I don't understand as for him having a Ph.D or a not Ph.D. You can have a GED or a high school diploma and become fire chief here."

Councilman Johnny Magee says Chance lied about his qualifications and misled the council and the citizens of Laurel.  He says Chance should apologize and explain.

Chance says he did not lie about anything. He says over a two-year period he submitted several assignments online and a 283-page dissertation, but he did not know the school was unaccredited.

Both Magee and Chance were out of town Wednesday and unavailable for on-camera interviews.

—Reported by Ontario Richardson in Laurel