Mayor says he plans to remove all 3 fire board members

January 21, 1992|By Michael A. Fletcher

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is ousting all three members of Baltimore's fire board -- a move that will bring new policy-makers to the city Fire Department as it prepares for a possible search for a new chief and a deep reduction in staff.

Mr. Schmoke broke the news to the board members over the weekend, telling them that he will not renew their terms, which expired at the end of last year.

"He merely said that he had been thinking about replacing the board," said David L. Glenn, the outgoing president of the fire board. "He said he had decided that he would. It actually was a very pleasant conversation."

Clinton R. Coleman, Mr. Schmoke's press secretary, confirmed yesterday that the mayor was replacing the fire board members. The mayor should send names of nominees to replace the incumbents to the council next week, he added.

The board pays two members -- Samuel T. Redd and Richard A. Jamison Jr. -- $3,600 a year, while Mr. Glenn, the president, earns $4,200. The three members will remain in their posts until Mr. Schmoke's nominees are confirmed by the council.

"He's looking for new directions," Mr. Coleman said of the mayor. "He'll explain that at a later time."

Mr. Schmoke was unavailable yesterday because of the death of his father-in- law.

The fire board sets policy for the department, and the replacement of the board comes as the Fire Department is set to embark on some major changes.

Chief Peter J. O'Connor, who joined the department in 1954 and became chief in 1980, is expected to retire within the year. At a recent firefighter awards dinner, the chief told the audience that he was making his final appearance at the annual event, according to Capt. Patrick Flynn, the department spokesman.

Captain Flynn said, however, that Chief O'Connor has not set a date for his retirement. Also, Chief Deputy Herbert W. Catterton, the second in charge in the department, is scheduled to retire in March, Captain Flynn said.

"We're surprised that he's eliminating the whole board," Mr. Redd said. "There's a lot to learn in this job. I think it becomes a question of continuity now."

In addition to those changes, Mr. Schmoke is likely to eliminate many jobs in the 1,800-person department as part of his next budget, officials have said.

Through Mr. Coleman, Mr. Schmoke indicated that he will be making changes in other key city boards and commissions shortly. The terms for members of the Board of School Commissioners have expired, as have the terms of several members of the Planning Commission.

"He is filling terms on a number of boards and commissions where members' terms have expired," Mr. Coleman said. "In some instances he is reappointing people; in other cases he is appointing new people."

Mr. Glenn said that his ouster from the fire board caught him off guard, although he had heard rumblings that the mayor was unhappy with some of his public statements.

"I was surprised, and I wasn't surprised," Mr. Glenn said. "Somebody had told me that he was upset when I made some comments about the planned downsizing. But he never mentioned that to me."

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