2 unions hold no-confidence votes on city fire chief

May 10, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

Leaders of the city's two fire unions have counted the paper ballots for another no-confidence vote in the Fire Chief, but they will not announce the results until Tuesday.

"I think we had a significant return," said Stephan G. Fugate, the president of the Fire Officers Union. "I can't get into the numbers, and that return was significantly supportive of the unions' position." Fugate represents 325 fire lieutenants, captains and battalion chiefs.

Fugate said that the leadership of the International Association of Fire Fighters will participate in Tuesday's announcement, but he would not say who would attend.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Thursday's Maryland section about the city fire unions' vote of no confidence included an incomplete quote from Fire Department spokesman Rick Binetti. The quote should have read: "It is a shame they [the union leadership] are more worried about planning campaign events than changing the culture of the department."
The Sun regrets the error.

Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said he believes many in the department support Fire Chief Williams J. Goodwin Jr.'s push for reforms.

"It is a shame they [the unions] are more worried about planning campaign events than changing the culture of the department," he said.

Goodwin has been criticized by the unions since a fatal training exercise in February in which a fire got out of control and killed a cadet. The department admitted that 36 safety standards were not followed during the exercise.

In the aftermath, Mayor Sheila Dixon fired the head of the training academy and Goodwin beefed up the department's safety office, announced plans to shift all of the department's midlevel managers to new positions and directed a change in the department's culture to emphasize safety.

Both unions approved no-confidence measures in Goodwin's leadership by voice vote in the last few months. But those votes were dismissed by the department because of the relatively low numbers of members who participated.

The firefighters union, led by Rick Schluderberg, held the first part of a no-confidence vote March 27 in which 75 members voting all opposed the chief, and the second part of the vote on April 10 in which the 50 members voting opposed the chief. The union has 1,300 members.

The Fire Officers Union held no-confidence votes on March 19 and April 16. About 50 members attended those meeting and voted against the chief, Fugate said.


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