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Fire Chief Duggan Responds to Union No Confidence Vote; Charges Political Agenda

Editor’s Note: The Northampton firefighters union took a vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Brian Duggan on April 1, and informed Mayor David Narkewicz and Council President Bill Dwight on April 5. This morning, the IAFF Local 108 issued a press release on the matter, which can be found here.  Duggan has responded with the following comments, reprinted in their entirety.

Duggan, in a brief telephone conversation this afternoon, said the Local 108′s charges are inaccurate, and that their actions are politically motivated, representing an “effort to intimidate the mayor into giving the union a more lucrative contract.”

We’ll be following up.

— MCS

Statement from Fire Chief Brian Duggan:

Sadly this action indicates a contentious labor/management path that reflects on the entire organization.

I have served as a Massachusetts Fire Chief for a quarter of a century and have been in Northampton for the past fourteen years.  During this time, I have a strong record of positive performance and accomplishment working for three mayors and working with our staff to move the Northampton Fire Department forward as both an example and regional leader.

During my tenure, I have been a passionate advocate for the department and I have a strong history of recognizing our personnel for the exceptional work that they do. My praise and recognition is a matter of public record.  As the Department has grown and taken on new roles to protect our community, I have delegated responsibility to our staff and provided our people with the opportunities for participation in the selection of apparatus, equipment, turnout gear and station fittings, we have established several working groups that foster collaboration.

Although I am not sure what this vote accomplishes, it represents a political agenda in a fiscally desolate time and a conflict-based attempt to both erode the trust that I have built with the community and influence Mayor Narkewicz into settling a more lucrative contract.  As evidence of the tactical nature of these events, the Union leadership held this letter from public release as a bargaining chip.  The fact that this letter was held from the public indicates that the real issues are economic.

The last several months have been contentious and a vote of no confidence has been transformed into a weapon of intimidation.  As a tangible example, as we approached a recent arbitration hearing the Union President threatened a vote of no confidence in a Deputy Chief who was to be a witness for the City.

As Northampton has faced difficult fiscal times, I am in an unpopular position that has required me to say no.  Considering that the majority of issues noted have an economic basis this is more of a vote of no confidence in the policies of our City and our appropriated budgets than in myself.

Recently President Hatch wrote a letter to the editor of the Gazette.  This letter was filled with misperception and factual inaccuracies that were rebutted by Finance Director Susan Wright.  Consistent with this trend, many misperceptions exist within the April 5, 2012 letter of no confidence.

Our firefighters are exceptional people who serve the City well and perform a very difficult job.  We have accomplished a lot by working together and my door remains open to the collaboration that is in the best interest of the City as we continue to face economic challenges.

These allegations lack due process.  If I did that to a one of our firefighters, I would have violated the employee’s rights.  This is an opportunity to utilize the defined process for addressing issues of this type and I would welcome an impartial outside investigation.

I have proudly served as the Fire Chief in the City of Northampton and will continue to do so for at least the duration of my appointment.  Working as a member of the Cities management team has been and will continue to be the highlight of my career.

— Northampton Fire Chief Brian Duggan

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