Latest Press Release from Local 108: Evaluation of Fire Chief “Flawed and Biased”
Editor’s note: The following press release represents the IAFF Local 108′s response to Mayor David Narkewicz’ investigation of Fire Chief Brian Duggan, conducted by the city’s human resource director, which found no basis for eleven complaints filed by the firefighters’ union.
Previous missives from the Local, the Mayor, and the Fire Chief can be found here:
Local 108 Votes No Confidence in Fire Chief Duggan
Duggan Responds to Local 108 Announcement
Narkewicz Responds to Local 108 Announcement
Narkewicz Announces Results of Internal Investigation
HR Director Glenda Stoddard’s Report on Duggan Investigation
Mayor Narkewicz has had first-hand knowledge of the tense relationship between labor and management that has long existed between Local 108 (Firefighters/Captains) and Chief Duggan. While serving as the acting Mayor in October 2010, then-Council President Narkewicz received a letter from Local 108 outlining many of the same issues presented in the April 2012 letter. His direction to Chief Duggan was to meet with union representatives to address the concerns. That meeting was attended by Mayor Higgins upon her return to office. She pledged to thoroughly investigate each stated complaint, including conflicts of interest with Chief Duggan’s municipal consulting work (at Municipal Resources Inc.), a perceived conflict of interest with Westhampton Fire/EMS, and his sporadic attendance at Northampton Fire. Mayor Higgins never conducted an investigation.
Concerning Westhampton, where Chief Duggan resides, he has fostered a relationship with their fire department, seemingly taking far more interest in their success than that of Northampton Fire. He has not prohibited Northampton Deputy Chief of EMS, Chris Norris, to serve as the Fire Chief of Westhampton, knowing that Northampton Firefighters view this as a conflict of interest. The Massachusetts Summary of Conflict of Interest Law for Municipal Employees states in Section 23 (b) (3) that “Acting in a manner that would make a reasonable person think you can be improperly influenced is prohibited.” Both the Chief and Deputy Chief of EMS have long been guilty of causing Northampton Firefighters and Paramedics to believe they are improperly influenced by their exaggerated interest in calls in Westhampton.
During his campaign for office, Mayor Narkewicz promised to take a “fresh look” at how the city does business. On many levels that seems to be an empty campaign promise.
In order to substantiate our claims of misconduct and poor management, in addition to materials already in our possession, we have requested the following documents under the Freedom of Information Act: All of Chief Duggan’s time card submissions from January 1, 2011 to present, all electronic key fob swipes connected to Chief Duggan’s electronic key fob, log-in history on Chief Duggan’s office computer, Chief Duggan’s employment contract with all associated appendices and memorandums of agreement, any and all requests made by Chief Duggan requesting permission to engage in outside employment, any and all correspondence or meeting minutes regarding permission to attend classes at Harvard, or Homeland Security, financial documentation for payments/reimbursements associated Harvard and Homeland Security programs, results of any private investigators reports concerning Chief Duggan, any transactions between the City of Northampton and Mountain View Graphics, performance evaluations which were the basis for pay raises, pump testing records for the 1987 Mack (former Engine 3), and service test records for the Hurst extrication equipment.
Instead of inserting his opinions as to the reasons supporting the no confidence vote against Chief Duggan, we believe Mayor Narkewicz should focus his attention on facilitating positive change in the department by addressing the following:
Staffing/Safety. Chief Duggan has jeopardized the safety of the public, and firefighters by dropping personnel from, or taking the downtown district engine out of service in favor of staffing ambulances. We have all seen first-hand the downtown engine taken out of service, or staffed with 1 or 2 FF’s in favor of putting an additional ambulance on the road.
- The Local 108 members on the labor/management EMS Committee have worked for years to get a commitment, or establish an “end point,” where the EMS needs of an individual would balance against the safe staffing needed for fire suppression/rescue.
- The union side of the joint EMS Committee has proposed sending the engine crew on the medical call to initiate care and request a mutual aid ambulance to transport the patient. This meets the medical needs of the patient while maintaining an engine for the downtown district.
- The department has spent money to add paramedic gear to the engines which will be under-utilized if the current practices continue.
- It often appears that our administration is more focused on EMS revenue over adequate fire staffing. Staffing on both engines is often at 3 fire fighters. By disregarding the agreement to move to a minimum shift of 13 fire fighters + 2 “impact shift” fire fighters, public and fire fighter safety is negatively impacted.
- As part of adopting EMS we conceded on dedicated fire suppression staffing. Phase 3 of EMS development should have raised our minimum to 13 which would increase per piece staffing, or put Ladder 1 in service more frequently
- Ladder 1: Department polices limit the availability of Ladder 1, which is the only apparatus with equipment able to reach the upper floors of buildings in the downtown district, which hinders fire suppression and rescue capabilities.
- As a by-product of adopting the EMS plan as presented in 2009 the ladder is often out of service When in service, it is the first piece taken out of service to staff additional ambulances
- Recalls of off-duty personnel. Chief Duggan has instructed the Deputy Chiefs to disregard the department policy outlining when to recall off-duty personnel during busy periods, hence putting the health and well-being of fire fighters and the public at higher risk.
- Each shift DC has stated that they have been instructed by Chief Duggan to “use their discretion” when determining when to recall, instead of following the agreed policy. Not emphasizing the need to recall off-duty personnel as outlined puts the health and safety of those on shift at increased risk. Our job is to be ready 24/7 for whatever emergencies come our way, that includes adequate staffing. Our Joint Labor/Management Committee and EMS committees have both tried to get management to address our concerns over the lack of adherence to the recall policy without success.
EMS development. In 2009 Chief Duggan crafted an EMS plan that expanded services without properly analyzing the financial impacts of his decisions, and gave the union the ultimatum to accept the plan or lay off 14 fire fighters. This lack of planning negatively impacted the financial state of the program and labor relations.
- We only recently fully understood the ramifications of the agreement we entered into. Chief Duggan’s plan capped our department size at 66 (including admin.), we are now at 72 positions. While he never properly cost out his plan, the additional 6 positions put an added strain on an already tight budget. In 2009 the collaborative effort between the union and the administration broke down. We no longer had an equal voice in the management and direction of the program which we helped create.
Spending/budget. It is Chief Duggan’s responsibility to prepare budgets and manage department spending in a manner that best supports our personnel and our mission. It could never be clearer that his priorities are those of his personal advancement and goals.
- During a tight budget year, Chief Duggan cut the position of Training Captain who is responsible for continuing education and maintaining proficiency of all fire fighting skills. In an equally tight budget year Chief Duggan attempted to add a second Assistant Chief (Deputy Chief Chris Norris) for administrative purposes.
- Chief Duggan has neglected to budget for a replacement fire engine, and instead spent on unnecessary items such as: floor refurbishment, staff cars, extrication equipment, turn-out gear, in-dash navigation for his staff vehicle. For his staff car he spent $2,800 on an in-dash GPS unit, while Paramedic level ambulances got standard, base model Tom-Tom GPS units.
- He also mislead the City Council as to the uses of acquired staff vehicles and state of department apparatus which wasted money during a financial crisis: states car 3 is used as an “EMS fly car” when in reality is a commuter vehicle for Deputy Chief Norris and has never responded as an intercept vehicle. Chief Duggan convinced the City Council to spend $140,000 to acquire a used engine to replace the old engine 3. He reported the pump suffered a catastrophic failure and came apart during annual pump test, when in fact it simply didn’t meet its benchmark. While the pump could have been repaired for a few thousand dollars, Chief Duggan chose to spend $140,000 on an 18 year old replacement truck.
- In 2009 when 14 fire fighters received lay-off notices, Chief Duggan purchased $60,000 in new SCBA’s.
- Thousands of dollars in hoses and hand tools that “we” lost or broke at fire scenes (i.e. Dec. 27th 2010). The equipment purchased under the guise of lost or damage on a fire scene far exceeded what was actually needed.
- $30,000 for Chief Duggan and Deputy Chief Norris to attend a management seminar at Harvard (while funding for off-duty training opportunities for Fire fighters was mostly unavailable). While this expense was allegedly approved by Mayor Higgins, it represents an inappropriate use of department funds for personal advancement. According to Ms. Stoddard, the chief stated the cost was less than $10,000 per attendee. Chief Duggan also brought Deputy Chief of EMS Chris Norris for an additional +/- $10,000 cost, plus meal expenses not covered. There was no tangible return on this investment. With such a large amount of money that Chief Duggan has spent on management and leadership training, why is his management ineffective and absent as a department leader?
Conflict of Interest. Chief Duggan continually uses his position as fire chief to create unlimited “overtime” opportunities for himself by responding to emergencies in other communities.
- Accrues unlimited compensatory time.
- No checks and balances as Chief Duggan signs his own time card. The city has an obligation to buy any unused compensatory time.
- Westhampton responses with NFD equipment that otherwise would not require a chief officer, self dispatching to incidents around the county, payroll submissions that do not correlate with time at the firehouse, Chief Duggan’s focus on personal advancement have come at a detriment to NFD
- Working on personal studies while on city time. Potential conflict of interest concerning consulting work with Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI) and Town of Hadley. Homeland Security/Terrorism training 8 weeks/year
We have taken this no confidence vote, and brought our concerns to the Mayor and general public, because we take offense to the way Chief Duggan represents the Northampton Fire Department.