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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber ffmedcbk1's Avatar
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    Default Ohio Fire(D) Chief stands up for men and community

    Shaker Heights Fire Chief Donald Barnes is fired by mayor for refusing to cut his budget
    Posted by Patrick O’Donnell / Plain Dealer Reporter July 07, 2009 18:03PM

    Peggy Turbett / The Plain Dealer
    The Plain Dealer

    Earl Leiken, mayor of Shaker Heights.SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Fire Chief Donald Barnes was fired Monday after balking at orders from Mayor Earl Leiken to make a new round of cuts in the fire department's budget.
    Leiken had asked him to cut $250,000 from the department's $8.3 million budget as all city departments trim costs to avoid a possible citywide deficit of $3.5 million this year. Barnes had been chief since 2002.

    The firing may be the first dismissal of a public official in the region for refusing to make budget cuts. Despite significant cuts at many communities in this economic downturn, none has reported firings because of opposition.

    Leiken said he did not want to cut firefighters because the city had laid off four this year. The mayor said he wanted Barnes to trim management costs.


    "We had prolonged discussions, but in the end, he refused to come up with anything," said Leiken. "We need a chief who can be flexible enough and creative enough to find the best plan."

    Barnes declined comment Tuesday, referring all calls to his lawyer, Joseph Diemert. Barnes said in a letter to the mayor last month that cuts would damage the department and the protection it provides residents.

    "I just can't professionally or morally do what you have instructed without jeopardizing the health, safety and welfare of our residents and our firefighters," he wrote.

    A written statement from Diemert's firm called the firing unjust and said it would be contested. It also noted that Leiken, as mayor and safety director, could have made cuts without Barnes' cooperation.

    Leiken suggested cutting an assistant chief and a nonunion fire inspector. Barnes raised objections in letters to Leiken to both suggestions.

    Leiken said Barnes had resisted proposed changes to the department in the past.

    Shaker Heights already made budget cuts this year but Leiken said declining tax collections forced a new round of cuts. Starting this month, some city employees will take every other Friday as unpaid days off. The City Hall and community building will be closed on those days.

    Leiken said he believes the fire department, with 61 firefighters, is far too large for a city of about 27,000 people. It also had two assistant chiefs when all other suburban departments that Leiken checked have only one.

    Assistant Chief Kevin Jacobs was named acting chief. Jacobs, a longtime firefighter who has been an assistant chief since 2002, said it was too early for him to discuss any budget cuts.

    Barnes' firing saves the city more than $140,000 in salary and benefits.

    Vice Mayor Nancy Moore said City Council was aware of the discussions between Barnes and Leiken and supports the firing because cuts are necessary.

    "We're all really sorry it has come to this," she said.
    Last edited by ffmedcbk1; 07-08-2009 at 08:27 AM.
    Originally Posted by madden01
    "and everyone is encouraged to use Plain, Spelled Out English. I thought this was covered in NIMS training."


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    Tip of the hat to Chief Barnes for being a stand-up guy. That is a very hard position to be in, as failing to follow directives has consequences that can directly effect your job as it did in this case. On the other hand going along with dangerous cuts only stretches ones neck further across the chopping block.

    Too often lately we see supposed "Chief's" who make or accept cuts and go along with the statement that the cuts will not effect public safety. I say that as a taxpayer if the Chief can cut jobs without diminishing public safety, he's been bilking the city all along and should be fired! Or he's clearly not qualified as he fails to understand fireground operations.

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    How unfortunate. This chief clearly thought his service was the only one that mattered and the needs of the taxpayers and the city mean nothing. It would be nice if we could all have optimum staffing, but that just isn't real. It does sound like they are overstaffed though, 61 fire fighters is a lot. Local city here has about the same population and they have around 30 people on the payroll.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    How unfortunate. This chief clearly thought his service was the only one that mattered and the needs of the taxpayers and the city mean nothing. It would be nice if we could all have optimum staffing, but that just isn't real. It does sound like they are overstaffed though, 61 fire fighters is a lot. Local city here has about the same population and they have around 30 people on the payroll.
    What color is the sky on you planet?
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    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    Another chirp from the uninformed. Sometimes you have to make a stand and Public safety is a P poor place to economise. How about we do with a few less flowers around town? Portland Maine, a dept that has been cut to the bone just got cut again. Crews that have been cut below safe staffing levels are seeing their numbers cut again.But you can bet there is still plenty of City administrative help. Makes a difference which side od the fence you work on. In your case Scaredycrow,your loyalties are OBVIOUS. A FF you aren't. T.C.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    How unfortunate. This chief clearly thought his service was the only one that mattered and the needs of the taxpayers and the city mean nothing. It would be nice if we could all have optimum staffing, but that just isn't real. It does sound like they are overstaffed though, 61 fire fighters is a lot. Local city here has about the same population and they have around 30 people on the payroll.
    OK, I (and probably many others) have thought it for a while, but this post shows us all that you are 100% scum, and have no place in hte fire service!!!!
    A Fire Chief has ONLY 1 JOB and that's to take care of his fireman. EVERYTHING else falls under this.

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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Without seeing their budget and staffing and equipment and such....I think none of us are qualified to judge whether it was right or wrong to make more cuts.

    Kudos to him for standing up for his beliefs....whether they be right or wrong.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    There are no winners in this....

    As with any media report, there has to be more to the story. My feeling is if he was asked to cut the budget, then the mayor and council should do the same. Many times we have seen the hypocrisy of all government levels where they claim "poverty", yet their salaries go untouched. I know of a local government who does this, they asked all departments to make deep cuts, yet their $200,000+ salary stays intact. And in the same sentence screaming "we're broke", set aside millions of dollars for renovations at city hall. Another example: Obama denounced the auto execs for flying in private jets to D.C. to lobby for stimulus money, then turned around and flew Air Force One over N.Y. for a photo shoot. That probably cost the taxpayers more than the auto execs flight. If we are that "broke", these things would not happen.

    Kudos to the chief for standing his ground, unfortunately it cost him his job. On the other hand, he is no longer in a position to fight for his staff. And, as unfortunate as it is, they will just find somebody to make the cuts.

    As for the Asst Chief, he has this dumped in his lap. It is now his turn to be the "bad guy", either to the mayor/council and refuse to cut or to the troops and execute the order.

    It is time for governments to face the facts and live up to their first priority, protecting the citizens and providing for their safety through fire, police and medical.

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    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    How unfortunate. This chief clearly thought his service was the only one that mattered and the needs of the taxpayers and the city mean nothing. It would be nice if we could all have optimum staffing, but that just isn't real. It does sound like they are overstaffed though, 61 fire fighters is a lot. Local city here has about the same population and they have around 30 people on the payroll.
    Of course you would have loved to have the fire chief roll over and make cuts. This is of course supported by your vast knowledge of Shaker Heights. You know the community well enough to automatically decide based on your area that it is overstaffed. Do you know the make-up of the town? Do you know the hazards they face? I certainly don't from this snipet of an article. I have immense respect for this Fire Chief for standing up for what he believes. The article clearly says they already laid off 4 guys and now the mayor wants him to cut command staff AND cut an inpsector...BRILLIANT.

    I think this is gonna bite that mayor and council right square in the ***. But time will tell.

    Thanks for you amazing insight and vast knowledge of this city and its fire protection needs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JTFIRE80 View Post
    OK, I (and probably many others) have thought it for a while, but this post shows us all that you are 100% scum, and have no place in hte fire service!!!!
    No my friend. I am a realist. I know enough to know that you can't get everything you want. And every freaking time a fire department is asked to cut the scream people will die. Ever here of the boy who cried wolf? Same case. Lives will be lost, safety will be jeopardized. You hear it every time, yet the claims of death and poor safety never materialize.
    Rather than trying to work with what they are given the chief throws a temper tantrum becuase he doesn't get his way.

    I applaud the chief for sticking to his values, but for the love of god man, look around and see what is going on. People are losing their jobs, their homes, not getting raises. Have little compassion for the people who pay your salary.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Of course you would have loved to have the fire chief roll over and make cuts. This is of course supported by your vast knowledge of Shaker Heights. You know the community well enough to automatically decide based on your area that it is overstaffed. Do you know the make-up of the town? Do you know the hazards they face? I certainly don't from this snipet of an article. I have immense respect for this Fire Chief for standing up for what he believes. The article clearly says they already laid off 4 guys and now the mayor wants him to cut command staff AND cut an inpsector...BRILLIANT.

    I think this is gonna bite that mayor and council right square in the ***. But time will tell.

    Thanks for you amazing insight and vast knowledge of this city and its fire protection needs.
    I know this based on the management decision to cut funding. He was asked to make a 3% cut in funding. With the entire economy collapsing around us it isn't asking a lot for government agencies to give up some as well. The community is suffering, do your part to ease the pain.

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    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    I know this based on the management decision to cut funding. He was asked to make a 3% cut in funding. With the entire economy collapsing around us it isn't asking a lot for government agencies to give up some as well. The community is suffering, do your part to ease the pain.
    Man, you are a completely uninformed donkey.

    How about make the cuts in the right places of government. Government is there to provide services that the private sector can not. Fire and police are two examples of that, there are more, but we're not talking about that.

    Never mind the fact that in down economic times, our run volume goes up, as does our fire-duty. This means that we must be able to deliver the same high levels of service, in order to help a "suffering-community".

    How about the family that has taken a significant pay cut at work, and they happen to live next to a home that is going to be, or is foreclosed on, and that "owner" decides to torch "their" home in order to get out from under it, punish the bank, or just plain f*ck whoever it is that might buy their home in foreclosure or short-sale.
    Now, the neighbor who is struggling loses their home because the idiot who couldn't pay (sound like anyone we all know?) their bills burns their home, which then extends to the neighbors house, which happens to be an exposure.
    Due to cuts, brown outs or other line reductions, the hardship family struggling to get by suffers even more because of poor fiscal judgment on the part of a city. Maybe the family loses more than just property.


    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    Ever here of the boy who cried wolf? Same case. Lives will be lost, safety will be jeopardized. You hear it every time, yet the claims of death and poor safety never materialize.
    Bullsh*t. Shut up now, because you are just showing you don't know your *** from fat meat.
    Every place that has made cuts suffers an increase in civilian fire deaths, as well as injuries and deaths to our members.

    Take a look at any of the places that have cut their departments to the bone, or even deeper, look at the number of fire deaths and try to use your head for some something other than stealing air. The numbers are there, unless you're one of these mutts that likes to pretend it doesn't happen.

    Just when it looks like you couldn't say anything more stupid, you come along and reach newer and deeper depths; no real surprise though, right hottrotter?


    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    61 fire fighters is a lot. Local city here has about the same population and they have around 30 people on the payroll.
    Yet another fine example of "I'm talking and I can't shut up".

    You can not compare the uniformed strength of departments in different cities based on population alone.
    There are many factors that go into determining what is needed. There is population, the density of that population, age of the housing stock, and the relative size of the housing stock.

    If you compare a city in northern New Jersey, to a similarly populated city elsewhere, it means two different things.
    Look at the buildings and population density of Jersey City, and then compare it to Madison, WI.
    Both are fairly close in population, but are worlds apart in terms of density and buildings, leading to different staffing and working needs of their respective departments.

    Without knowing anything about the city in question, I defer to the experts, or the authority having jurisdiction.


    Nice job, chief.
    Last edited by jasper45; 07-08-2009 at 01:52 PM.

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    I am on the fence. I give kudos to the chief for holding his values but by the same token, reality is here. 250K out of a 8.3mil budget is only a 3% cut.

    Now for the reality bit. As a taxpayer, there is a lot that can be done on a fire dept with a 8.3million dollar budget - especially for 27,000 residents. A good and creative administrator should be able to still operate a FD with 8.05million and provide excellent community service. As for how I can say this - they are LOTS of depts operating with MUCH lower budgets. The options may not be popular to some - such as cutting carreer and adding POC staff but its doable. It may not be the best option but do you can only get what you can afford.

    For those who complain about these cuts - would you take a 3-5% cut in pay to prevent staff cuts?

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    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFNG View Post
    For those who complain about these cuts - would you take a 3-5% cut in pay to prevent staff cuts?

    What about those who already have, or those who will take more than that?

    Which side are you on, again?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    I know this based on the management decision to cut funding. He was asked to make a 3% cut in funding. With the entire economy collapsing around us it isn't asking a lot for government agencies to give up some as well. The community is suffering, do your part to ease the pain.
    What's hysterical is your complete ignorance of the subject.

    In my area I have seen fire departments asked to make cuts and at the same time seen money increased in areas that are far less important than police and fire protection. You know important things like flowers, landscaping, parks, and remodeling city offices. Not that they don't have value, but it is not the same value as emergency services. My point is don't cry poor as an excuse to cut emergency services and then spend money in other non-critical areas.

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    Once again we DO NOT know the needs of this Dept,what they may have given up over the last few years and a myriad of other factors which affect staffing and protection.Or run volume,services provided and whether or not a staff of 61 is TOO many for a city of 27,000(I suspect it ISN'T overstaffed). Things we DO know, Scarecrow, is once again you're spouting off while KNOWING absolutely NOTHING about the Dept in question. Seen it happen here,they'll take anything you give up. 3,5,25%. Sometimes there is nothing left to give and still maintain service levels. From a guy that's been there,TOO MANY times. T.C.

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    Forum Member FyredUp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFNG View Post
    I am on the fence. I give kudos to the chief for holding his values but by the same token, reality is here. 250K out of a 8.3mil budget is only a 3% cut.

    Only a 3% cut. Seems so clear and sanitary when you say it that way. Nevermind that the 3% cut that the mayor wanted was an Assistant Chief and an Inspector. Two human beings, more than likely with families and bills to pay. Not quite so cut and dried and painless when you put faces to your "250K out of a 8.3mil budget is only a 3% cut."

    Now for the reality bit. As a taxpayer, there is a lot that can be done on a fire dept with a 8.3million dollar budget - especially for 27,000 residents. A good and creative administrator should be able to still operate a FD with 8.05million and provide excellent community service. As for how I can say this - they are LOTS of depts operating with MUCH lower budgets. The options may not be popular to some - such as cutting carreer and adding POC staff but its doable. It may not be the best option but do you can only get what you can afford.

    Replacing career guys with POC firefighters. Really? You do know that for ISO you need 4 of them to equal a career firefighter on their rating schedule. So for every guy you eliminate you need to find 4 people willing to become POCs and then keep them doing it even after they realize that it interrupts dinner, family get togethers, sleep, work, sex, drinking, projects around the home, going out and more.

    For those who complain about these cuts - would you take a 3-5% cut in pay to prevent staff cuts?

    In reality I have for the last couple of contracts due to increased insurance costs being passed my way.
    One of the biggest problems in the fire service today is we are losing FIRE CHIEFS that know their job is to build and defend a great fire department with great people to operate it. We are seeing too many business majors with little humanity, or back bone, giving in and giving up rather than protecting their major resource...firefighters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    No my friend. I am a realist. I know enough to know that you can't get everything you want. And every freaking time a fire department is asked to cut the scream people will die. Ever here of the boy who cried wolf? Same case. Lives will be lost, safety will be jeopardized. You hear it every time, yet the claims of death and poor safety never materialize.
    That is a broad generalization which isn't grounded in any form of reality that I'm familiar with.

    Here are some examples from my department of where people or safety measures were cut and firemen and civilians died.
    • Materials and R&D cut: Firemen Fitzpatrick & Frisby fall to their deaths using a faulty rope.
    • Engine Company 294 in Richmond Hill, Queens closed in 1991 and Brothers Walter& Ihor Stecyk perished due to a delay caused by the absence of E294.
    • Same year 1991, Earlier we lost the 5th man in the Engines in a rigged arbitration-negotiations and Fireman Kevin Kane of Ladder 110 dies when E236was unable to stretch their hose line to protect him due to not having a door man.
    • 2005 Chief Hayden after rigging the medical leave stats and taking advantage of the numerous sick men we had laid up because of 9-11 ailments cuts staffing to 4 men on almost all Engines. Fire on top floor of Crown Heights Tenement (classic example of the Chief Dunn-Hart Study). Took 10 lengths to reach the fire....and it killed 4 people of eight living in the apartment...2 of them were children.
    • Weeks later a decision to not replace or improve our safety ropes years eariler finaly took its toll and 6 firemen had to jump from upper floor windows and two of them died as a result of having no other viable option.

    These are just but a few of the relevant examples from my city that I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure others have similar experiences and can offer their examples. I'm sure the Chief who you characterize as throwing a tantrum considered the reality of placing peoples lives in danger and refused to take responsiblitiy for what he perhaps felt was a reckless act.

    This isn't crying wolf...this is the real world...where lives hang in the ballance and true to form your lack of maturity and intelligence evident by your dismissive attitude of these events obscures the serious nature of these decisions that are being undertaken across this country at the expense of everyones well being and safety.

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 07-08-2009 at 02:20 PM.

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    MembersZone Subscriber dday05's Avatar
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    Vice Mayor Nancy Moore said City Council was aware of the discussions between Barnes and Leiken and supports the firing because cuts are necessary.


    I like this statement... "supports the firing because cuts are necessary" typical politician. It is unfortunate that the fire depts as usual have to take it in the ***!!!

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    All I will say is around here the state of NY started talking about cutting budgets, freezing pay, etc. Every sticking rotten special interest group under the sun came out and complained and argued as to why their services cannot be cut because peoples lives will be hurt.

    Comes a time when the public says enough is enough. Stop overtaxing me. Government has gotten to big. You can either work with he system and try to help the taxpayer or not.

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