Ill. Battalion Chief Demotes Self Over E-mail
BY MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY
Chicago Daily Herald
Battalion Chief Art Zern took a voluntary demotion to the rank of lieutenant after writing "the economic 'crisis' that our city and others face is being used as a weapon to intimidate our leadership and membership."
Zern continued, "If they can take advantage of the situation to reduce our effectiveness and response capabilities in the name of 'cost efficiencies,' they will. Everything should not be on the table for cutting, reducing or changing."
In his e-mail, Zern insisted he is not disloyal, and urged fellow firefighters to fight management's call to make cuts and walk out if necessary.
Fire Chief Randy Jaeger recommended Zern receive a written reprimand and 10-day suspension without pay for the e-mail. City Manager Jason Bajor said he thought the action merited an immediate demotion.
In a memo to Jaeger, Bajor said Zern's actions were "improper, unacceptable, and rebellious in nature. ... His actions go beyond a matter of mere negligence and into the realm of intentional malice."
City leaders are grappling with a more than $2 million projected shortfall in the city's operating fund for 2010.
They propose scaling back services and shrinking the work force. Officials say they are trying to avoid layoffs and property tax increases to bridge that gap.
"The city was looking for cooperation from all departments so that we can save jobs and balance the budget," Mayor Marty Moylan said Thursday. "We were asking all the departments to be creative and work with the city and come up with ideas to cut the budget."
Moylan said some people felt the tone of Zern's e-mail was inappropriate.
"It's unfortunate that was his view on our approach to the way that we're going to conduct the budget," he said, declining to comment specifically on the disciplinary action, which is a function of the city manager's office.
Bajor, who released the memos Thursday, was out of the office late in the day and couldn't be reached for further comment.
Jaeger said Zern is an outstanding officer and respected by many fire personnel within the department and statewide.
"However, in this instance, an error of judgment was made that resulted in a very unfortunate outcome," he said.
Thank you Art for sticking up for your brothers and sisters during a time of crisis. Yes the economic crisi is bad and everyone should do their part to help make it better but you can only bleed an entity so much until there is no more blood. Yes many of our brothers and sisters nationwide have agreed to to reduce wages, no raises, unpaid furlough days, put off replacing equipment or firefighters and I could go on, but there is only so much that can get cut, reduced or changed without making our already dangerous job even more dangerous or non functional at all, and it seems like there is nothing we can do about it. Everytime you read about concessions you never read about mayors or aldermen making concession it seems to be always on our backs and the backs of the other public safety entities. So here is my question when you finally bleed these entities dry and have no more police department to keep order and no more fire department to provide services like suppression or ems or rescue what is your plan then. Many people see our jobs as easy and well paying and don't realize the committment and love for the job we as firefighters need to have to do this. They don't realize that over 100 firefighters a year are killed in the line of duty and many more are injured or will develope other illness's like cancer from this job that we are doing to protect them. They don't realize the stresses of being overworked because the city says they can't affod to replace a guy that just retired so you guys will just run short but we can build a new civic center or something else that during this crisis we really don't need. I can go on and on with this but I think my message is very clear BC Zern is not disloyal to his city or department but rather he is the oppisite, very loyal and if he didn't care about his brothers and sisters on the job or the citizens that he has sworn to protect he wouldn't have sent out this e-mail.
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09-05-2009, 12:06 PM #1
- Join Date
- Aug 2004
THANK YOU, Battalion Chief Art Zern
09-05-2009, 10:00 PM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2008
Disclaimer: this is the first article I've seen on this subject....
that being said...it sounds like a BC called the city's bluff, they got their Victoria's Secret in a bunch, and now he's paying for it. Good for him!! That's standing up for your men and women!
Our local just took another 2 years wage freeze and reduced starting salary. A local next door to us GAVE BACK 10%, and the city still laid off 19 (out of approximately a 70 man dept). The list goes on and on in our area. I'm hopeful that this chiefs union local stands up and fights for him, as he fought for his brothers and sisters. You wanna save money? Start cutting some suits in city hall!
Good luck, Chief.
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