1. #1
    Junior Member

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    Jan 2002
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    Browntown, WI.
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    Post Harassment from Outgoing Fire Chief

    We have recently had a change in fire chiefs, and the ex-chief is livid. He has been Fire Chief for 16 years, but the last few have been rough on membership. I have been the 2nd Assistant Chief for 12 years and have noticed the difference also. When it was informed to me of the members wanting a change, I told them that I wanted to at least talk to the Chief and get him to setup a special meeting to bring all of this out in the open and try to resolve, at least partly, the differences. He wasn't worried, he said that we didn't need a special meeting, and that we would go to annual meeting and see what happens. Before the elections, he had called me a couple of times and threatened me that if I decided to run against him that he would be a pain in our butts. He would come to all the township meetings, fireboard meetings, and one way or another, get things done his way. He also stated to me that we had received a $ 7,500.00 DNR grant for suppression equipment, and that he was going to deny it, which he did. This was the deciding factor for my decision to run. If anybody thinks that taking away "free money" from the department and/or community, then maybe it is time for change. When we finished voting, as soon as the results came in, the ex-chief set down his radio and walked out, along with five others who had brought their uniforms and badges and also left their pagers. The 1st Assistant Chief stated that if the chief walked, he was also walking. So, we elected a new 1st Assistant Chief and also a truck captain. The next day, the ex-chief got in the faces of a couple of firemen, left a school bus in my driveway that the department had bought for practicing on, and had called my boss and said alot of bad things do disrupt my job. The next week on practice night, we were getting ready to practice and I was upstairs. When I came down, I saw the 1st Assistant Chief there, then one of the other members that had walked out, and the ex-chief. We have nothing in the by-laws that can handle this situation, so I held a special meeting to find out what was the problem. They stated that they never quit, so, I saw no other choice at the time but let them back in and give the officers their positions back until I figured out how I was going to handle this. I have made some phone calls and got our DNR grant back to us after telling the DNR the circumstances. The members that walked out are not being cooperative at all and the chief said that he is coming back on his terms only and that he was going to be a real ornry presence. He has a son that is our 2nd Assistant chief and is trying to stay neutral, while living at home with his dad yet. I would like to hear of what anybody else would do out there if they were in my shoes. I will get this done, but I want to put all my ducks in a row before I dive in. Getting caught flatfooted isn't one of my traits, and I truly believe that these members are coming back to just be an eyesore. Any help would be appreciated. We are a Volunteer department, and the Fire Board is really no more than a committee set up that is a financial group, they have no say in the department's decision in something like this. The Fireboard is very unhappy with what theex-chief is doing, along with the township chairmans. I knew getting into this that I was going to have a fight on my hands, so I'm looking for my fellow brothers to help me get through this, the members are behind me 100% and know that I want to get this done myself and not get them any more involved then they already are.

  2. #2
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    Sep 2001
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    Melbourne
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    Post

    I take it that you are from a Volly Station. Well thats where the problem lies, Volunteers that build thier little dung heaps and think they are the kings. What should happen is that a person is appointed to that position because of thise abilities, not because they are mates with some influential people. you are theres to do the best for the community, not for an ego trip of being a hero and be incharge of a firestation. I think that alot of volunteers across the world have lost sight of why they are there.

    [ 01-21-2002: Message edited by: Smokey07 ]

    [ 01-21-2002: Message edited by: Smokey07 ]


  3. #3
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    Oct 1999
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    Toledo,Ohio
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    This is a prime example of whats killing the volunteer fire service today. We have specific department rules that deal with the type of behavior you may encounter with these frustrated individuals that were voted out or left. An example would be a rule that deals with conduct detrimental to the good order and disipline of the fire department or conduct unbecoming of a firefighter. As a Chief no way would I deal with this type of behavior they are threatening you with. I would try to talk to these individuals and tell them I have a department to run and any behavior that will affect the good order of the department will not be tolerated if they came back. I would let them know any violation will be subject to disiplanary action and documented and placed in there files, after a few incidents you would have enough documentation as to there behavior affecting the good order and morale of the department. Be strong and stick to your rules, listen and be understanding, but dont let them walk all over you. If you have enough documented incidents, then you would have the right to get rid of these problem members. Being a volunteer fire chief is hard enough, I would not put up with any of this. I know our rule book has rules that deal with alot of the issues your talking about, I would handle them by sticking to the rules set forth in our manual.
    Remember...Poor leadership, cliques are what really kills volunteer departments, so much is focused on how much technical training you have as to who should be Chief and not enough focus on good managment and people skills. I know one thing, I sure would not want to be in your shoes....I wish you the very best and hope things work out for you.

  4. #4
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    Dec 2001
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    Wink

    Browntownfire, It sure sounds to me like they quit voluntary and/or were terminated. In my opinion your appointment to Chief was effective immediately based on the events of election night. I would view the actions of the former chief as insubordination and harrassment. My thought is you have a volunteer board and membership, people are voted in and/or promoted/demoted, then people can be voted out. If you have proceedures for filing complaints or grievences now would be a good time to start. Go for the source of the problem, document everything said and done. Show patterns of behavior that support the charge(s). Bring it before the board or who ever is the controling authority for the volunteers and have them act on it.

  5. #5
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    dmsmith's Avatar
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    Mabas Div. 4
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    [quote] the ex-chief set down his radio and walked out, along with five others who had brought their uniforms and badges and also left their pagers. The 1st Assistant Chief stated that if the chief walked, he was also walking


    I would consider that a resignation. And a court might think so also.........
    Guinness....a meal in a can!
    IACOJ, Flatlander Division

  6. #6
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    USA
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    Do you receive any financial assistance from your local government? If you do, you may want to talk to the City/Town attorney for a legal opinion. And even if you do not have that financial support, I would contact the department?s attorney for advice, it would be money well spent.

  7. #7
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    Jan 1999
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    Blackwood NJ, USA
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    Yeah, you could fight them and worry about by laws and everything else. Howbout take the high road, work with the guys who are with you and ignore the rest? People who are there for the right reasons will be with you, those that aren't never will and you can't worry about changing them. If your only agenda is having the best fire department possible, you put yourself up for very little criticism. Good Luck!

  8. #8
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    Pea Ridge, Arkansas
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    ...........
    Last edited by FSRIZZIO; 07-08-2008 at 01:31 AM.
    Chief Frank Rizzio
    Pea Ridge Fire Dept.
    Pea Ridge AR. 72751

  9. #9
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    Jan 2002
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    Browntown, WI.
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    I thought that I would reply back to those people that gave me some great insight. I would like to thank you all for helping me out.
    Since I have put this in, I've been doing alot of checking around. I was able to get a copy of the fire board's by-laws. I found out that the fire department is supposed to have 3 members appointed as an "advisory committee" to the fire board, which the fire board members hadn't known when I talked to the fire board chairmen. They are not supposed to get involved in the general conduct, or financial dealings of the department. However, they are to act as a supervisory council for us. I showed this to the chairman of the fire board, which in turn, he made some phone calls and talked to the others. Out of this, I have their reassurance that they would work as a panel to give me a recommendation on how these members should be handled. I also have talked to a lawyer on rights of the department and my rights as the chief, even though our by-laws are terrible, that the fire chief has the ultimate power to preserve order.
    Somehow, it got around that I was doing my homework. Of course we are a small town with alot of rural territory so news travels fast. We had our fire practice last night, and it was like these certain members had had a religious experience. They were very pleasant, helpful, communicated, and were showing new, less experienced people trades that they would've never done before. I am still VERY WARY, but I know now what I can do now, and by the way that that these members were acting, I believe that they thought that they better shape up. As long as they continue to be like this, I believe that, given time, the healing process can do its duty. But, at the first hint of trouble, I will be there to snuff it out. All the documentation has been done on these individuals, so they don't have alot to go on, other than proving that they are here for the department and community and want to work as a team.
    I will continue to check for replies, and other ideas or concerns would be helpful. I'm sure that this is not totally over yet, but at some point, I will have to learn all the paperwork also, as the old chief never showed anybody else how, who, when, when, what had to be done. The neighboring chiefs are being great in the help on this issue, and the emergency management director is helping, and the county sheriff is coordinating. There is alot of support for the change from the area departments, it will be the general public that we will have to deal with for awhile because of these members preaching "railroading out of office", but I treating it like an earthquake. We don't get those hear in Wisconsin, thank god, but the big one hit, we just need to put up with the aftershocks, which eventually will go away. Thanks again for the help everybody, if any of you will be at FDIC, maybe we can meet, it would be a pleasure.

  10. #10
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    Nov 2001
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    Outer Banks, NC
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    Thumbs up

    Be very aware of what is going on around you. Hopefully it will get better, as you hoped. That type of hate and discontent will spread like cancer throughout your department. Keeping the morale up is one of the most important aspects of your new position. By the way, sounds like you really did do your homework.

  11. #11
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    Jun 2000
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    Monroe, WI
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    Ah' the good ole' boys club at its best or should I say its worst. I am familiar with your situation and feel for what you and your department must be going through!

    As leaders we must keep the lines of communication open to the membership. We must be open to differences in opion and new ideas. If the past chief would have held the special meeting he may have avoided this whole situation. But what is done is done. Now you must lead this department in what you believe to be the best way. Maintain a positive attitude and do not worry about those that are trying to cause problems. They are looking for attention and as long as they get it they will continue to be a thorn in the deparments side. It is good that they came back as they have many years of experience and can continue to assets to the deparmtent. However, they MUST understand and except their new roles. Continue to document any problems but try not to overreact or take things personal. Avoid the trap of trying to make everyone happy, it is not realistic. You have a significant amount of experience and since you were voted by the membership to your position then you must have their confidence and respect. Now show them that they were right. Lead them, ask them for their opions, ideas, and assistance. You need to reinstill the team attitude.

    Although, things may appear to be getting better, you and everyone can not forget what has taken place. It is time to get some solid rules in place to handle this situation and others like it. You should discontinue the process of voting for positions. It only creates an atmosphere for politics and it is difficult to enforce rules and manage effectively if you have to consistantly be concerned of the popularity of your decisions and whether or not those decisions will effect you in the next election. These positions should have job descriptions, job qualifications, and a means for evaluating performance. The panel you referred to needs to be more involved in the appointment of these positions and the handling of disciplanary actions and procedures.

    Todays firefighters are smarter and better trained than ever before. Law and order may be just what they are looking for, we already know that change is. It is GREAT that you are seeking the advice of your peers. It shows that you want to do a good job, are committed to the welfare of your department, and are smart enough to realize you do not have to travel the road alone.

    Things will get better with time. Right now you just need to continue moving forward. Best of luck to you and your department.

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