1. #1
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    Default Firefighters Walking out! What do you think?

    On Thursday night July 29, 2004 during a special called city council meeting Sansom Park (TX)Fire Chief Russell Shelley was terminated by the city council with a vote of 3 and other members abstaining from the vote. Following a 5 week investigation by Sansom Park Police Sgt. Whooten, under the eye of Police Chief and acting City Administrator Tony White, council members including Jimmy Barnett and Jimmy Barnett Jr. voted to fire Chief Shelley for ethical improprieties related to city funds. Following the decision by the council two fire department personnel were escorted from the city council chambers by Sansom Park Police for voicing their disbelief to the council members. Shortly following this action by the council most of the departments 32 members walked out leaving the city and a small un-incorporated portion of Tarrant County without fire protection and EMS first responder coverage. Many of the membership believe that the actions of the council were based upon personal differences between Shelley, Barnett, and Barnett Jr. As of late Thursday night a small handful of members were uncertain of their continuing role within the city. By early Friday morning arrangements were made with River Oaks and Lake Worth fire departments to provide temporary coverage for the city and county area. As some firefighters wept in disbelief over the loss of their chief and long time friend others were looking at how to possibly hold the department together. At one point Acting City Administrator and Police Chief Tony White instructed his police officers to remove any remaining fire department personnel from the fire station. The department that consists of five part-time paid and twenty-seven volunteer personnel has several fire grants and the purchase of a used Pierce Tele-Squrt still pending. It is uncertain as to the outcome of the acquisition of these items now. The department was founded as an all-volunteer fire department and a station built on land that was donated for the purpose of use by the volunteer firefighters, the city came later. It is uncertain as of Friday morning if the department will survive or disband leaving the city, with a low tax base and large number of poverty-stricken residents, without proper fire protection.
    Lt. Will Wilkerson
    Asst. Training Coordinator
    Sanson Park Fire-Rescue
    Sansom Park, TX.

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    Default Big Mistake

    Given the situation you have described, the walk-out by the firefighters was a big mistake. They have thrown away their image as the good guys and have given the city council even more power. City council and the police have become the good guys in this saga. They were elected to oversee the operation of the city and the city's finances. It appears they were simply doing their job (whether this is true or not doesn't matter at this point).

    A better response would have been to continue providing services to your community while the chief fights the charges in a court of law and the court of public opinion. If the charges are shown to be false, then the chief is vindicated and city council and the police look foolish.

    Just my opinion.

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    From what is written here....I will echo HM604OH. And I am sure there is much more to the story than what I know.

    Good Luck.
    "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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    Police chief, acting City Administrator...conflict of interest is the first red flag that goes up. Doesn't do much for Tony White's credebility here. First off, mispending of funds plus most of the department being in favor of him, that rules out for me that he is a slezy scum bad. We need to know more about this mispending that he did to actually gauge the situation. Second, what the firefighters did was wrong, partially. If they were to walk out for a week or two (making sure that there absence won't strain the ability to provide service) it gets them in the paper, and it gets there story out. May not be in a positive light, but it seems they aren't dealing with the most moral of beings in there city counsel.

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    My department had an incident about 20 years ago where four or five firefighters were "fired" by the city manager over a totally bogus charge. Many of my fellow firefighters wanted to stage a walk-out, but our union attorney assured everyone that we would win if we kept our cool. We continued to work our shifts, but picketed city hall on our days off. We carried signs that said "Honk if you support your firefighters" and the resulting racket drove everyone inside nuts. The fire chief was called into a meeting in the mayor's office and said that the sound of horns honking was so constant, that he could hardly keep a straight face as she read him the riot act over the behavior of his firefighters. We also had one on one meetings with numerous business and community leaders who in turn put pressure on city council. Once we laid out the facts to the newspapers, they recognized the truth and supported us in articles as well as editorials.

    End Result: The firings were overturned in court. The firefighters were reinstated with full back pay. The mayor decided not to run for re-election (several city hall insiders said that we pushed her over the edge) and the city manager resigned. The new mayor even said that the trouble between the fire department and the administration convinced him to run for the office.

    Had we walked out, we would have become the bad guys and the city administration would have won.
    Last edited by HM604OH; 07-30-2004 at 12:37 PM.

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    Default

    Reading situations like this over the last several years, 9/10 of them end up as a "loss" for those who walk out -- city controls the money, they hire/contract someone else to do the job.
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    There are two sides to every story...sometimes three or four!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    These people are volunteers, I don't see this at all like a paid department walking off the job. To me a jurisdiction is responsible for meeting the needs of its volunteer fire department, if you treat the firefighters in such a way that nobody wants to freely give their time to provide service to the community you've got a problem. Sounds to me like the counsil either didn't think this through or expected such a reaction, seems like they were quick to come up with other means of providing fire protection (which makes the paranoid side of me wonder if that wasn't their intent), then to add insult to injury they locked the firefighters out of the station without even figuring out who had or had not "quit".

    From the story on the main page it sounds like the accusations made of the fire chief are a possible conflict of interest which is far differant than ethical improprieties related to city funds makes it sound (that sounds so much like stealing funds).

    The fact that the Chief ahd this kind of support from the department speaks weel for him in my opinion.

    Interesting to see how this works out.

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    I would like to hear the other side of this story, but walkouts are not the answer........

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    Thumbs down AGAIN!!

    Another Example of the reasoning behind removing public safety from local government control. There is no excuse for several things that I see here, first being a Father and Son serving on the city council, second, the Fire Chief's wife on the Council also. This is nothing more than a clash of personalities. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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    I knew the names sounded familiar...
    http://www.firehouse.com/news/99/2/15_texas.html

    I knew River Oaks & Lake Worth were involved, I forgot that it was a one of the deaths was a Samson Park FF.

    Gotta wonder if the stress from a LODD incident plays into this whole situation or not.
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    Originally posted by Dalmatian90
    I knew the names sounded familiar...
    http://www.firehouse.com/news/99/2/15_texas.html

    I knew River Oaks & Lake Worth were involved, I forgot that it was a one of the deaths was a Samson Park FF.

    Gotta wonder if the stress from a LODD incident plays into this whole situation or not.
    A big two thumbs up for the research! How do you do it?

    I'm witholding judgement until all sides of the story are aired, but walking out is rarely a sound tactic in my book.
    ullrichk
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    Dal, maybe you should also be the Research Officer for the IACOJ.......

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    Thumbs up Uh Huh.............

    Originally posted by firenresq77
    Dal, maybe you should also be the Research Officer for the IACOJ.......
    Second the Motion, Mr President............
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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    Agreed! Dal 90 has a knack for "retreiving" information... may he's part Golden or Lab?
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Exclamation Well here is where it all stands

    The fire Department Voted in a new Fire Chief that now has to be approved by the city council. They do not see any problem with getting the approval. All but about 5 firefighters returned to the department within a few days. Things were smoothed over between the fire department and the police officers. As for the 5 people that left the department there were 5 new applicants (4 already certified) to take their place. I have seen from the replies that I am not the only one that felt that this was a bad idea to walk out. "Don't turn your back, come out with your guns blazing!" Build community support for your cause and you have more power than you will ever need. A fire department is one of the largest and most effective political tools immaginable. People are watching now and I am proud of the one's that listened and decided not to give up, but instead decided to prove themselves. This makes me very proud to know that I have these kind of people that care more about the community than their pride. I only hope that I can serve them just as well as their new Fire Chief.

    Chief Will Wilkerson
    Sansom Park Fire-Rescue
    Lt. Will Wilkerson
    Asst. Training Coordinator
    Sanson Park Fire-Rescue
    Sansom Park, TX.

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    Good luck Chief...and you may want to change your Signature line now!
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Good Luck. I hope things return to normal for you guys

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    Thumbs up Good Luck Chief!........

    And, always feel free to jump in here with questions, etc. There are those of us who have "Been There, Done That" and are willing to share our solutions to our problems (and some "solutions" that DIDN'T solve anything). In a word, Welcome.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

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