New Mexico Fire Chief Under Political Attack

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --

The fallout continues after Darren White's retirement as Albuquerque public safety director.

Fire Chief James Breen is under attack for not standing up to White after the former public safety director claimed paramedics weren't equipped to take his wife to the hospital after a car accident.

Breen, who faces a no-confidence vote next week, wrote a memo to all firefighters, saying that there "seems to be blood in the water," following White's comments.

"There is an atmosphere in the department regarding that incident that resulted in some internal friction," Breen said.

To ease the friction, Breen invited firefighters to a meeting Friday, telling dozens that even though White claimed they weren't equipped to take his wife to the hospital after her accident, the former city official supports the fire department.

"Our firefighters who responded to that incident followed protocol and delivered excellent patient care," Breen said.

Breen also wanted the firefighters' feedback on leadership and ways to boost morale in the department, but the Albuquerque Fire Department Union said the chief has no right having a meeting on city time.

"We are not allowed to do union business on city time, and obviously, this is a union issue," said Diefo Arencon, of the AFD Union.

"This is a city business, and it's my job to address morale issues throughout the department and any issues on the minds of our members," Breen said.

The fire chief said meeting with his staff is a step in the right direction to find solutions, noting that he will hold more meetings with firefighters over the weekend.

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