Pa. Chief Resigns Citing Hostile Work Environment

July 13, 2013
The Reading fire chief said he decided to resign because of harassment and threats he said came from his deputies and the firefighters' union.

July 13--Former city Fire Chief David W. Hollinger resigned because of what he called a hostile work environment and a pattern of "intimidation, stalking behavior, harassment and threats" from the firefighters union and his own first deputies, according to his resignation letter.

"I now regard this position untenable and must consider the health and safety of my family and resign my position," Hollinger said in the letter delivered Monday to Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer. A copy was obtained by the Reading Eagle.

Reached Thursday afternoon, Hollinger said he has hired an attorney.

"A fire chief, like a police chief, takes a hit, but it should never spill over to one's family," Hollinger said.

He said there were several reports of crime in his neighborhood that he said resulted from the harassment and intimidation.

Firefighters union President Michael Shoumlisky said Friday that he doesn't understand Hollinger's claims.

"I really don't know what he's talking about," Shoumlisky said. "We hardly even got to talk with him considering he took two to three days a week off."

Hollinger said he doesn't know what's ahead.

"I bought a home (in the city) within 45 days of getting this job," he said. "This is where I grew up."

Hollinger said he had planned to stay with Reading for a long time, and still has affection for it and some of those with whom he worked.

The 53-year-old retired in 2011 as a lieutenant after 26 years with the Washington, D.C., fire department. He was named Reading fire chief in June 2012 at a salary of $72,000.

In his resignation letter, Hollinger said the city won a $4 million federal grant to hire more firefighters, but the union is fighting it to protect the overtime its members were getting.

Shoumlisky said the union wants more staffing, but that its members were concerned that Hollinger's application for the funds exaggerated the department's low staffing level.

"I know he did that just to get the money, but the guy lied on the application, so we didn't want to be involved in case of any future investigations by the federal government," Shoumlisky said.

Hollinger's letter also accused Managing Director Carole B. Snyder of permitting what he called a reckless disregard for the truth and enabling the union and first deputies to run the department through her office rather than his.

Snyder declined to comment Friday, saying it's a personnel matter.

Contact Don Spatz: 610-371-5027 or [email protected].

Copyright 2013 - Reading Eagle, Pa.

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