Mayor Carolyn Kirk tonight submitted to the City Council a memo by the consulting firm that conducted the search for the Fire Department's first non-civil service chief in an effort to quell concerns that her choice, Eric Smith, deputy chief in Westland, Mich., does not meet the new ordinance requirement for experience in a command position.
And Municipal Resources Inc., which conducted the search for candidates and narrowed the field to five semifinalists, wrote that Kirk's choice to become chief of a department in seemingly perpetual turmoil and implicit or explicit rebellion "has served more than three years at ranks equivalent to or exceeding the position of deputy fire chief in Gloucester."
"It is the opinion of the MRI consulting team that Eric Smith demonstrated throughout the selection process that he is the best qualified candidate for the position," the New Hampshire-based consulting company wrote to Kirk.
In a six-page memo Kirk forwarded to the Council, MRI explained that, in addition to the two years of qualifying experience on Smith's resume as a deputy chief and battalion chief, is another 11 months as an acting battalion chief. That's a title different from Gloucester's deputy chief's requirement, but in practice reflects a similar level of command responsibility, MRI maintains.
The memo was referred to the council's Ordinance and Administration Committee, where the question of approving Smith's contract for $113,548 per year plus $10,000 in relocation costs and other amenities will be on the subcommittee's agenda next Monday night. The earliest date the council could get O & A's recommendation and vote on ending three years of interim leadership and uncertainty would be Tuesday, June 26.
In asserting that Smith had surpassed the required three years or equivalent as deputy chief in Westland, a suburb of Detroit with some 84,000 residents — three times the population of Gloucester — MRI vice-president Alan S. Gould Gould wrote that Westland Fire Department rules and regulations state that "any 'acting' officer shall have the authority and responsibility as if the position were permanent."
"A captain who is serving in the role of acting battalion chief is expected to perform all duties and responsibilities of the position," Gould wrote for MRI. "Eric Smith has served at the rank of deputy fire chief for a period of approximately eight months" in a force of 68, which MRI equated with being the second in command. MRI equated "deputy chief in Gloucester" with "battalion chief" in Westland; Gloucester has 73 uniformed firefighters.
"(Smith's) total service at the rank of deputy chief or equivalent is determined to be 37 months. The actual hours served in these ranks totals 7,381 hours; based on the normal Gloucester 42 hour work week, this equates to 3.38 years served," MRI wrote.
"Currently, Smith serves at the sole second-in-command of this 68 person department," MRI noted. "The MRI team also found that his experience as a licensed paramedic and paramedic instructor/coordinator will be of significant benefit to the city of Gloucester."
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Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.