Two leading city councilors filed a request with Mayor Carolyn Kirk's office Friday, requesting any and all drafts of the city's so-called "After Incident Report" stemming from the Fire Department's response and handling of the March 4 Pleasant Street fire.
Council president Jackie Hardy and councilor Bruce Tobey included a request for all drafts of the After Incident Report in the City Council's weekly requests to the Mayor's office on Friday.
They are calling for the mayor to provide the drafts and the final report free of redactions and as soon as possible.
The Fire Department has reviewed the latest draft of the report, and reportedly returned it to the New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources Inc. for a "final edit" this week.
The city, said Kirk, expects the report next week. But that will be nearly four months after a blaze, in two bursts, gutted the 14 Pleasant St. building that housed the law offices of Catherine A. Schlichte and Patricia Schlichte Johnstone, and the residence of Schlichte Johnson and her husband, city assessor Gary Johnstone. And the city's handling of the after-incident report — stemming from an investigation and interviews with firefighters and others by Portsmouth, N.H., Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire — is drawing questions.
The Gloucester Daily Times has also formally requested the immediate release of the initial draft of LeClaire's report as delivered to the city in June.
Kirk's office commissioned Municipal Resources to review the department's response to the March fire.
Municipal Resources carried out the city's public safety audits last year, and handled the after-incident report on the 2007 fire that destroyed the Lorraine Apartments and Temple Avahat Achim on Middle Street. That report delivered a scathing review of the department's on-site practices.
Kirk and City Solicitor Suzanne Egan said the city had no comment on the requests for the drafts, but would review them.
Kirk said earlier that only Municipal Resources can make changes to the document; city officials, she added, don't have editorial license.
But Tobey said Friday the city should get the report out into the open, and added that residents had asked him about it over the last few weeks.
"People want to know what's in the report, and that it's fair, and balanced, and unaltered," said Tobey.
Hardy said the councilors filed a non-confrontational request. She added that Kirk had not said she wouldn't provide the council with the report, but Hardy said she feels it should come sooner, rather than later.
Kirk's office requested Municipal Resources to assess the Fire Department's response to the March blaze, which broke out shortly after 6 a.m., and flared again about an hour after incident commander, city emergency management director and Deputy Fire Chief Miles Schlichte — a brother of the building's co-owner — pulled the firefighters back, believing the blaze had been extinguished.
Hardy said the longer the city holds onto the report, the more suspect its credibility becomes. Hardy said that she filed the request as a council request, rather than a council order, because of time concerns. A council order would take another few weeks to hit the mayor's desk, and a possible veto would drive it back further.
Tobey said he did not want the request to follow the path of the Council's order for a report on 2011 ambulance service revenue. That order received a veto from the mayor's office, and has not gone any farther.
Meanwhile, Phil Bouchie, president of Gloucester's firefighters' union, Local 762, said firefighters also want a solid, accurate report to make changes within the department.
"People need to see it (the after incident report,) evolve from first draft to final draft," Bouchie said.
But Deputy Chief Steven Aiello, who reviewed the report with Chief Phil Dench and Schlichte this week, said the latest return concerned basic factual errors. He said that, in one instance, it reported that one officer had made a call that another had actually made, and included other name and date errors.
He said the After-Incident Report raises concerns that the department has seen before.
"You're going to see things in the final draft that were also in the Lorraine report and the management audit." Aiello said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.