By Steven Fletcher
Two weeks ago, City Council approved a legislative patch to the fire chief search ordinance aimed at allowing two firefighters to continue serving on the search committee — pending an approval from Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
Thursday, city officials said they found didn't get it.
Chief Administrative Officer James Duggan said the city refused the two firefighters because they have personal ethical conflicts of interest with the search and can't serve on the selection committee. He said the city has asked the firefighters' union to submit names of a new pair of firefighters, one a paramedic.
"We've asked the union to submit one firefighter and one paramedic to be part of the interview committee," Duggan said.
"Apparently (the last two) were not to the mayor's liking," said Phil Bouchie, union president.
Bouchie said the union's executive board has put forward two new members to sit on the committee. The board elected firefighters Jason LoCoco, a paramedic, and Marc Nicastro.
Duggan said Kirk wanted a paramedic on the committee because 70 percent of the department's runs are medical calls and the Fire Department's ambulance service, he said, brings in about $1 million each year in revenue.
While having firefighter input is helpful, search committee chairman and city Personnel Director David Bain said the absence of the Fire Department's representatives — Tom Aiello and Tom LoGrande — hasn't slowed the process down much.
"You can't just wait around," he said. "You have to continue with the work provided you have enough people, which we did."
The committee started the search for the city's next fire chief late last August with eight of the nine members. Emergency Management Director Miles Schlichte recused himself from the committee to apply for the chief's job — and he and current acting Chief Steve Aiello are reportedly two of the six semifinalists. But the loss of the two firefighters early this year brought the committee down to six members.
The City Council pulled the fire chief's position from the Civil Service ranks in January 2011, when it approved the new ordinance, opening the door for the chief's job to candidates from outside the department and the city. The search has yielded the six semifinalists, who are slated to be run through an assessment soon.
Bain said the committee will begin its final interviews before it recommends between three and five finalists to Kirk next weekend. The first interview session begins April 28 at 8 a.m.
LoGrande said that Thursday was the first he'd heard of the mayor's rejection of the union's nominees; he said his and Tom Aiello's disclosure forms have sat on Kirk's desk for about two weeks.
He said he and Aiello had the same disclosure issue. Upper level officers and firefighters looking to take the promotional exam could have a perceived conflict when choosing the next chief, he said.
LoGrande said the council intended the mayor's approval to be a formality.
But City Councilor Bob Whynott, vice chairman of the council's Ordinance and Administration subcommittee, said the council can't force the mayor to approve anything.
"You can't force the mayor to make an appointment any more than you can force a councilor to vote a certain way," he said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.