[cifnmedia] Fire chief to volunteers Stop talking to the media - delmarvanow.com

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  • To: "Sean Aaron" <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,"Brad Dietrick" <bradfurniturefirst@xxxxxxxxxxx>,<cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 21 May 2004 11:25:49 -0400

Fire chief to volunteers: Stop talking to the media - delmarvanow.com
      
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              Friday, May 21, 2004  

                   Local News 

             
            Fire chief to volunteers: Stop talking to the media
            Discussing operational issues may bring dismissal, See says
            By Joe E. Carmean Jr.
            Daily Times Staff Writer 

--------------------------------------------------------------------
           
            SALISBURY -- Fire Chief David See issued Station 2 volunteers a gag 
order Thursday, threatening separation orders for those who continue 
publicizing operational matters through the media. 

            The administrative or-der came days after Station 2 members 
announced a lawsuit against See and city officials accusing them of failing to 
honor a portion of a May 2003 memorandum of understanding by not confirming the 
promotion of Station 2 volunteer firefighter Michael Layne from second 
assistant fire chief to first assistant. 

            The agreement was devised to end a months-long dispute between 
Station 2 members and city administration following changes in the fire 
department's command structure. The power struggle prompted the volunteer 
company to threaten separation from the city. 

            "We can't continue to operate within this ongoing environment," See 
said Thursday. "This public media blitz isn't doing anyone any good." 

            While the chief said he believes everyone is entitled to an 
opinion, volunteers should be utilizing the fire department chain of command to 
resolve issues internally, he said. 

            "The city government is tired of this. The community is tired of 
this. A majority of our members are tired of this," he said. "The fire service 
community at large has also had enough." 

            See said he directed all Station 2 members to cease all future 
announcements of operational issues in public forums. 

            "If they continue to insist to do that, they will be considered 
insubordinate and reprimanded for conduct unbecoming," he said. "I'm not 
attempting to infringe on anybody's first amendment rights to free speech ... 
but the consequences for not following this order will result in separation 
actions." 

            Station 2 President Harold Scott said he feels the cease-and-desist 
order is a violation of his first amendment rights, but said he will respect 
the chief's wishes for now and referred all questions to the fire company's 
attorney, Robin Cockey. 

            Station 2 Vice President John Bartkovich also yielded to the fire 
company's legal counsel Thursday. 

            Cockey said the order is unconstitutional and unlawful. 

            "It's an interesting sort of self-fulfilling prophecy," he said 
Thursday. "It's kind of funny. We file a lawsuit saying the chief refused to 
promote Mr. Layne because of the views he expresses, and now we're getting a 
letter saying there can be no more expression of public views critical of the 
fire chief. It's an extraordinary vindication of the allegations made by my 
clients." 

            Cockey said the volunteers are in a situation where the city is 
trying to assume more control that it ever has and the volunteers have a right 
and an obligation to say something about it. 

            "The volunteers aren't being discourteous, disrespectful or 
abrasive," he said. "We've actually made a point to not be disrespectful. We're 
not seeking money damages in the lawsuit, and if the chief can't take that kind 
of commentary he either has really thin skin or too weak a stomach to hold 
public office." 

            The chief said too many people in the volunteer ranks are living in 
the past. 

            "I'm trying to make some major moves in this department with a 
focus on the future," he said. "This latest order goes further than just 
disparaging remarks. We want to deal with our problems internally, but there 
has to be a cooperative effort on both sides. My door has always been open, and 
they're not giving me a chance to listen." 

            The volunteers think the fire chief is out to get them, See said, 
but that is not true. 

            "I just want them to be the best they can be," he said. "I'm hoping 
to resolve all of this internally. I have reservations about that actually 
happening, but I hope. I'm trying to get them to understand." 

                  a.. Reach Joe E. Carmean Jr.
                 at 410-845-4635 or jcarmean @salisbury.gannett.com. 







            Originally published Friday, May 21, 2004


           

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