NEW FOR WEDNESDAY: OC Fire Dept. Embroiled In ‘Turmoil’; City Manager To Form Focus Groups; Employees’ Spouses Create Support Group

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OCEAN CITY — Armed with concerns over hostile workplace conditions for Ocean City career firefighter-paramedics and deteriorating morale, a group of more than a dozen spouses has been formed to provide support and promote an improved direction for the city’s first responders.

The creation of the support group is the latest controversy to embroil the Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD), leading Chief Chris Larmore in an interview Monday to refer to the current state of affairs as “turmoil”.

In recent months, serious accusations have been made about the OCFD and its alleged culture of stress and negativity, including several grievances filed against leadership and recent decisions, but it was not until this week that the specific concerns were vocalized, confirming further these are tumultuous times for the OCFD.

In an interview last Friday, five spouses of veteran career firefighter/paramedics shared their support group’s mission and explained why they are banding together in the hopes of improving work conditions for their husbands. The support group currently has about 15 members and has met four times with future meetings planned.

“We strive to support the members of the Ocean City Fire Department’s Fire/EMS Division as they provide exemplary service and protection to the residents and visitors of the Town of Ocean City,” reads the mission statement of Fully Involved S.T.A.F.F. (Standing Tall Around Firefighters). “Through our efforts, we hope to promote positive growth and direction within the Division thus ensuring the safety and well being of those who serve as they serve others.”

The support group is actively seeking like-minded family and friends of the career firefighter/paramedics. In a letter to prospective members, the group detailed its general focus areas. They include “the hostile work environment, unnecessary and excessive stress, denied summer leave for family vacations, negative attacks in the press, potential schedule changes affecting livelihoods, departure and potential departure of qualified, tenured personnel due to current administration and state of department, questionable qualifications of leadership and elimination of special ops programs.”

The wives spoke to The Dispatch on the condition of anonymity as they fear “retaliation” against their husbands by the OCFD, which was created six years ago after a heated disconnect between the paid staff, leadership and the volunteers boiled into a city-wide controversy that included spirited comments from elected officials as well as business owners on both sides of the discourse.

Larmore, who had been the volunteer chief previously for two years, was the first chief of the merged group and has held the position since 2008. He accepted the job for an annual salary of $1 initially but has since been restored to an annual wage consistent with other city department heads. Today’s OCFD is now a combination volunteer and career member body, consisting of three divisions — the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company, the Fire/EMS division and the Office of the Fire Marshal.

“I think if the public knew how the men and women who take care of them are being treated, I don’t think they would stand for it. The public is being served and the people who provide that service are being treated like a doormat,” said the wife of a long-time firefighter/paramedic with more than 25 years of service.

Another wife of a veteran city firefighter/paramedic added, “We are willing to accept the stress of them risking their lives, but not an attack on really good people with lies. They have no means to really defend themselves, and that’s why we decided we had to do something. We have to do this because they can’t. This is disrupting our lives. We have men being taken to the hospital with chest pains over this. We have men crying in their counselors’ chairs with depression. We have men on medication. We have men yelling at their children on a regular basis because they have so much anger inside them over how they are being treated at work.”

Another wife said she fears the current culture will lead to resignations and retirements of the city’s veteran firefighter/paramedics. In fact, one long-time, high-profile member of the career team recently picked up his papers and is weighing resignation and retirement options.

“We are not a bunch of wet hens. This is not a bunch of mumbo jumbo. This is real life. There are fairness issues. It’s a stressful profession and we all know that, but what they have to deal with daily from the administration and the chief makes it unbearable,” that wife said.

Larmore takes exception to those characterizations of his department under his leadership and believes his primary responsibility as OCFD chief is to the taxpayers and that he operates his department like it’s a business. He cited the approximately $400,000 decrease in payroll costs that have been implemented during his tenure as evidence of that commitment.

“I understand some of my providers are not happy with me, but change is difficult. I’m sure some of the wives who met with you, their husbands have been here a long time and we have made institutional changes,” Larmore said. “Make no mistake, I am very concerned about my people. I stay up at night worrying about that. They are my family and I want the workforce to be happy and appreciate what they have. It has been a very difficult 90 days, that’s going into [union] negotiations, some of the rumors out there, two negative items in the press, so yes I’m very concerned about the general providers who are not in the union and how they are doing. I can’t be very concerned about the union because frankly if I’m concerned about the union I’m not doing the job that I was hired to do.”

The support group has reached out to several Mayor and Council members over the last couple months, including Councilwoman Mary Knight who said she plans to attend an upcoming meeting of the group.

“I will go just as a sounding board, and I will explain that I will relay their concerns back to the city manager and that will be my purpose,” Knight said. “My purpose will not be to resolve anything, just to relay it to [City Manager] David [Recor].”

Refusing to further address the group’s general statements of concerns, such as the employees being treated as a “doormat” reference, Larmore wanted to focus on specific concerns the group had, singling out several of the wives’ bullet points, such as the issue of summer leave being denied for staff. Larmore said it’s a current city policy for staff to not take vacations during the busy summer season and the OCFD adopted the policy in December of 2011. That policy arose during the tight economic times that led to department staffing decreases. In the case of the career firefighter/paramedics, Larmore said seven positions had to be eliminated, representing approximately 20 percent of the career division.

“The basis was this is a resort and from Memorial Day to Labor Day it’s all hands on deck. You need everyone you have because staffing requirements go up,” Larmore said. “Going into calendar 2012, I issued a reminder to not plan on taking leave in compliance with the city’s policy manual from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We gave everybody notice last year and this year, and now all of a sudden it’s bad for morale that you can’t take off in the middle of the summer when your kids are out of school. When you were hired here, that was a priority here, as it is with many of the city departments. Now I’m the bad guy and being difficult, and I have a guy going to the city manager about it and his wife coming to you, despite the fact it’s a city policy and we made an exception last year but wouldn’t do it again this year. My priority is having guys on the road responding and providing service the public expects.”

OCFD Sees Recent Spike In Grievances

Larmore’s leadership discretion has come under fire in recent months over a recent promotion process that led to a grievance being filed arguing the process was not properly carried out.

Trevor Steedman, a long-time career firefighter/paramedic, was promoted to captain in December 2012, but a second promotion of a female lieutenant, Kathleen Hartley, to captain also took place. It was this second promotion that bothered many within the fire department, but the grievance filed was reviewed by Larmore and Recor and no wrongdoing was found.

While sources indicate Steedman was almost a certainty for the spot due to his seniority and experience, Hartley’s promotion surprised many of the rank and file. Although the wives took exception to the promotion for a variety of reasons, it was the process that irked them.

“Nobody knew there was a second position. There was no list as to who was in line for an acting captain position, even though they had not posted that there was this position in the first place,” one wife said. “The process is indicative of how the department is being run currently. There are so many questions and when they are expressed, people are being called liars and bashed.”

Larmore referred to the four-month promotion process as “detailed and fair”. He said the second promotion of Hartley was endorsed by city leadership and carried out as a result of high-ranking leaders within the department approaching retirement in the near future.

“Our command staff with the exception of one person can actually retire in less than three years, so my approach was to promote two. There was never any intention to mislead anybody. It was done purely in the spirit of succession planning because when we looked at the dollars it could be done within the existing budget,” Larmore said. “There was nothing deceitful here. It was very good succession planning in my mind, and the city manager and council approved it. I felt at the end of that process there were two people well suited and qualified in terms of succession planning to lead this department.”

A complaint was reportedly filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the Town of Ocean City over the promotion and the workforce’s alleged response that it was linked to inappropriate and unprofessional relations between certain personnel. The nature of that complaint is sealed, but the EEOC did confirm receiving the complaint last month.

While the status of that process is unclear at the moment, Miles & Stockbridge, a labor law firm, will be briefing the Mayor and Council in an upcoming closed session on the findings of “an internal inquiry” that relates to a “personnel-specific situation”, according to Recor. Sources indicate that report is linked to the EEOC complaint.

“We made an inquiry based on the allegations that were made, and they will be giving the council an update at an upcoming closed session. The inquiry is complete,” Recor said. “That’s about as much as I can say generally without going into specifics.”

Of that probe, Larmore said, “There is an internal investigation between the workforce. That’s over my head and it involves the workforce. I hope we get resolution to that sooner than later.”

More grievances involving recent decisions have also been filed, but the town of Ocean City rejected this publication’s Freedom of Information Act request last month to view all of the grievances. The city referred to them as “personnel records” that will be included in the employee’s individual file and would not be released. One such grievance not released involved a member of the staff approaching the city manager with a concern and subsequently being disciplined for violating the chain of command, according to Recor.

A grievance that was released by the city to this paper involving “watch duty” was filed by the local chapter of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF). The IAFF Local 4269 filed the “unit wide grievance” on Nov. 9, 2012 in response to changes to the watch duty policy instituted on Nov. 1, 2012 by Deputy Fire Chief Chuck Barton.

The policy changes were reactionary to an emergency call being missed as a result of firefighter/paramedics being asleep in an area where there reportedly is no alert. Numerous sources have confirmed the call was missed, although no tragic consequences occurred and a delay time of approximately six minutes reportedly occurred. The call incident along with other “unacceptably high response times”, words Barton used in a memo obtained by this paper, sparked a policy change.

That led to the union’s grievance, which sought the removal of two changes — one that specifically stated where career personnel were not permitted to sleep and another mandating one member of the crew be awake and “shall perform “Watch Duty” between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The grievance sought a work group to study and review current response policies to prevent future delays. The union felt the changes Barton instituted violated the 2010-2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and the IAFF and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

Larmore rejected the grievance, saying in a letter to IAFF Local 4269 President Michael Maykrantz dated Nov. 22, 2012, “I believe the requirement of one person to remain awake and alert is reasonable.” Additionally, Larmore penned there is language in the SOP agreement that states the commanding officer has the prerogative to “consider the needs and duties of their shift before allowing personnel to occupy beds.” Recor confirmed he upheld Larmore’s rejection of the grievance.

Larmore said the policy that required at least one firefighter/paramedic to be awake at all times stayed in place until Jan. 17 when new alert systems were approved. Currently, all stations and staff are now alerted of each call through a system-wide alert and secondary pagers.

“They slept through two calls and that’s unacceptable. A mistake was made and the mistake needed to be corrected. I am the one who had to answer to the family that had the delayed call. That’s not a telephone call that I want to make it again. The Ocean City Fire Department, as a whole, regrets that we did not live up to our own standard, and that standard is obviously a timely response,” Larmore said. “’Watch duty’, meaning someone and it didn’t have to be the same person had to be awake at all times, was suspended Jan. 17 after the safeguards were put in place, including 20 additional pagers that were purchased. When it goes off, you are going to know it. Now, every single EMS call sends out a signal through these pagers. The compromise with the union was they can sleep, but they need to be ready to provide a timely response and I think these changes allow that and the public expects that.”

City Manager To Hold Private Meetings With Staff

Within the next month, as a result of the ongoing issues within the OCFD, Recor plans to meet with members of the department to hear their concerns. Recor said this morning no members of the command staff will be permitted to attend those focus group sessions.

“It actually emanated from the ongoing issues and I really want to hear from department members,” Recor said.

Last month, Recor met with members of the command staff, including the chief, the captains and lieutenants, to discuss issues the department was currently facing as well as other innocuous business matters.

“I wanted them to know that I’m going to listen to the concerns of our employees, and I committed that day to meet with each of the platoons minus management and to listen to their ideas, suggestions and concerns,” Recor said. “I want them to share their ideas, suggestions and concerns without fear of any kind of repercussions, and I want to listen. As city manager, I will be able to discern what is a bargaining unit issue and what is something that needs to be addressed at the management level. I think that resonated with a number of employees and leadership and they were very receptive to the idea.”

Recor requested the face-to-face time to hear the specific concerns and address them with a goal to improve the operation of the OCFD.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility as city manager to be responsive to concerns raised by the employees. I am trying to get to the bottom of things. To the extent that my management and oversight of this organization can make it a better place to work … I want to make that contribution. We all have minimum expectations, and I want the fire department just like every other department to be a well-managed department where the employees can come to work and do their job and feel safe and comfortable in a good working environment,” Recor said. “I’m all ears and am going to listen and want to know how we can do better and move in the right direction.”

Chief Believes Union Impacting Relations

During an interview on Monday, Larmore reported not a single grievance was filed with the city in the first four and a half years of his chief’s tenure, but there have been as many as five filed over the last five months. He suspects many of the grievances might have been a union ploy in advance of contract negotiations, which wrapped last month with both sides expected to sign the new accord this month.

“There are times when they have animosity of management instead of animosity with the council, which is who they negotiate with. There is going to be differences between union and management, that’s a reality,” Larmore said.

Larmore believes the recent uncertainty regarding union contract negotiations could be playing a part in the discord among the staff and families. He believes once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is officially inked some concerns will be relieved. The current contract expires June 30.

“They are senior people and they are simply not used to it. At the end of the day, most of the people who are positive and have a high morale they are unaffected. I don’t like what’s happening. I don’t like hearing this. We are making improvements,” the chief said. “When this contract gets signed, that’s going to take a lot of it away. They are going to be happy with the outcome, knowing there were not significant changes.”

The wives were unanimous in saying their concerns are not rooted in pay and benefits issues. Each admitted not being privy to union contract details, reporting instead the support group was formed as an outlet for spouses worried about their husbands going to work in an unhealthy environment.

“This has been smoldering ever since Larmore took over. It’s to the point now where it’s just a major disruption. Something needs to happen,” one wife said. “Many of the guys are like, ‘get me the hell out of here’. I can’t take it anymore. If we had lateral moves, many would have done it already. It’s always been a tradition for the kids to follow in the fire background, whether it’s as a volunteer or as a career. Now, no way anyone is going to allow their kids to come back here and work. Absolutely no parts of it … they see their fathers worried over getting fired and the stress has changed them. These are broken men.”

Another of the wives involved with the support group reiterated, “The formation of our group is not about pay and benefits. We are thankful they are employed, but we want to see changes for our families’ sake and others. There needs to be a return to respect for each other and that’s not presently there between the chief and our husbands.”

Larmore still believes the union is influencing relations between the command staff and the personnel, referring to the timing of the recent grievances compared to the previous four-plus years without any grievances filed.

“I don’t know that many organizations that have a union-management form of operation is going to have a cordial relationship. The employees are part of my team and part of my family, but I have a fiduciary relationship to the citizenry,” he said. “I have to provide that service as economically reasonable as possible. That flies into the face of any union. Therefore, it’s difficult for anyone to say we are always going to be on the same page.”

Controversy Not Impacting Public’s Safety

Despite their differences, Larmore and the support group agree on one key element — the public should not be concerned about the safety amid the current “turmoil” within the OCFD.

“We absolutely feel there is absolutely no reason for the public to feel they are not being protected by these men and women. They are as professional as you get.  They are heroes to us, but they are human and we need to protect them…” a member of the support group said. “We need to provide them the support they deserve because they do not deserve what they are getting now.”

Those interested in joining the support group are urged to email fullyinvolvedstaff@gmail.com or write 37232 Lighthouse Road, Suite 167, Selbyville, Del. 19979.

Larmore encouraged the support group to bring their specific concerns to him.

“Get them to my level. Once they come here, if I don’t address them, then let’s go on record and address them,” Larmore said.

33 comments on “NEW FOR WEDNESDAY: OC Fire Dept. Embroiled In ‘Turmoil’; City Manager To Form Focus Groups; Employees’ Spouses Create Support Group

  1. Great article, whats the bottom line? A few EMTS dont like having to stay awake for a call, want summers off, and to not be held accoutable. A chief that puts the interests of the taxpayers first, my lets just get him dismissed!

  2. Not sure how he thinks he is saving the taxpayers money when he has created so many new command staff positions to help bully the paramdics around to the point of more than 1 officer for 3 paramedics. Sounds like both mismanagement of taxpayer money as well as an inability to do the job efficiently. I can tell you I wouldn’t want to work for someone who makes doing my job miserable because he is targeting anyone who is in the union. I guess the only union member who is safe, even getting promoted, is the one he is reportedly (edited for unsubstantiated information). Too bad this article only gave half the story.

  3. Hey Half the story, maybe you should get all sides. When people are promoted out of the union, they make LESS $. Did you miss the part where payroll has reduced, why dont you place a call to the HR Dept. and inquire if thats true? Bet you dont want to work for someone that makes you do your job! We dont get the time in Salisbury to sleep, those guys have it so good it’s funny! They are making all of us look bad. BTW, I worked part time in Ocean City, so I do know.

  4. Don’t know much about this story but I have been cared for by OC paramedics. My experience was that this group is very caring and professional. It seems to be pretty logical that this is not just a single disgruntled employee that the department has on its hands but a group of veteran professionals that after 20 plus years of service are now having morale issues within the department. Regardless of who is right or wrong and he said/she said, the low morale seems to be a reflection upon the leadership of the division or the lack thereof. Sad that people need to bad mouth the men and women who take care of us in our time of need. Also pretty telling that it is not even the employees that are doing the complaining but the wives who seem to have had enough of how the low morale in the department has created issues in the family.

  5. I will bet anything the group of wives are the same bunch from the Berin Fire Co. claiming thier “men” are angels. I didn’t see anywhere in the article, exactly why “thier boys” (surely not MEN)are so stressed. Ok, they cant sleep all the time, and they cant take off in the summer ….. sorry the rest of the town employees can’t either. At least the chief wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, how about the rest of the sources? And Mary Knight will get to the bottom of everything. Maybe the rest of the silly council should get involved.

  6. IAFF Moto – get paid more, work less, intimidate on the way. Where else can you work six hours and get paid for 24 at 35 per hour. Keep an eye on the paper I am sure the council people they helped get voted into office give them substantial raises in the new contract, when the rest of the private sector tightens their belts. Enjoy your taxes Ocean City.

  7. This makes everyone look bad. One claim the wives make is that we are tired of “negative attacks in the press”, well how’s it working for us now? I hope the public and the council persons know this is not the position of 90% of the Career Division, we are here to serve.

  8. As a member of the Ocean City Paramedic Foundation, I am truly saddened by the immature tactics of a few wives of our great Paramedics. We had our annual dinner recently, and not one word of these problems were spoken. Also present was the new City Manager, and the Fire Chief. I agree with the other comments that it’s a sad day when such an honorable organization is represented by a “wives club” that can only complain of unsubstantiated rumors and innuendos. I will personally make sure this is addressed at our next directors meeting, in the effort to officially distance ourselves from the few that harbor such negativity. Shame on you!

  9. Hey – where did the 1st 2 comments go Steve? I too want to know whats the end state/point of this story? Something lengthy like this reeks of a long term knowledge – hence the release now and very long story.

    Reminds me of a fictional famous movie saying: “The needs of the MANY outway the needs of a few, or the one.”

    Point is the few disgruntled should not push the story that this is the view of the many.

    Just sayin….

    ~BUSHMAN!~

  10. The Bus Drivers never have this much griping at their annual dinner. Uh, we don’t get an annual dinner. There was a lunch at one time but that was cut out of our Contract. Uh, we don’t have any Contracts. Maybe the Bus Driver’s spouses need to organize so we have something to gripe about too. Of course, neither Town Management or Council ride the buses so there’s nobody for the Drivers to even gripe to.

  11. Just a little simple math: If Larmore said he eliminated 7 positions times approx $85,000 per avg salary at retirement that is nearly $600,000. So when Larmore boasts of saving the city $400,000, where is the extra $200,000 that was saved by the elimination of 7 positions that were not filled by new paramedics. I guess that’s where he found the money to create 2 new captains positions to further bolster his ever growing command leaving the remaining paramedics to do more work with a smaller staff.

  12. Objective View
    Let’s look at the real issue at hand. In today’s Fire Service one of the most important issues for management is to provide a healthy work environment for its personnel. The issue here is the OCFD has a manager that does not provide positive and consistent Leadership within the department. Leadership is the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others to accomplish a common goal or task.
    After reading this article, it is clear the OCFD has someone in charge that fall short of leadership requirements. If you look at running the Department as a business, management has to rely on all of its employees to be on board with the overall mission. As I see it, the recent filing of grievances and the advent of the Spouse Support Group is a clear sign that this business is heading into bankruptcy!
    Has anyone given thought to maybe it has taken 4 years for some of the OCFD employees to say enough is enough. Maybe it is time to expose the reactionary and mindless management style endured by them.
    The “Good Old Boy” management style has no place in today’s Fire Service.
    The short answer is clear! Get rid of the cause and you get rid of the problem.
    This article is only the tip of the iceburg!

  13. I agree 100% with the fact the career personnel of that department are having problems with the Chief and as a citizen I support them fully. That chief has got to go. I also know many of people on the volunteer side of the department that are fed up with him too. I hear many stories from friends of mine about how that chief is not qualified to be there and how he bullies his personnel. This has to stop. I also thought that when he originally took the position for $1 that it was decided if that ever became a full salaried position that the city would have to advertise nation wide for that position. What happened to that?

  14. In response to “Objective View’s” opinion @ 2:47 – It is not only the Fire Service workers that are worthy and deserving of a healthy work environment, ALL workers are. People are people and no class of people are superior than others.

    Regarding their statement that “it is clear the OCFD has someone in charge that fall (sic) short of leadership requirements”, how can they possibly make such a harsh judgment based on a few firefighters’ wives 1-sided statements in favor of their husbands? It is possible that the husbands of these wives may be at fault. I don’t know and neither does anybody reading this article because we do not know all of the facts. Sounds like a very bias judgment on my end.

  15. Objective View
    Let’s look at the real issue at hand. In today’s Fire Service one of the most important issues for management is to provide a healthy work environment for its personnel. The issue here is the OCFD has a manager that does not provide positive and consistent Leadership within the department

    “Indian on March”, this a typical union view ie: “the march”. The Fire Service should be about service to the community! The work environment should not include sleeping through calls, intimidation of the rank and file, by the rank and file, and union “entitlement”. I am just a lowly part time Fire Fighter, your right, this is the tip of the iceberg, but it’s not going to about the current leadership, it’s about the “Indians” that could never work in a real Fire Department.

  16. From what I have gathered from working at 3 different businesses in Ocean City, there are many similarities of major problems that exist at workplaces in the town whether it be the fire or police dept., bars or hotels or any other business.
    The comparable problems are: hostile workplaces, gossip, back-stabbing, high percentage of workplace infidelities, low morale, bullying, high turnover, conflict, hate, and many other negative and immoral issues.
    The positive that came from my negative experience

  17. In response to Citizen OC. You seem to be very disgruntled about how some or maybe many of the businsses (ie. restaurants) in OC treat employees. And I believe that most people who have worked in the industry would agree but why do you need to take that out on the paramedics and their wives. We all deserve to work in a positive and non-threatening environment. It wasn’t long ago I believe that there was an article in the paper about how the Sukura employees filed a class action lawsuit over having to tip out the kitchen staff. I didn’t see any paramedics or their wives making negative comments about the wait staff standing up for their rigths. It sounds like the wives of the paramedics are simply tired of their husbands having to deal with additional stress and harrasment on top of an already stressful career. I dont think they believe they are better than any other employee out there and just because they happen to form a support group that the press was intersted in learning about why do you need to hold it against them.

  18. Just read the article online from tomorrow’s dispatch and read some of the comments That have been written .1 To the members of the council who are friends of mine here don’t believe half the bs that comes out of the mouth of a certain employee of yours. 2 There is pay back in the fire dept and don’t let anyone say otherwise, some will say its sour grapes on my part but people know the real truth. 3 the women have a very valid and true concerns you can ask a certain woman on 141 st by the name of Emma the stuff she dealt with for the many years I was there. 4 it’s about time the city to do a search for a fire chief who meets the qualification that have been written for the position , not one who couldn’t even get hired part time there. 5 Address the need for the boss to adopt Nims so maybe he could understand how to work together with other division within the city.I’m sure many will try to dispute this but ask your self one question why is that people who work directly for the fd vote in the volunteer fire company on issues that concern the chief. He has power over them in all aspects of the job do you think they would vote against him.

  19. “Regarding their statement that ‘it is clear the OCFD has someone in charge that fall (sic) short of leadership requirements’, how can they possibly make such a harsh judgment based on a few firefighters’ wives 1-sided statements in favor of their husbands? It is possible that the husbands of these wives may be at fault. I don’t know and neither does anybody reading this article because we do not know all of the facts. Sounds like a very bias judgment on my end.”

    Did it ever occur to you that the comment has first hand knowledge of the person in charge of the entire fire department. That person wasn’t qualified to be the fire chief 4 years ago when the turmoil first began and that person isn’t qualified to be the fire chief today. He wasn’t qualified to be an unpaid volunteer fire chief so he shouldn’t have been hired as the career fire chief in the first place. Just because he was hired as the “chief” for 2 years at $1 certainly doesn’t give him the qualifications to be the fire chief with a salary well in excess of $100K per year. He could and would never be hired as a basic firefighter in a career department anywhere in this country.

  20. We will not allow scandalous, personal attacks to appear in the comment section that have not been researched and verified. We value reader opinions, but we cannot permit personal attacks on the support group members. While some of you maintain that’s exactly what the support group members did to the chief and his administration. The difference is the chief was given an opportunity to address their concerns and he did that in the article. Both sides were represented. Work on this article began back in late November by speaking off the record with city personnel and the filing of the numerous grievances. The support group is a part of the story, but not the entire story. There is a lot to what is happening within the OCFD and we set out to shine a light, including the internal investigation by City Hall as well as the upcoming employee-only meetings being conducted by City Manager David Recor to hear an unfiltered account of what the career division’s issues and concerns are. We will continue to follow this story and appreciate the feedback, but we will not approve slanderous statements by posters not willing to give their name and operational email address. Thanks for understanding.

  21. In response to “Citizen WOC”-I am not “disgruntled”, but rather disappointed with the numerous hostile work environments in OC that have too much drama going on. Sounds like the Fire Dept. is another 1 of those types of environments that exist in OC as well.

    You are right when you state that-“We all deserve to work in a positive and non-threatening environment.” All of us do. Not just fire fighters and paramedics. They are not superior beings compared to the rest of OC’s workers.

    As far as your statement that “the wives are simply tired of their husbands having to deal with additional stress and harassment.” First of all, why are the wives defending their husbands in the 1st place instead of the husbands fending for themselves. I’ve never ever in my life heard any instances of workers’ spouses banding together to fight for their spouse’s employee rights. Secondly, what makes these wives more special than other worker’s wives that are mistreated at their workplaces? Please explain.

  22. Steven,
    I see that you deleted my comment so I would appreciate you showing your professionalism and answering 1 question that many of us would like you to answer since it was your decision to publish this story that we believe is only 1-sided.

    Question is – When it is a well known fact that most workplaces in OC are very uncivil and hostile work environments and have been for decades, what makes the firefighter’s situation newsworthy and all other OC workers’ hostile work environments not newsworthy? Do the firefighters and their wives believe they are more important people than all other people that are OC workers?

  23. Ok…we can not upset the wives of the support group by calling their boys babies. I get that but why protect them because they can noy play nice in the sandbox. This is only half truths…when the accident on 12-26-12 article was written you allowed all the comments to get very personal against unfounded information. Now why are you screening what is being said. You let people write in the comments names. Wow you are one sided….you are hiding the truth….let the truth run free. They did.they had no shame i. Why start now. I will provide all the crying towels needed…..truth shal set you free

  24. As an explanation to Citizen OC. I still have no idea how you get that the paramedics and their wives feel that they are superior. The article was very clear that the families of our paramedics are dealing with husbands experiencing stress induced anxiety, anger, health scares, and depression. The wives are doing nothing different than Al-Anon members who meet to support each other and their alchoholic family members. How does that at all equate a perception of superiority in your mind? Would you bash a group of Al-Anon members who had a story written about them in the paper as well? And it doesn’t sound like the wives are by any means trying to fight their husbands battles by meeting to support each other. To my knowledge they are not exactly busting down the doors of city hall, paying for an ad spot in the paper, or even writing a letter to the editor. If you are simply upset that their story made the paper, then it sounds like your beef should be with the Dispatch who obviously sought out what they believed to be a newsworthy story and not with a group of women.

  25. It’s not the union, not working summers (that is all departments), it goes way beyond this. The group of wives are doing the best with what information they have. I give you that…but they have not given no the whole story. How can they….we never know someone’s darkest secrets. Only people themselves know all that they do. It sad that we live in a world that wives half to create support groups. You have how many EEOC cases. What is going on. This is 2013. Is it really that two people were hired for positions that they were qualified for. What happened to the person that had the position before? Retire.?quit?fire?demoted? The big question is why? Answer that. Quit making this a guessing game. As soon as some of the truth is written in comments. It is not printed.

  26. In response to “Citizen OC”, please contact me and let me know what other departments have had at least five grievances in four months and have the city manager holding employee-only meetings without management present. Email me and we will then research that department. We do not have an axe to grind here. This has been an ongoing situation for months and this is our first story on the subject as we have been waiting for concrete information to be released.
    As to claims the story is one-sided, that’s baseless in my opinion, as we went to great lengths to present a balanced account of the current “turmoil” within the department. As far as the promotions, the chief said there was no retirement, there was a realigning of the command staff regarding training personnel that resulted in a captain’s post opening.
    As far as other stories allowing an open flow of comments that crossed the line, we acknowledge that and have a new policy in place to prevent that from happening again. We relish comments, but if it’s inflammatory and not veriable and without a first and last name we will not continue to publish online.

  27. Both sides are culpable and both side lack any objectivity whatsoever. Moreover, the assertion by both sides that performance and service to the public will not be affected is naive and Recor is naive if he thinks that’s not the case. The Chief is of the old school opinion that the Union is, by definition, management’s adversary. Labor, on the other hand, appears to believe bullying mgt. and whining to outsiders is a viable strategy and somehow in their best interest. The City Manager and Council should consider engaging a nationally recognized association of fire service professionals (not lawyers or academics) to come in and conduct an unbiased investigation and put forth recommendations for change. Recor should then implement them and let the chips fall where they may. Yes, we’re dealing with people’s lives, but the solution is not rocket science.

  28. I am close to the story. The people. The company. This is like a mystery…all dark roads lead to berlin. Take that road …be careful children…monsters are all along the way. Scary people jumping from behind things…hiding the truths along the way….wives are running in fields of flowers trying to hide their children (men) so that the bad bad bad MEN do not get them…..this is just like a children’s story. You have good. You have fairy tale. You have evil and wait is it going to be a happy ending as it always is in fairy tales.I sure hope so…..may this be a happy ever after story. We’re the few brave men will continue to walk talk and proud as they should. These men are like our for fathers that fought to make this a great country, a country were many would come for freedom to escape slavery, prejuid

  29. Steven,
    The other hostile work environments I was referring to were the bars, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, etc. I can tell you numerous horror stories that employees at those workplaces had suffered through and are still suffering through today.

    As far as their grievances? You will hear very few because their employers constantly threaten to fire them and they are too scared to speak up because they have families to feed, clothe and shelter and as we all know, jobs are scarce in Worcester County which has the highest unemployment rate by far of all Maryland counties.

  30. Most of you on here know of no truth to this matter. The truth is that you have a unqualified Dept Manager running a field of work that happens to be the most dangerous line of work. A chief that fails to play nice in the sandbox during city and state of emergencies. ie. will not comply with a FEMA requirement of using the NATIONAL INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM. Why dont you ask the Chief about nims and have him describe some of the duties and responsibilities, I bet you will get a kick out of his stuppor. This is a Chief that threatened the city that he would take all of the fire trucks and volunteers to west ocean city if the council did not give him the Chief position. He threatened to abandon the citizens of OC if he did not get Chief. Really guys. Morale is at its lowest. Personnel cannot talk in fear of retaliation, Personnel are always on their toes that they will be disciplined for coughing, dont take that so literal. And yes, some employees are upset that they cannot take a family vacation during the summer. Guess what, the Chief said he implemented that in 2011. These employees were hired years and years before that and never had that issue. So yes, they are upset. What if any of your employers came to you and said, you know what, your working christmas, all of you, every year. I dont care about your family, but we need you to work christmas even though we have enough personnel to fill those spots, your working it anyway. Hey fellow citizens, do you know how many days a month the department runs out of ambulances because the management will not put up an additional unit. DING DING DING, this leaves you unprotected until one of the ambulances gets back from the hospital. Furthermore, do you know how many of those calls are in west ocean city where the department does not staff an ambulance but takes one from within the city? Literally, this is just the tip on the iceberg, and you better dive down to see how much of it is underwater, because when you do, I promise it will sink the entire ship.

  31. I am a dedicated long time career Firefighter Paramedic in the Ocean City Fire Department. Many (most) of us are not supportive of the Union, or this new “wives club”. The majority of us did not agree with the Chiefs selection for Captain, however, to promote the first female to a command position was not going to be easily accepted in any organization. I am very ashamed of actions of a few, and ask that everyone understand, this is not representative of our Division. We will continue to provide the exemplary service we always have, that you can count on. These other issues are growing pains, and will soon fade away.

  32. Mr. Green, how can you say this entire article is unbiased and fair? The chief has to stand behind all of his comments and actions, but the “wives” all get to remain anonymous, and cant give specific examples where the chief has caused these problems. Stop with the innuendos, ask the hard questions, and demand proof. What is the city’s official position regarding this entire promotional process? Surely it’s a personnel matter, in other words they don’t want to take a stand. What’s the unions position, bet they have no comment either, because once they do, their fair game. Let the men be men, opps, can’t do that either.

  33. This is in response to “PROUDOCFFEMTP’s” statement that-”The majority of us did not agree with the Chiefs selection for Captain, however, to promote the first female to a command position was not going to be easily accepted in any organization.”

    That sounds like a very male chauvinistic attitude to me. Why is it so hard for you to fathom a female being promoted to a “command position” within OC’s fire department, or any other fire department in the U.S. for that matter? Hillary Clinton ran for the most powerful “command position” in America. I can only imagine what your thoughts are regarding that event.

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