WOONSOCKET – Local firefighters have had their say on Mayor Leo T. Fontaine’s recent efforts to cut fire department spending, taking a vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Gary Lataille at regular meeting of Local #732 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Local President Christopher J. Oakland announced the vote on Monday, a week after the City Council approved the Fontaine administration’s proposed rescheduling of the firefighter work shifts to eliminate $1.2 million in department overtime costs.
The sides are already in court over the Fontaine administration’s shutdown of a department aerial truck under another cost savings move.
“On March 24, 2011 at our monthly union meeting, the members of Local #732 of The International Association of Fire Fighters, made a motion to take a no confidence vote in you as the Fire Chief,” Oakland stated in a letter to the chief announcing the vote.
Oakland said 89 local members voting on the motion approved it unanimously.
“It is embarrassing to me as the President of this proud union that this vote had to be taken, but your actions, or lack there of, left us no choice,” Oakland said in the letter to the chief.
“This vote was not taken lightly or without considerable deliberation, as a vote for no confidence has never been taken in the history of our organization. I have met with you in the past few months, as have some of the Chief Officers, and explained to you that the members were questioning your leadership in some of your decisions and the lack of direction from your office,” he said.
“Some discussion during the meeting focused on:
Your silence as to the member’s safety and wellbeing;
Your refusal to address declining morale;
Failure to provide direction during turbulent times;
Failure to have a comprehensive operational plan in place to address the reduced safety of the community caused by the removal of Ladder 1;
Failure to publicly contest the reduction of the department safe staffing levels;
Lastly and most important your failure to openly communicate in general the organizational goals and objectives of the Woonsocket Fire Department,” Oakland said.
“As a union, we are always open to discussion on how to rectify the above stated deficiencies. Our ultimate goal is to work with the Fire Chief and the Administration to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of our members as well as that of the community,” he said in conclusion of the letter.
Lataille could not be reached for comment on the letter Monday night. Fontaine also could not be reached Monday.
The sides are reported to be beginning talks on a new contract. The union’s current contract with the city expires on July 1.