Firefighters Association censures fire chief and deputy chief of Stamford

STAMFORD — Citing a dozen counts, the International Association of Fire Fighters voted at its four-day convention this week to censure Stamford Fire Chief Trevor Roach and Deputy Chief Miguel Robles.

On behalf of Local 786, which represents professional firefighters in Stamford, IAFF members at their annual convention in Ontario, Canada, unanimously approved a resolution chastising Roach and Robles for what they consider as trade union offences, in particular:

  • Poor management of promotions;
  • Simultaneously receive pensions and wages;
  • Collect pensions at rates higher than those due to them;
  • Former Local 786 president fired after questioning their pensions;
  • Inappropriate response to a partial collapse of the Allure building;
  • Failure to assign an acting leader while on leave from their command positions.

Paul Anderson, the president of Stamford Local 786 who was attending the convention in Ottawa, said 1,800 delegates representing 330,000 firefighters in the United States and Canada endorsed the resolution.

A notice of censure from Roach and Robles will be distributed to Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons, the Stamford Council of Representatives, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and all locals of the IAFF, he said.

Anderson said he spoke to Simmons about the censors on Thursday.

“This is meant to urge the mayor to take action, to shed some light on the fact that his fire department is in turmoil, that we have a toxic relationship with the chiefs and that is not healthy for the fire department. “, said Anderson. “We have no confidence in their ability to lead. This is anti-union behavior that will not be tolerated.

Roach responded Friday, saying the censorship allegations are the same as Local 786 brought in June, when members voted not to trust Roach and Robles.

“These allegations have the same level of veracity today as they did then – they are simply untrue,” Roach said. “I would rather President Anderson work on a professional atmosphere…that would lead to a contract for his people. Local 786 is the bargaining unit with the longest expired contract with the city. We continue to reach out to President Anderson to no avail. »

In the resolution presented to the IAFF, the Stamford union cited a lawsuit, settled in June, that was the culmination of a four-year legal battle in which four firefighters accused firefighters of neglecting Carefully calculated exam results and decided on promotions using their own criteria. .

The city agreed in the settlement to pay the firefighters a total of $250,000 and admitted no wrongdoing, but during the case the court ruled that the firefighters were not fairly considered for a promotion .

The IAFF resolution includes another issue the Stamford union has with Roach and Robles.

The two applied for their retirement benefits in April 2020, began receiving them on May 1, 2020, and the next day took up their roles as chief and deputy chief, the resolution says.

The city allows the fire chief and deputy chief, who are not unionized, to collect their pensions even if they receive salaries under post-retirement employment contracts.

Local 786 leaders say the city is forced to negotiate with the union whenever a policy affects the firefighters’ pension fund.

Roach and Robles said they applied to begin receiving their retirement benefits after each serving 4 years in the role of chief, as permitted by city policy. They said the pension board had unanimously approved their pensions and the board had not been led to believe they were retiring.

The IAFF censorship resolution raises other issues.

He says a former Local 786 president, Brendan Keatley, took issue with the practice of allowing top brass to collect pensions and paychecks at the same time. Roach retaliated by taking a number of disciplinary actions against Keatley that culminated in Keatley’s firing a year ago, according to the resolution. Roach said at the time that Keatley, who was an assistant fire marshal, was fired for creating false reports about the time he spent inspecting buildings.

The union filed a grievance against Keatley’s dismissal and won “a favorable settlement,” according to the resolution. Anderson said the city reversed Keatley’s dismissal and he was allowed to retire.

But the union’s beef with Roach and Robles doesn’t end there.

Local 786 disputes the amount of their pensions, saying the rates were calculated to include the years they had already been promoted out of the union. Local 786 filed a lawsuit in November saying Roach and Robles violated the firefighters’ pension plan, according to the resolution.

Roach and Robles said they each contributed an employee share to the pension fund based on their bosses’ salaries before they began collecting benefits.

The IAFF resolution includes a tally resulting from a partial building collapse in the Allure apartment tower in Harbor Point on February 1. Despite the potential danger, Robles did not call a fire company, the resolution says.

Roach and Robles said all necessary steps have been taken and security measures are in place to address any additional risk.

The resolution also cites an incident on May 16 when, according to Local 786, Roach and Robles failed to appoint an acting fire chief while they were both on leave.

Roach said he and Robles were in Washington, D.C., to attend a White House ceremony honoring three Stamford firefighters, and the Justice Department demanded they keep the visit secret to avoid leaks. They briefed the mayor and director of public safety before they left, Roach said.

The IAFF, formed in 1918, is a union representing more than 330,000 professional firefighters and paramedics in the United States and Canada, according to its website. With more than 3,500 affiliates, IAFF members protect 85% of the population of US and Canadian municipalities.

During the convention, IAFF members passed dozens of resolutions, including those to change convention committee rules, allow the executive board to meet by videoconference, set goals to expand the membership and to advance emergency medical services as a profession.

The resolutions included censures against four fire chiefs, two mayors, two elected officials and a group of airport executives.

IAFF members, for example, censured First Deputy Chief Jack Andrade of the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department for demanding that Local 64 firefighters inspect the 7,000 fire hydrants in the city. city, even if it was the work of another union. They say Andrade changed wages, working hours and family leave, improperly engaged in contract negotiations and harassed union members.

IAFF members censured Mayor Anthony Copeland of East Chicago, Indiana, for setting a schedule requiring firefighters to work seven days a week in a daily rotation of day, afternoon and midnight shifts , and for closing a fire station so the schedule could be implemented.

IAFF members censured Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland for failing to support 18 legislative initiatives before Congress, including the Firefighters Cancer Registry Act and permanent authorization of the Firefighters Compensation Fund. victims of September 11.

Simmons spokeswoman Lauren Meyer said in an email that the administration “is interested in continuing a productive dialogue with union leaders and fire chiefs to ensure the public safety of Stamford residents” and to finalize a contract with the fire department.

Andrew B. Reiter