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Thank you to all who helped.
Updated On: Aug 236, 2009

Rockland Firefighters President Tom Henderson with PFFM President Bob McCarthy at the press conference

The Rockland Firefighters wish to express our sincere thanks to all of those that came to our press conference and the Selectmen's meeting on June 15th to support our opposition to a Public Safety Director.  Without the support of the members of our local, PFFM President McCarthy, the PFFM and the large number of members from other locals our position would not have been heard. The battle is not over and we must remain vigilant to make sure that the search for our fire chief remains in the fire service.
Thank You,
Tom Henderson, President Local 1602

Selectmen under fire: Union members say Rockland board violated Town Charter

GateHouse News Service
Posted Jun 17, 2009 @ 12:01 PM


So far, the position of fire chief in Rockland is still up for grabs.

Officials say one option to cover this position would be the hiring of a public safety director, who would be in charge of the police and fire departments simultaneously.

Although selectmen have not made a finalized decision, Rockland Firefighters Local 1602 are quite unhappy with this possibility.

Union president Tom Henderson and Robert McCarthy, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, took turns at a podium in front of more than a dozen silent firefighters outside the station on Union Street station Monday evening.

“Today we stand before you to voice our strong opposition to the Rockland Board of Selectmen’s proposal to eliminate the Rockland fire and police chief, to create a public safety director,” Henderson said. “Our selectmen are blatantly violating the Town Charter.”

Henderson said a safety director lacks knowledge and experience to effectively direct the fire department, which works to keep 17,000 citizens in the town safe.

“These are all critical decisions, that affect the safety of residents,” Henderson said.

Henderson added this decision should not be made without input from the residents, who the decision would directly affect.

Henderson added a public safety director would be partial to one department over another, which would prove to be a problem if there was a fire and a robbery at the same time.

But Town Administrator Alan Chiocca said a public safety director is only one possibility being considered.

“The selectmen are supporting all options available,” Chiocca said. “At this time they’ve delayed filling the vacancy for at least two weeks based on an offer by the Plymouth County Fire Chief’s association to assist Rockland in gaining the services of maybe a retired chief for maybe an interim period of time.”

Chiocca added selectmen may discuss the matter again at their June 29 meeting. And before that meeting, Chiocca added the board plans to meet with candidates and members of the association to try to discuss options for a temporary chief.

Although there is no deadline on the matter, Acting Fire Chief William Fergusson, has said he would like to be relieved of chief duties by Aug. 3.

“Somewhere down the line, if they wanted to have a safety director, they’d need a Charter change,” Chiocca said. “But the board recognizes that it wants to explore its options.”

McCarthy said this would be an option the fire department would be dead against, adding he fears selectmen would choose a “puppet who tells selectmen what they want to hear.”

McCarthy stressed firefighters would be risking their lives under the watch of a public safety director.

“When they go into a building, we don’t come out unless someone tells them to,” McCarthy said. “I will sue (selectmen) … if one of my members gets killed, one of my members gets injured, if one of my members loses property.”

Rockland Standard

Firefighter unions help defeat idea to appoint a public safety director in Rockland

Posted Jun 16, 2009 @ 11:51 AM
Last update Jun 16, 2009 @ 01:45 PM


About 50 firefighters from 10 towns packed the selectmen room on Monday to oppose replacing the position of fire chief with that of a public safety director.

 The town’s fire chief retired last year, and its current deputy chief is scheduled to retire this summer. Selectmen had scheduled the discussion of a “public safety director” position to be filled by current Police Chief John R. Llewellyn.

But the idea was killed, partly due to comments from Llewellyn himself.

Robert B. McCarthy, president of the Professional Fire Fighters Massachusetts AFL-CIO, argued that firefighting was a science and that it was imperative that the person in command have experience in the field.

 Putting someone who is inexperienced in firefighting in charge, he contended, would jeopardize not only residents but also firefighters.

 “We go into that burning building and we don’t come out until someone tells us to come out,” he said. “If he hesitates, we are not coming out.”

Police Chief Llewellyn said he doesn’t want to have conflict between the police and fire departments.

“It is important that we not be divided over public safety sector in any way,” he said.

He also acknowledged that firefighting was not his line of work.

“I don’t know the difference between white smoke and black smoke,” he said. “I don’t know the first thing fighting fires.”

Rockland firefighter union President Thomas Henderson told the board that to create the new position would violate the Town Charter, which stipulates that the board “shall appoint a fire chief ...” It makes no mention, he said, of a “public safety director.”

 He asked the board to “search for a new chief whether from inside or outside” the Rockland department.

 Selectmen Chairman James F. Simpson said after the meeting that his board had understood that appointing a public safety director required a change in the charter and would take at least a year.

 The board, he said, had no intention of putting any person in a position who lacked the needed experience, he said.

 The board agreed to have the police and fire chiefs meet on June 29 with Zupkofska and Selectmen Michael P. Johnson to work toward some solution. It will not be discussed at town meeting, he said.

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