Bill to change Fire Department promotion, discipline rules to be withdrawn while talks continue

News-Sentinel.com file photo
Michael Barranda

The sponsor of one of two proposed ordinances that would change the procedure for promotions and discipline within the Fort Wayne Fire Department wants to withdraw the proposal to give City Council, the department and Mayor Tom Henry’s administration more time to work things out.

A bill sponsored by Michael Barranda, R-at large, introduced Sept. 24, stated that “the current provisions within the system of discipline and promotion have unnecessarily exacerbated tensions between the Fire Department and its leadership . . . promotion should be awarded to those members achieving the highest score.” To that end, Barranda’s bill would have increased the importance of scores and reduced the fire chief’s authority in promotion decisions. The bill also would give the commission the authority to suspend with or without pay any member of the department, including the chief, and to demote or dismiss any member with the rank of battalion chief or below.

Assistant Chief Todd Prindle resigned his post last month and returned to the rank of captain after the union accused him of falsifying a firefighter’s training records. Prindle was not formally disciplined, but city spokesman John Perlich said “the city administration and department leadership view Todd Prindle’s resignation as discipline.”

In a resolution to be considered Tuesday, however, Barranda supports withdrawal and adds that the department’s command, union and Merit Commission “will provide revised procedures reflecting limited promotion discretion and deviation from the top-ranked candidate” and updated rules and procedures for recommendations on disciplinary actions for members of the Fire Department with a rank of chief, assistant chief or deputy chief.”

Barranda’s resolution appears to assume passage of the companion bill he sponsored with Russ Jehl, R-2nd, which would change the composition of the Fire Merit Commission. The five-member body currently includes two members elected by firefighters (one a Republican, the other a Democrat) and three appointed by the mayor. The ordinance would add a sixth member, with two appointed by firefighters and one each by council and the mayor, with the commission itself appointing the final member, with the mayor making the decision if commission members cannot agree. The sixth, non-voting member would be appointed by council.

Jehl said he believes the bill has enough support to pass.

Barranda’s resolution also suggests retired Allen Superior Judge and former council attorney Stan Levine serve as a council appointee to the Merit Commission.


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