Fire Merit Meeting Draws Packed House

Firefighters union upset with fire chief over ordinance, chief fires back.
The Evansville Fire Merit Commission stuns members at tonight's meeting. It comes after union members claim Evansville Fire Chief, Mike Connelly, violated the department's merit ordinance.

It's the monthly Evansville Fire Merit Commission meeting. The place is packed as union and administration members face a controversial issue on tonight's agenda. Some union members say Fire Chief, Mike Connelly, is violating the Fire Merit Ordinance. "The ordinance is clear. When there's a vacancy, it's filled with members from that list," says Larry Zuber. Zuber represents the union. He says Connelly failed to fill some temporary vacancies on the department when the spots opened up.

Zuber says the Fire Chief, instead, placed District Chiefs who typically work office jobs, in the vacancies, instead of placing the next highest ranking members on the list. "They took the time to study, they took the test, they took the interviews, and they got on that list. They did their job, they did their part, and they deserve the promotions that are due to them."  Zuber say it's a matter of procedure and following the rules that have been established for years.

Fire Chief, Mike Connelly, says he has not violated anything. "If they believe something is right, they believe it's right. They will fight tooth and nail to win their argument, so I applaud them for coming and representing their interests. At the same time, I am passionate about running the department. I will fight tooth and nail to fight for what I believe is right.," says Chief Connelly. The Merit Board decides take no action on the issue. "It needs to be followed. The commission needs to step up, and make sure the Chief and the administration follow those orders" says Zuber.

The board says they need to review the merit ordinance, but Zuber says no one has been able to obtain it. Union members argue the board is not doing their job to honor the document. "You're doing the department a disservice by kicking this matter down the road. It's not going to get any better. Lets come to a conclusion."

Board members respond saying, "We do take it very seriously, but we also want to make sure we have all of the information."

The issue will not be on next month's agenda.

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