Youngstown fire chief’s personnel file details past disciplinary issues

27 Investigates

Among the accusations against Chief Barry Finley were that he made inappropriate comments about a firefighter's wife and threw another one into the wall

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Youngstown firefighters’ union says the city’s fire chief has created a hostile work environment, and the chief’s personnel files show some incidents that support those claims.

Contained in Barry Finley’s personnel file are references to past allegations of hostile behavior, including one incident in which he threw a coworker into a wall.

Wednesday, 90 of 121 union members voted to send a finding of “no confidence” in Finley’s leadership to the city. They said Finley is unprofessional and a bully.

Another reason union members think Finley shouldn’t be in charge is because they believe he’s mismanaged the department budget, including closing Station 7.

READ: “No Confidence Vote in Chief Finley”

This week, WKBN requested Finley’s personnel file, which contains a few complaints about his behavior in the workplace, two of which resulted in discipline.

In April of 2005, prior to his appointment as chief, Finley received a warning from then-Chief John O’Neill, Jr., who reported that Finley had been involved in a “shoving match” with Captain Silvario Caggiano

O’Neill couldn’t determine who was at fault but said they should have acted more professionally.

In March of 2012, a pre-disciplinary meeting was held for another complaint. That meeting found that Finley, then a captain, had assaulted a subordinate coworker while he was off duty.

According to reports in the file, witnesses said Finley “snatched” Lt. Terrance Gamble from a chair in the dining area and slammed him against one wall and then another, damaging the drywall. They said Finley demanded, “Where is my m*****f****** money?”

The reports say the dispute was over money loaned to Gamble by Finley.

Two firefighters had to intervene to pull Finley off of Gamble, O’Neill wrote in his report.

Finley received an unpaid suspension of 45 days, or 360 hours, as part of an agreement to a lesser punishment, in an understanding that the International Association of Firefighters Local 312 wouldn’t challenge the agreed-upon discipline.

Finley also wasn’t eligible for a promotion in March of 2012, and he had to attend anger management courses at his own cost.

O’Neill wrote that if Finley was accused of any more hostile conduct over the next 10 years, he would not be able to grieve the imposed discipline.

A little over a year later, however, Finley was involved in a heated discussion with Caggiano in which Caggiano reported that Finley yelled he was a “f***ing worthless Battalion chief.”

O’Neill wrote to Finley that his actions came “dangerously close” to violating his prior disciplinary agreement.

“Your actions were an outrageous display if insubordination. In fact, the most indignant display that I have witnessed as long as I have been the Fire Chief [sic],” he wrote.

Finley admitted to arguing with Caggiano over a training issue, the report stated.

As a result, Finley was suspended for 48 hours without pay and transferred to another position to minimize contact with Caggiano.

November 26, 2013, a firefighter reported inappropriate comments that he said Finley had made in 2011.

On Halloween of that year, he reported that his wife and children came to the fire department, and his wife was dressed as Pocahontas. He said Finley said, “Damn, that is a Pocahontas I would love to poke.”

He said he and his family were disgusted by Finley’s comments and felt that they were out of line.

In another incident, he said firefighters were watching the movie, “Indecent Proposal,” and he said Finley said he would pay $4,000 for sexual favors from his wife.

A report in the personnel file said the two men were friends but had a falling out over landscaping work that Finley did for the man. He said Finley sued him, but he said he was not making the report as retaliation.

Finley admitted to the Pocahontas comment but denied the other incident. He said the woman wasn’t present at the time of the Pocahontas comment.

After an investigation of the complaint, Deputy Law Director Anthony Donofrio determined that while the comments were inappropriate, he questioned the motivation of the report since it was made long after the incidents happened.

Finley received a warning for those comments but wasn’t disciplined otherwise.

Finley, who was hired as a firefighter in March of 1993, was appointed by Mayor Tito Brown as Fire Chief on February 12, 2018.

He earns $43 an hour, or just over $91,000 a year as chief.

While disciplinary issues were noted in his personnel file, Finley also received some accommodations from the community, including a letter from the Trumbull County Hazardous Materials Bureau, which applauded him for “outstanding services” provided.

Prosecutor Dennis Watkins also wrote a recognition letter regarding Finley’s work in 2006 for his help in solving the murder of two women in Trumbull County.

He wrote that Finley risked his life recovering the murder weapon and a pair of bloody boots from the frozen McKelvey Lake, resulting in the conviction of Jermaine McKinney for the crime.

WKBN reached out to Finley at Wednesday’s city council meeting. He declined to comment on the union’s “no confidence” report.

First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver said Wednesday that he supports Finley, however.

“You’re dealing with a new chief in a new position who’s accredited and highly educated. I know he knows what he’s doing,” he said. “[Union members] are just pulling on the heartstrings of the city, saying the people will be in danger and the firefighters will be in danger. That’s not true. It’s all about [Union President Charlie Smith] not getting the chief’s job. But it’s not all the firefighters, just Charlie and his people.”

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