YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Friday, the City of Youngstown came to Fire Chief Barry Finley’s defense, a little over a week after the firefighters’ union voted they had “no confidence” in him.
The letter, written by Law Director Jeff Limbian on behalf of the city, says Union President Charlie Smith was a finalist to become the next fire chief. However, it was Finley who got the position instead.
Since then, “Smith has worked to denigrate and devalue the qualifications of Fire Chief Barry Finley,” Limbian wrote.
He said these grievances were not ultimately from the union, but its president, who “was venting personal animus against Chief Finley.”
The union claimed, among other accusations, that Finley is violent and uses profane and derogatory language.
The letter says signs have been put up around the fire department that read “FBF.” He said it’s believed to mean “F**k Barry Finley.”
“It is hypocritical for Charlie Smith to condemn the fire chief for occasionally using strong language and neither control nor condemn his coworkers for the same conduct,” Limbian wrote.
The letter goes on to say “raw and uncensored language” has been the norm at the fire department but it won’t be tolerated anymore.
“A breakdown in respectful behavior by all involved cannot and will not be tolerated,” Limbian wrote. “A lack of adherence to the chain of command and authority breeds contempt in any department and must not develop. When refusing to give respect, an assurance of safety to all is lost.”
The city also argued when no confidence votes were taken in other cities, the unions made their case and presented their arguments after voting “no confidence.”
In Youngstown’s case, the union released its problems with Finley before the vote was taken.
“The information offered to the members of the union was grossly inaccurate,” the letter says. “Prior to being asked to be a part of such a vote, the union members were not given the opportunity to have a full airing of the issues highlighted in this response.”
The letter ends by saying the mayor’s administration “maintains complete confidence in Chief Barry Finley.”
We reached out to Smith, who told us he hadn’t seen the letter. So far, he has no comment.