YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown’s firefighters’ union says the city’s fire chief has created a hostile work environment. It’s one of several accusations detailed in a “no confidence” document the union voted on Wednesday evening.
Ninety union members voted to send the finding of no confidence to the city. Seventeen voted no and one person didn’t vote. A total of 121 firefighters could have voted so turnout was 89%.
“This is something that’s pretty much unprecedented,” said Youngstown Professional Fire Fighters Union President Charlie Smith. “It doesn’t happen a lot, it’s something that we don’t take lightly. This is something that we felt we had to do to get awareness to the citizens and to let this administration know the issues that are going on and that need to be addressed. If we’re not safe, we can’t do our job to protect the citizens so that’s why these things that we have brought up — we will continue to bring up — are important.”
The firefighters’ union spelled out its complaints against Chief Barry Finley in a 10-page letter. Twenty-four more pages are documentation the union intends to reinforce its complaints.
The biggest complaint? The union says Finley’s leadership has become “one of unprofessionalism, intimidation and bullying.”
The union says Finley has a history of discipline because of violence at work. It singled out an incident over seven years ago when Finley, who was a captain at the time, threw a firefighter through a wall at Station 2.
It claims as chief, Finley has told an employee he wanted to put him through a wall.
It also says he regularly uses profanity and derogatory or violent language toward people under his command.
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.
They also say he’s failed to develop plans and train firefighters to handle EMS duties after the problems with ambulance services in the city.
We talked to Finley at Wednesday’s Youngstown City Council meeting. He’s aware of the report but when we asked him about it, he got visibly upset and said he had no comment.
First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver told us he supports Finley:
“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. [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.”
Smith said Oliver’s claim is not true.