Lt. Col. Victor Stagnaro from PGFD website.
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Monday’s sudden firing of Lt. Col. Victor Stagnaro of the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department has brought out a lot of emotion. Just check out the more than 60 comments we have received.
The longest and what may be the most scathing reaction has now been sent our way. It didn’t come through the comments section. It was passed along via members of IAFF Local 1619 who received the email on Wednesday from their president, Andrew Pantelis.
It makes very clear the union’s dissatisfaction with the administration of Chief Eugene Jones. Rather than to characterize it any more than that, we have reprinted, below, it in its entirety.
Contacted this evening, Pantelis told STATter911.com, “This was not a press release. This was an internal communications to our members discussing the department’s state of affairs and the relationship between the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and Local 1619″.
PGFD Chief Spokesman Mark Brady confirmed that Chief Jones was aware of the message sent to Local 1619′s members, but has no reaction to it at this time.
Through Brady, the chief provided a comment on Monday saying, “Colonel Stagnaro has indicated this afternoon his intent to retire from the fire and EMS department in the next two weeks” and will be on leave until that date. Despite that, numerous sources familiar with what happened continue to tell us that Chief Jones’ executive officer presented Stagnaro with a letter late Monday afternoon saying his services would not be needed as of February 12.
Here’s the communications between Andrew Pantelis and members of IAFF Local 1619:
Brothers and Sisters,
The Union has sat silently for some time regarding the Fire & EMS Department’s current state of affairs. We have a responsibility to not respond to every rumor or half truth and to work with management to resolve disputes amicably. However, the increased frequency of Departmental misinformation and recent actions demand a response. The Union leadership came into office with an open mind and has made attempts to mend the relationship between the Union and the Department. However, we now find it difficult to work in “good faith” with an administration that clearly has no interest in respecting and upholding
the rights that are guaranteed to the members that we serve.
As many of you are now probably aware, on Monday January 25th, the Fire
Chief terminated Lieutenant Colonel Victor Stagnaro from the Prince
George’s County Fire & EMS Department. It is the Union’s belief that
this action is not only unjustified but is a great disservice to our
members, to the Department, and to the citizens of Prince George’s
County. Many of you may hear that Colonel Stagnaro’s termination was
the result of a grievance that was filed by the Union. The unfortunate
fact is that the Fire Chief has used a grievance as a convenient excuse
to take an action that he has longed to execute for some time.
This Fire Department Administration has continuously demonstrated acts
of manipulation, disorganization, and failed leadership. The Chief
frequently issues orders to subordinates that are either impossible to
carry out, a violation of the law, or dangerous to our members and the
citizens of the County. When such orders place the Department in a
situation of embarrassment or liability, the Chief claims that he knew
nothing of what was occurring, that his command staff is working against
him, and claims no responsibility of his own. Finally, when there is no
one left to blame, he turns against the Union.
For every grievance that the Union files, the Department takes an
alternative adverse action against our members. Members of the command
staff spread the message that our current state of affairs is due to the
Union’s unwillingness to work with the Department. That if we would
just trust the Fire Chief’s vision and give a little on some of our
protected rights and privileges that the Department would ultimately be
better off. However, each time the Union attempts to work with the
Department in good faith, the leadership takes advantage of the
situation through manipulation and dishonesty. This Union will give no
more; our members have already lost enough.
A common management tactic is to try and turn the Union membership
against the Union leadership. Command Staff members float rumors about
the Union’s involvement in matters ranging from acting pay to promotions
to medic unit staffing. They try to enrage our members with statements
such as the Department wants to make promotions easier but the Union
won’t let them. That the Department wants to fully staff fire
apparatus but cannot do so because the Union will not relinquish the
medic unit staffing that is protected in the contract. When the Union
demands that our members receive acting pay when they are placed in the
capacity of a different rank; the Department initiates massive transfers
and claims that the Union demanded such transfers occur.
The Fire Department management is clearly giving the Union more credit
than we deserve. If the Union had the power to make the aforementioned
items occur, we would have a professional development plan with training
requirements that were relevant for the each job description and such
training would be provided to members while on duty. If the Union
controlled the Department staffing, redeployments and rotating closures
would be eliminated and our members wouldn’t still be going into burning
buildings alone on the line. And if the Union had the ability to
control Departmental transfers, we would start where the greatest
problem of all is: at the Largo Government Center.
To the members of the command staff who still work in the best interest
of our employees and the Department, we commend you for your efforts.
Doing the right thing isn’t always the most popular or the easiest and
you often take great risks trying to do what is right for our members.
To those who are against us, we have a message for you. We will not
waiver in our obligation to protect our members’ safety and contractual
rights. We will utilize every legal and financial mechanism at our
disposal to ensure that our members are protected. We will expose those
who hide in the shadows and work against us.
Effective immediately, every contractual benefit or prevailing right
that is violated will be immediately addressed through the official
grievance process. We will no longer give the Department the benefit of
the doubt and afford them opportunities to correct “mistakes” that are
clear violations of our rights. Our members continue to do more with
less and we will do everything within our power to protect what little
we have left.
We ask that you all remain strong during these trying times. Be certain
that additional challenges still lie ahead. However, we will weather
this storm and ultimately emerge stronger than ever.