Sat, Jan 18 2014 12:00 PM Posted By: Robert Moreno
The Chula Vista firefighters union has issued a vote of no confidence for Fire Chief Dave Hanneman for what they say is a lack of trust.
“The majority of the members do not feel that he is being honest and upfront,” said John Hess, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 2180. “And our biggest issue actually is trust.”
Hess said an anonymous online vote showed 102 union members voted to give Hanneman a vote of no confidence, with 13 members voting against it and nine members abstaining.
The union gave the vote of no confidence last December; it was made public by the City Manager’s Office last week.
In a letter addressed to the mayor, council members and city attorney, Hess outlines 13 reasons why the union no longer deems Hanneman fit for the job.
The letter states: “Under Chief Hanneman’s leadership, the Chula Vista Fire Department is collecting fees from permitted business owners without conducting critical inspections. The Health & Safety Code requires inspections of high risk businesses prior to the insurance of a fire department permit.”
The letters adds: “The city of Chula Vista Fire Department issues these operational fire permits to 590 different local businesses, collecting approximately $130,000 annually. Failing to inspect these businesses places the public at risk and does not provide the service paid for by the local business owner.” Hess said examples of these businesses are auto repair garages, tire warehouses and welding shops.
City Manager Jim Sandoval said annual inspections are not legally required.
Sandoval added that the money collected from the permits also covers the regulatory process, including inspection, follow-up, additional inspections, notices of violations and meetings with violators to get compliance.
Sandoval said that the California Fire Code, which the city adopted via ordinance, authorizes inspections.
Hess said the lack of trust also stems from issues about getting firefighters into paramedic training, and violations made to the firefighters’ contract in which he said the union filed grievances.
The union president also said firefighters don’t trust the chief’s Fire Facility Master Plan which calls for the closure of Fire Station 9 on East Oneida Street, which he said is the third most saturated area where emergencies take place.
Another issue, Hess said, is Hanneman has decided that he is no longer going to attend labor management meetings where discussion about issues affecting labor management occurs.
“When the fire chief cited he wasn’t going to attend them (meetings) anymore he took away the ability for management to make decisions,” Hess said.
Sandoval defends the city’s top fire official and calls the union’s vote of no confidence “inaccurate and misleading.”
Sandoval praised the work Hanneman has done for the department, highlighting the implementation of the advance life support program, a program that places at least one licensed firefighter/paramedic on a fire engine to reduce service times,- and the development of a citywide pool safety program that included drowning awareness, swimming and emergency training.
Sandoval said because of the pool safety program there wasn’t an accidental drowning death recorded in 2013.
Sandoval said he is the one to evaluate Hanneman’s job performance.
“He has to be accountable to me, not to the union,” Sandoval said.
The IAFF is currently negotiating a new bargaining contract with the city. The previous contract expired last June.
Sandoval said it is not unusual for the union to issue a vote of no confidence for a fire chief during labor negotiations.
Hess said the union’s position has nothing to do with bargaining issues.
“If we weren’t in negotiations this would have still been given out, this vote of no confidence,” he said.
Hanneman wasn’t available for an interview but said in a brief statement that he will continue to serve the city of Chula Vista as fire chief.
© 2009 The Star-News