In politics there are actions some politicians take that one can say are done to score political points, actions that can be downright dirty. When it comes to the Hamilton Fire Consolidation Study Report, the actions taken by Mayor Yaede and her administration can be called just that, downright dirty.
When DCA released the fire study report back on January 19, 2017, it was immediately evident to the firefighters, that critical information they discussed with Mr. Don Huber, were left out of the final report submitted by DCA. This led to confusion over why significant information would be left out. According to Mr. Huber, in his statement in the article done by TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville, Mr. Huber described that he was “disturbed” because he “didn’t see any justification for the modifications.” Based on statements by Mr. Huber, DCA made changes to the report he submitted, without his consultation or consent.
The three key areas left out or altered in the final DCA report that were in the original report as stated in the TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville article were;
A proposal to switch from the current “four shift” model to a “three shift model,” making firefighters responsible for working 56 hours per week instead of the national standard of 42 hours per week. Under the current scheduling firefighters work 24 hours consecutively, then, after being off for 72 hours, return to their station for another 24 hour shift. A three-shift model reduces downtime between shifts to just 48 hours. (This change increases working hours with no additional pay)
The second change that Mr. Huber took exception with was the expectation included in the altered report that the firefighters should accept a consolidation of the districts and work for the newly combined entity without a previously agreed upon collective bargaining agreement.
“You can’t have an agreement when you don’t know what the terms and conditions are that you’re agreeing to,” said Huber.
The State “arbitrarily took out $1 million and made additional cuts in the proposed budget that would have had damaging effects.”
The question is, why did DCA remove and alter important information that was in Mr. Huber’s original report? Who made the decision to remove and change the information? Was the Mayor and John Ricci, former Business Administrator, involved in discussions to alter the report?
When I asked Mr. Ricci at a council meeting if he and the mayor ever met with DCA to discuss the report when it was being written, he said, “no.” Why is this interaction between Mr. Ricci and I not on any of the audios from the council meetings? I know it took place, the firefighters know it took place, they were there, they witnessed the interaction. Firefighters who attended the council meetings throughout 2016 and 2017, came before council numerous times to ask about the status of the report, and then when the report was released, they came before council to question the report submitted by DCA. Why are none of those interactions/discussions on any of the audios? I know they took place; I was there.
Facts are, Mr. Ricci and the mayor were meeting with DCA during the time the report was being written. We have the documents to prove there were meetings between Mr. Ricci, Mayor Yaede, and members of DCA. None of these meetings included Mr. Huber. The documents proving the meetings took place were presented and discussed at the October 16, 2018 council meeting when Mr. Huber came before the council.
There is only one conclusion that one can draw based on the evidence, the administration lied, the fire consolidation report was altered for reasons never explained. It appears this was done to fit a political agenda; I just don’t understand why else it would have been altered. What does this say about the individuals who would be willing to alter such an important report and make changes that can adversely affect the men and women of our fire departments? What does this say about an administration that lied and misled the tax payers in order to further a political agenda?
If Mayor Yaede believes any of the information discussed/provided or anything that I have said is incorrect, then I welcome a face-to-face public discussion.
Ileana Schirmer is a member of the Hamilton Township Council.