Springfield firefighters intent on embarrassing and discrediting Fire Chief Gary G. Cassanelli in advance of a consultant’s report on the department’s effectiveness have begun casting secret ballots on whether they have confidence in the chief’s leadership.
This is the third no-confidence vote the chief has faced since 1990, but this time, the firefighters union knows that the city’s Finance Control Board will be watching.
Firefighters object to staffing decisions and alleged contract violations by the chief. But we hope members of the control board will see this vote for exactly what it is – an unprofessional attempt at upward management at a time when the city is facing a financial crisis.
The heads of fire and police departments are sometimes the subject of these “no confidence” votes. In most cases, the largely symbolic vote is designed to be a lever to force a chief to do what firefighters and police officers want him or her to do. They often are accompanied by vicious personal attacks.
The mud-slinging actions are petty and deceiving. They are designed to defame, discredit and isolate the chief. Any time they are taken, they reflect a high degree of unprofessional conduct by the officers.
In almost every case, a chief who is subject to these votes has refused to observe the local department’s status quo. A chief who insists on accountability, individual performance and sound management practices is the most likely target.
The votes are orchestrated and announced to the news media so that stories will appear in local newspapers and on local television and radio stations. They often are accompanied by a firefighter or police officer saying the chief has failed to fill jobs, staff stations, and the public is in danger.
These diatribes rarely include any mention of a city’s necessary fiscal restraint because of a poor economy or, in the case of Springfield, control of the city’s operations by a state-appointed control board with an assignment to save the city from bankruptcy.
Likewise, they never cover the performance by officers.
In short, these no-confidence votes really are “We Don’t Like The Chief” votes. We want another chief who will let us do what we want to do, they are saying. We hope members of the control board will ignore such petulant and unprofessional tactics.