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Police chief steps in when fire chief is fired amid contentious contract negotiations

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Treasure Island Police Chief Armand Boudreau is wearing two hats again after fire Chief Frank Fernandez was shown the door last week.

Boudreau tells the Tampa Bay Times he’s talked privately with several city firefighters concerned about Fernandez’s departure.

“The firefighters have mixed emotions,” Boudreau tells the Times, stressing that he was not involved in the decision to fire Fernandez.

“Obviously, nobody likes change,” he said. “My goal is to bring them some calm for a while, keep them positive, give them the tools they need and get staffing where it should be.”

The Times reports contentious contract negotiations over the past few months coupled with the city’s low pay scale complicate the situation.

Will Newton, the union representative for Treasure Island’s firefighters, tells the Times the union wants guaranteed step raises over a three-year contract period. However, the city is purportedly refusing to commit to pay raises beyond a single year.

Newton also said the city’s pay scale is among the lowest when compared to similar departments and says it’s a direct contributor to the high turnover rate among city firefighters.

Before Fernandez’ departure, he participated in earlier contract negotiating sessions and supported allocating additional money for paramedic training, Newton tells the Times.

“We had high hopes for him (Fernandez). The department needs leadership and stability,” Newton said.

The proposed city budget does call for hiring a fire inspector for the first time.

Fernandez, 53, was relieved of his duties last week, four months after being hired.

According to the Times, the city is keeping it motives for firing Fernandez close hold.

“I don’t want to say anything. It’s just not right to say anything,” acting City Manager Amy Davis tells the Times, refusing to explain why Fernandez’ ouster.

She did confirm for the Times, however, that she had “several conversations” with Fernandez about his stewardship of the Fire Department during his brief probationary employment.

According to Davis, Boudreau will continue his double duty for however long it takes the city to recruit and hire a new chief.

Boudreau previously ran the fire department for about six months between the resignation of former fire Chief Bill Mallory last fall and the hiring of Fernandez in April, according to the Times.

“Chief Boudreau has assured me he can handle both jobs,” Davis tells the Times.

 

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