Updated: Ottawa Hills provides documentation Toledo said did not existWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
CITY DISPUTES WAGNER CLAIMS OF CENTRAL CITY SERVICES TO BE CUT
Toledo and Ottawa Hills are offering opposite responses to an information request from a police union official.
Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, made an information request to the City of Toledo and the Village of Ottawa Hills on Oct. 19 related to the possible merger of fire services. Wagner told Toledo Free Press on Dec. 12 that fiscal concerns were the motivation for his request.
“When I heard [Toledo Mayor Mike Bell] say that taking on ten firefighters was going to save money, I knew that was not true. Anyone who knows the benefits and salaries knows it comes to over $90,000 per firefighter.”
Toledo Safety Director Shirley Green told Wagner, “The City of Toledo does not possess documents that are responsive to your requests” in answer to Wagner’s information request.
But Ottawa Hills Manager Marc Thompson provided more than 60 pages of e-mails, letters and other documents to the TPPA on Nov. 17, which were obtained by Toledo Free Press on Dec. 11.
Thompson e-mailed Toledo Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat on Oct. 22 informing him that Ottawa Hills had received an information request from Wagner. No response from Herwat was in the information release.
“The foundation of trust in government is transparency and there is no trust in this administration,” Wagner said.
Some of the communication from Thompson to Bell took place prior to Bell becoming mayor and some was prior to the merger discussion. On April 7, Thompson wrote an e-mail to Herwat on Toledo’s labor discussions. He said, “the City’s position on the labor issues with the TPPA is the right way go to. You can’t have a vote to reject and then have the city take action and then let them accept something they rejected.” Thompson later in that same e-mail said, “the union looks extremely childish in this entire process.”
Wagner said he gives Ottawa Hills credit for providing the information.
“Marc went above and beyond what was required, including even some defamatory comments towards us, but you have to honor his efforts. People are allowed to have their own opinions. What is Toledo hiding?”
Wagner speculated that Toledo did not want to share internal communication between administrators in discussing the fire merger.
One of the first meetings with Thompson and Herwat appears to have taken place on May 19. The first e-mail that specifically references the combining of services was dated Sept. 3. Thompson references phone call communications from Herwat in several e-mails.
The amount Ottawa Hills agreed to pay Toledo that was announced on Oct. 15 does not appear to have substantially changed in the documentation: $450,000 if Toledo paid rent to Ottawa Hills, $425,000 if Toledo did not pay rent to Ottawa Hills, a 20-year agreement in four five-year periods and a three- to four-year termination notice requirement was cited in a Sept. 28 e-mail from Thompson to Herwat.
Ottawa Hills expected “the same service level as provided in City with some ‘special’ community services.” The special services were not defined in the documentation. It’s also stated that unit(s) would be housed at Ottawa Hills and there would be arbitration of any contract disputes.
“Toledo firefighters are already training Ottawa Hills firefighters for Toledo services” Wagner. “I was told this started on Tuesday or Wednesday. What people need to know is I have heard internally that the life squad on Bancroft is to be moved, that is how they are going to staff it, to get around the contractual language. They are not going to have a pumper or truck — no life squad in the Central City and no fire trucks in Ottawa Hills.”
Wagner said with the number of calls to the Central City for life squad services, moving life squad could reduce the response time and level of service.
An Oct. 31 e-mail from Thompson to Herwart said an Ottawa Hills resident was distributing material not supportive of the merger to homes. He said, “The author will be at our council meeting, I suspect, and will have all manner of horror stories (Halloween pun) about the City of Toledo and poor service that will be received from the TFD if will proceed.”
Thompson also shared letters from residents who were against the merger with Herwat and Fire Chief Mike Wolever.
The last communication obtained in the information request was dated Nov. 11. It referenced Ottawa Hills having a professional public relations firm looking at the informational flyer the village planned to send out to Ottawa Hills residents.
One stumbling block appeared to be the salary, sick leave and vacation for the Ottawa Hills firefighters. It was stated on Sept. 28 that their wages would be “at or higher than current.” An Oct. 4 e-mail said, “Firefighters will be firefighters. Captains will be Lieutenants. Chief will be Batt. Chief. All will be brought in at higher rate than their current wage rate.”
On Oct. 25, Thompson referenced communication from Toledo’s law department, quoting from the document, “The union has objected ‘based on the promotions language in the contract’.”
Thompson said, “Going from Chief to Captain, and from Captain to Lieutenant would be considered a demotion in most cases. By any definition these are not promotions. Therefore, I don’t see how the contract language for promotions is relevant.
“The financial implications are significant. For Chief Sedlar, his annual pay would be reduced by $15,374 from his current wage. For Capt Stanton his wage would be reduced by $3,123, for Capt. Morgan the wage reduction would be $667 (Morgan is a paramedic) and for Capt. Werner the reduction from his current wage would be $2,575. The variance from the specific wage rates described in the letter from Mayor Bell is even greater. Instead of a pay increase, each of these people would get a pay decrease.
“The sick leave and rank and wage changes from our understanding are very important. We have said from the beginning that how our people were treated was critical. These 2 recent developments are inconsistent with our discussions and the information provided to our people.”
Wagner told Toledo Free Press on Dec. 12 that he was surprised that Advocates for basic Legal Equality (ABLE) had not filed a complaint on the merger since the ten Ottawa Hills firefighters have not taken the Toledo Civil Service Test and would be placed ahead of those on the fire service eligibility list.
“If there is a lawsuit, a judge could order those ten from Ottawa Hills to be removed,” Wagner said.
Toledo City Council is set to discuss the merger at a 6 p.m. Dec. 16 Law and Criminal Justice Committee hearing.
Ottawa Hills Council took no formal action at its last meeting which was on Nov. 29. Its next scheduled council meeting is Dec. 13.
Wagner said, “Mike [Bell] is trying to build his resume, it might be the right thing to do, but more planning is needed.”
The City of Toledo was contacted for comment prior to publication on Dec. 12. On Dec. 13, Jen Sorgenfrei, public information officer for Toledo, responded to the request for comment from Toledo Free Press.
Sorgenfrei confirmed that Ottawa Hills firefighters were training with the Toledo fire department. She said, this was, “so there may be a seamless transition for all department employees.”
The City disagreed with Wagner’s statement about a life squad unit being placed in Ottawa Hills. Sorgenfrei said, “There is not currently a ‘life squad’ at Station #7 as Mr. Wagner claims therefore there is no life squad to move. There is a heavy rescue squad stationed at Station #7. The difference in equipment is substantial, primarily because a heavy rescue squad is a general response vehicle that may provide first response, on-scene medical assistance, and hazardous materials response, but is not equipped to transport patients.”
It was also felt there would be no gap of service, as Wagner said, since there are other life squad units that could provide patient transportation and emergency medical technicians or paramedics stationed at every Toledo fire station.
No pumper truck being at Ottawa Hills was confirmed, the City’s position is that there are fire trucks at nearby stations that currently respond to Ottawa Hills’ calls for service through automatic mutual aid.
Sorgenfrei took issue with Wagner’s statement that Ottawa Hills provided documentation Toledo said did not exist, she said that his information request was not specific enough. “If you examine the records they provided him, many did not exist until after his request was made and very few, if any, pertain to any of items 2-7 in Mr. Wagner’s request to the City – further evidencing that they indeed did not exist at the time of his inquiry. Had he made a revised request to the City of Toledo at a later date, the same would have been granted.”
The documentation obtained by Toledo Free Press shows 53 pages of material was dated on or before Oct. 19, four of those pages were not related to the fire merger, 13 were dated after Oct. 19.