Word out of Chief Carlos Huerta's office is that he has removed one of his most recent appointments. Hartford Fire Lt Raul Ortiz who was the Departments Public Information Officer until this afternoon has been reassigned back to the Fire line. No reason was given for the transfer, but it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out. In a department plagued with screw -ups and media disasters like HFD has been recently, being honest and truthful equates to a suicide mission. It is especially bad when the Chief of the Department has created many of the problems through his own actions and isn't happy when people put out the truth instead of covering for him.
The embarrassing situations that Huertas has immersed himself and his department in would be challenging for most seasoned PIO's, never mind someone relatively new to the position and unfamiliar with Media contacts. Ortiz was making steady progress though and in hi short time was gaining the respect of the media, He came across as honest and trustworthy and not as a propaganda master. This is not easy when you have the severity of the situations facing any PIO for the Hartford Fire Department. A line of duty death of a firefighter under questionable circumstances to begin with. For whatever reasons, the way the investigation has been handled has many questioning whether the facts will come out or is a cover up underway?
As PIO , Ortiz was able to diffuse much of the rumor mill, but I can almost guarantee that the questions will start rising again. What role did Chief Huertas play in the potential cover up? Why almost months later has no cause of death been determined, not even toxicology results that at the time we were told would be ready in 5 to 6 weeks. A trusted PIO could diffuse suspicion. I think Chief Huertas will learn that quickly, and most likely the hard way.
With all the DUI and drug abuse issues facing HFD, who in their right mind would send out an e-mail warning all of your department how and where to avoid a DUI checkpoint, Wouldn't a leader do something a little more responsible. Maybe something like stay safe this weekend with your family if you should drink, please be responsible, don't drink and drive. Not send out an e-mail where to avoid the cops if you are drunk.
I have no doubt Lt. Ortiz will be an asset to the Hartford Fire Department wherever he is assigned and will make the people of Hartford proud. Chief Huertas could take a lesson as to what pride and integrity is all about.
It is ironic that Ortiz was just returning from Georgia after a weeks worth of PIO training when he got the call that he was no longer assigned to the Chief's Office. It s an important lesson to remember, "What goes around, comes around"