A firestorm of huge proportions is about to engulf the Hartford Fire Department. The firestorm is coming in the form of massive retirements by key people eligible for retirement. As of yesterday, the number given to me by a well placed, knowledgeable source within the Hartford Fire Department could possibly be 85 to 90 retirements, made up mostly of high level Deputy Chiefs, District Chiefs, Captains and Lieutenants
These numbers would decimate the leadership ranks of the Hartford Fire Department as they try to rebuild under recently Chief Reggie Freeman.
The unfortunate part is that many of these firefighters had no intention of leaving until Mayor Bronin's budget was released. Many of the potential retirees have the required 20 years on the job for the 80% pension requirements, but are short of the 25 years for the full 100% retirement payout. They are choosing to go now because of the uncertainty of the City's status financially.
I have spoken to several firefighters that are making the choice to leave and they have all told me that the lack of information and transparency by both the City and their Union, IAFF Local 760. are forcing them to retire while they know what they are getting
This is sad because we as a city are losing almost one third of our Fire Department over gossip and rumor and no one seems to be stepping up to quell that misinformation pipeline. The Union should be asking their attorneys to advise them on best and worse case scenarios. What could the City actually do if they were forced into bankruptcy and what would the pension impact be? Is there a possibility that the City could take away their paid insurance benefit? Let's put the facts out there and make reasonable decisions instead of running scared of the unknown.
It might be also to be reasonable to ask why the Union Presidents hasn't put in his retirement papers yet? If things are as bad as he is telling his membership, why isn't he retiring to protect his pensions and benefits also.
Someone I spoke with yesterday from City Hall mentioned that the retirements might be a bluff to put the Union in a better bargaining position during their contract negotiations. Let us not gamble on the fire safety of our City by calling their bluff. I personally don't think it is a bluff. 5 or 10 retirements might be a bluff, 85 or 90 is a mass exodus , and not a bluff.
I have told Mayor Bronin personally that I can understand and fully appreciate the theory of what he is trying to do. He inherited a mess after years of inefficiency and incompetent management and now in the position of Mayor and the future of Hartford requires that he deals with the mess. What I do have a problem with is the implementation.
Mayor Bronin is an intelligent person, Quite possibly light years ahead of his predecessor when it comes to management and intelligence skills. Where he lacks is the communications of his message. I am sure that Mayor Bronin has a pretty good plan in place and he knows why he is doing what he thinks he needs to do. The challenge is conveying that message to his other partners, and that is what they need to be treated as if the solution is going to work, partners. And that goes across the board , whether it is City employees,- Police , Fire, DPW or even residents Lay it all on the table and explain what needs to be done and why. Lay out the facts and the documents for all to see
These are adults, and they can make informed decisions based on the facts, not rumor and gossip. This is not the military where you follow orders blindly. Leadership requires building consensus, not shoving plans down the throats of those affected by those plans
Calmer heads need to prevail based on factual and informed decisions. If not, it may be too late to find out it wasn't a bluff after all.