Friday, July 29, 2011

Memo Shows City, Fire Chief Dismissed Grievances Against Cutting Rescue Boats

The investigation into the tragic death of Raymond Zack at Alameda’s Crown Beach last Memorial Day just got more interesting.

The city’s much-embattled firefighters union says they warned against cutting the island’s water rescue program in 2008.

A look at grievances filed by the union in protest of cutting the water rescue program to save the city money, according to the Oakland Tribune, reveal the complaint was rejected by two former officials who themselves have faced heated criticism by many in the community.

Zack’s death made national news last May when he waded in the bay water while police and firefighters and residents watched. His death was ultimately ruled to be by drowning.

In a memo from 2009, former Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant appeared to pass the buck to the fire department by saying, "the city has no bargaining obligation over the decisions to take the fire boat and water rescue boat out of service” and added, it was a “financial decision within fire management's purview,"

Also within the memo are references to former Fire Chief David Kaplan saying he recognized the usefulness of the rescue boats, but “not required."

A bit of a political power play may also be ongoing in Alameda with the powerful firefighters union once again squaring off with the city and its disliked former chief. Gallant’s controversial tenure at City Hall ended last December, while Kaplan was publicly shamed when images of him fueling up his sports car for a weekend jaunt with city gasoline was distributed to the media last year.

Interim Fire Chief Mike D’Orzai quickly reinstated the water rescue program days after Zack’s drowning. Within weeks, the Alameda City Council approved an investigation into the events surrounding the death at Crown Beach. A chronology of events is due sometime in September.


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