Mayor addresses flap caused by firefighter's Facebook post

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(UPDATE) Union president disputes reactions of acting fire chief, mayor to firefighters’ Facebook post

Mayor addresses flap caused by firefighter's Facebook post OCEAN CITY – To quote the Ocean City Firefighters FMBA Local 27, “The power of social media is amazing!”

So amazing that Mayor Jay Gillian issued a statement at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, addressing the post that appeared around 11 a.m. on the firefighter’s Facebook page. The post appeared to question the city’s commitment to fully manning the Engine 3 firehouse in the 4500 block of West Avenue.

“Earlier today, acting Fire Chief Charles Bowman made an operational decision to allow an on-duty firefighter to attend to city business on another part of the island,” Gillian wrote in his statement, which was released through the office of Director of Community Service, James Mallon. “The firefighter had a vehicle, was in radio contact at all times and was under orders to respond to any emergency call where he was needed. The firefighter was separated from his company conducting city business for approximately two hours. The acting chief advises me that this situation happens from time to time in the normal conduct of business.

“My understanding is the firefighter’s union, FMBA Local 27, chose to publicize this matter in a manner that implied that manpower was being permanently reduced or that safety was being compromised. The acting chief has indicated to me that neither implication is accurate, and I fully trust his judgment.”

Bowman, contacted around 5 p.m. Tuesday, said, “These guys are crossing boundaries. The mayor is mad,” in explaining why he had no comment and why Gillian had gotten involved in an issue that might be perceived as purely the fire department’s and not the administration’s.

John Murphy, president of the firefighters’ union, disputed Bowman’s and Gillian’s assessment of the situation. Reached Wednesday by phone, Murphy said it was not the intent of the Facebook post to imply that manpower had been reduced permanently at the southend firehouse, but to convey concerns that any reduction in personnel could jeopardize residents, visitors and firefighters.

Murphy said one of Engine 3’s firefighters was subpoenaed to appear in court Tuesday in a matter that involved a citizen who was arrested for spitting on a member of the fire department.

“When you’re detailed to court, you could be there for two hours, you could be there for eight hours,” Murphy said. “For acting Chief Bowman to say the firefighter could respond from court is wrong.”

Murphy disputed the mayor’s statement that the firefighter was available by radio, saying he had a pager in court, and that the vehicle at the firefighter’s disposal was his personal car, not a city vehicle, which violates standard operating procedure should the firefighter have needed to respond to a call.

“That station is manned every day with three guys for a reason,” Murphy said. “Obviously, it’s an overtime issue. Somebody was detailed to go to court, and anytime we drop below minimal manning, we pay to bring somebody in. How can we pay somebody to drive in the Miss New Jersey Parade, but not pay to cover the station and the equipment?”

In regard to The Gazette’s observation that three men were manning the station Tuesday around 4 p.m. when a call came in that sent them on a run to Strathmere, Murphy asked, “What if that happened at 10 and there were only two of them there?”

The original post that appeared on the firefighters’ Facebook page read:

“URGENT! All visitors and residents in the southend of Ocean City... The safety of you and your families has been compromised by Acting Fire Chief Charles Bowman! He has decided to reduce the manpower in the southend of the island. Residents and visitors have heard for sometime now by the Mayor, administration and council members that they do NOT want to reduce the services provide in this great city!! We urge you to reach out to the city to voice your concerns over your compromised safety!! This is not a union scare tactic this is documented fact that the firehouse at 45th street is only manned by 2 personnel as opposed to the normal 3. You can contact the mayors office at 609-525-9333

Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, the Ocean City Firefighters FMBA Local 27 posted:

“The power of social media is amazing! In just 3 short hours this post reached hundreds of people. We appreciate the support of those who reached out to the powers to be to voice your concerns. We also want to thank those who privately contacted members of our executive board to pledge your support. The firehouse in the southend is again fully manned!!”

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