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Brian Rooney To Retire As Fire Chief, Who’s Next In Line?

May 17th, 2016 · 58 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Civil Service, Firefighters, News and Events

Brian Rooney

Brian Rooney

UPDATE: Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney is planning his retirement from the department later this week, per city charter regulation limiting the chief’s tenure to two five-year terms. One of the prominent names as a possible replacement on an acting basis is Assistant Fire Chief Richard Thode, a department veteran for more than 20 years. Thode resides in Bethel.

Richard Thode speaks following fire in December 2013

As chief, Rooney earned something of a financial windfall. As a contract appointment, he was placed into a 401k pension plan run by the International City Managers Association, outside of the municipal pension system. As a result, because he came up from the ranks of the department, he was allowed to receive his city pension for years of fire service while also receiving the chief’s pay. So he’s actually retiring for a second time.

Under a charter revision approved by city voters nearly 30 years ago, the chiefs of police and fire can serve up to two five-year terms. Mayor Joe Ganim in March installed AJ Perez as acting chief following the resignation of Joe Gaudett who accepted a consulting arrangement with the department to oversee emergency response. Gaudett also was allowed to receive his city pension in addition to his pay as chief. The municipal salary range for police and fire chiefs is $129,778 to $142,576.

Rooney was first appointed chief from within the department by then Mayor John Fabrizi in May of 2006. He had his supporters as well as detractors in the department including retired African American city firefighters Ron Mackey and Donald Day, active in the Firebird Society of Bridgeport, who had challenged Rooney’s credentials for the job. They have criticized the lack of blacks, Latinos and women serving in public safety senior management positions.

It’s unclear when a civil service testing process to secure permanent chiefs of police and fire will take place. The process from start to finish would likely take up to one year. The mayor, per charter authority, can select from the top three ranked candidates.

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58 Comments so far ↓

  • Bob Walsh

    Lennie,
    What are you talking about?
    The Chief is retired. He’s already collecting his pension.
    WTF!
    Have you lost your skills for fact checking?
    As a matter of fact, for some reason I am thinking it was a disability retirment for H & H.

    • Phil Smith

      He is retiring from his job as Fire Chief, which is, under the charter, entirely separate from the positions he previously held.

      • Ron Mackey

        Phil, Chief Rooney retired from the Bridgeport Fire Dept. 10 years ago. He’s leaving now because his contract has expired because he can only serve for two five-year contracts. Rooney and Gaudett both were receiving their pension from the City and working and also receiving their paycheck as the chief of their departments and running the day-to-day operation.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Troll, I understand your double-dip complaint.

  • Bob Walsh

    Why won’t the city DEMAND the chiefs are Bridgeport residents? This is truly pathetic.
    I know New Haven requires it, why won’t Bridgeport?

  • Ron Mackey

    How long will it take Mayor Joe Ganim to promote acting chief AJ Perez to be the provisional police chief the same way Joe Gaudett and Brian Rooney were made and then allow AJ Perez to retire and still work as the police chief?

    The article states, “One of the prominent names as a possible replacement on an acting basis is Assistant Fire Chief Richard Thode, a department veteran for more than 20 years. Thode resides in Bethel.” Chief Rooney never mentioned Assistant Chief James Cook Jr. who is the first black to place number 1 on the Assistant Fire Chief exam who also has been on the job more than 20 years and is a Bridgeport resident. It’s not surprising Rooney didn’t mention any of this. This is nothing against Richard Thode, he’s a nice guy and he’s smart, just like James Cook.

  • Phil Smith

    Under the Charter the jobs of Police Chief and Fire Chief are open to candidates from both inside and outside the Bridgeport departments. It is not considered a promotional appointment.

    I was not involved in the decision, but it is my understanding internal appointees are allowed to retire and collect for two reasons. First, the position of chief (as it now exists) is not within the pension plan; and second, in order to place internal candidates in the same position as candidates from outside.

    In answer to Ron’s question, I don’t think a chief can retire and collect until they receive a permanent five-year appointment.

  • park city fan

    There will be a small celebration on Friday May 20, 2016 from 12pm to 2pm in the City Council chambers at 45 Lyon Terrace to acknowledge the end of an error. This venue was chosen only after confirmation was received the phone booth at Main and John was already booked.

  • park city fan

    No, that was Main and Jewett.

  • Donald Day

    Phil, as a point of clarity Rooney was appointed under Fabs, but given the retirement pay plus salary under Finch. There was no other chief in the history of the BFD who was allowed to receive their retirement pay and their salary simultaneously, none.

    Having said that, good riddance Rooney because under him race relations reached a new level of low. He wasn’t even close to being the best candidate for the position when his resume had a high school diploma and military service on it, but one man from Utah had three Bachelor Degrees and Masters in Fire Science. Finally, like Mackey said, Thode is a nice guy and a great firefighter, but so is James Cook who happens to be black, a Bridgeport resident, number 1 on his chief promotional exam and never in the history of the BFD has there ever been a black chief.

  • Ron Mackey

    With Brian Rooney, I never had any problems with him until he became the fire chief and Finch became mayor and David Dunn in Civil Service. Finch didn’t have to do anything in the fire dept. because he had four years to be mayor and Rooney had a five-year contract so they did what they wanted to do. Rooney had no blacks who were friends with him, none. He had no black firefighter of any rank who would say anything positive about him.

  • Donald Day

    Lennie, Mags never received pension and salary simultaneously and neither did Rooney during his first five-year appointment. I think Finch just wanted to hook up Gaudett who signed his first contract months prior to the expiration of Rooney’s first contract so he included Rooney in the hookup when his first contract expired. Mackey and I were vocal critics of this for both police and fire chiefs.

  • Ron Mackey

    When Mike Maglione was the fire chief we could speak to him and he would listen and if he couldn’t honor our request then we would tell him okay and we would go to the mayor. We never asked for anything for ourselves. We didn’t want Mike to head the department but once he became chief he would talk and listen, something Rooney never did, we would meet but it was like talking to a wall.

  • Bob Walsh

    So Lennie, here is an original story back in 2011 about Rooney and his retirements.
    This was about when Rooney submitted his request for retirement, which he “Rooney also said the request, if approved by the Fire Commission Wednesday, protects his rights to seek heart and hypertension disability in the future.”
    Now maybe Ron and Don can help me out here but I believe if he is eventually granted an H & H disability, among other benefits would be free medical. So he is basically saying he retired from Civil Service due to Heart and Hypertension related illnesses and yet the city hires him into what should have been a more stressful position.
    What BS. Phil, don’t try to explain this away. It is truly a retirement fraud.
    www .ctpost.com/local/article/Fire-Chief-denies-reports-he-is-retiring-2409800.php

    • Andrew C Fardy

      Walsh, Rooney will only get free coverage for his heart problems and related heart medication. The state law covers all cops, firefighters and jail guards. Get your facts straight.

      • Ron Mackey

        Andy, but not for free, there is a cutoff date, the late Pat Shevlin had to sue the City to get his health care free as the City promised. Free coverage is only for those who came on the job from Pat and before and Pat had to fight this while he was dying from cancer.

        • Andrew C Fardy

          Heart and hypertension coverage is automatic as heart problems are considered line of duty injuries. It does not matter what kind of coverage Rooney retires with, his heart expenses are covered.

          • Ron Mackey

            Andy, the City fights H&H plus it’s taxable income.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            Ron, the city can fight it all they want, it’s the state law. It’s hard to fight a triple bypass. It’s a workmens comp issue and is not taxable. Rooney can get disability and then his pension becomes tax free. That should piss Walsh off. Oh yeah, Rooney should be getting a pension from MERS as well.

  • Mojo

    *** Chief Rooney may have had his dept. favorites and a bit of prejudice towards some, but he also knew who were the dept. slackers and who was not doing a fair day’s work and taking advantage of their dept. positions! Let’s hope whoever is chosen it’s a person who knows the job, has leadership qualities and is respected by his peers regardless of his skin color or where he may live! ***

  • Ron Mackey

    Mojo, this is a fire chief who got into a accident with his City-owned vehicle at the airport in New York City while picking up his girlfriend. Oh, that doesn’t count.

  • Donald Day

    Mojo, your response is ludicrous as if showing favoritism to some and being prejudiced to others is outweighed by his ability to know dept slackers and those who didn’t give a day’s work. Unbelievable!

    The fact is, that has been the problem with every white chief in the history of the BFD and Rooney cut his BFD teeth on the knowledge of a litany of bigots.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Day, here you go again with another racist statement.
    “The fact is, that has been the problem with every white chief in the history of the BFD and Rooney cut his BFD teeth on the knowledge of a litany of bigots.”
    The only bigot here is you. How many chiefs of the department did you work under? Schmedlin? Napels? Why were they bigots? Was it because they would not buy into your racist demands? Day, you are a one-trick pony.

    • Ron Mackey

      Andy, just ask the first black Bridgeport firefighter family members, Donald Clemons and Harold Clarke what George Clarke had to deal with during his career. You act like everything was just great and blacks were welcomed into the fire department.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        The first two black firefighters were George Clarke and Al McCalla. Where does Clemons come into the picture? Your running mate thinks all the chiefs in the FD were bigots, which we all know is not true. George Clarke and Al McCalla did not publicly complain of mistreatment.

        • Ron Mackey

          Andy, Donald Charles Clemons’ uncle was the late George Clarke as well as Battalion Chief Harold Clarke. For someone who is in the know you seem to know nothing about George Clarke. When a lot of us kids would walk up Newfield Ave. at times Mr. Clarke would be sitting in front of the firehouse and we stopped to talk to him. He was such proud man who took a interest in us, he would ask us where we were going and he would check on us. We were fortunate to be able to see a black firefighter because the kids in the other sections of Bridgeport never did.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            I am supposed to know Clemons was related to Clarke? Really. Btw George Clarke was a lieutenant when he retired. We did not have Battalion chiefs back then like they do now. With George Clarke as a role model you should have wanted to be a FF and apply for the job.

          • Ron Mackey

            Andy, did you know the living conditions both Clarke and McCalla had to live with? Clarke’s sleeping area was a broom closet at Engine 2. Ask Don about it because it gets worse. I thought about being a firefighter after getting out of the Air Force and being a firefighter there and the only reason I took the exam was because Remington Arms was moving to Arkansas and I needed a job and at that time only McCalla was on the dept. and he was getting ready to retire. I didn’t take the fire exam when discharged because I didn’t want a job with no blacks because the social issues on the fire dept. would be too hard.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            George Clarke would not have stood for sleeping in a closet when Lts had their own rooms. Stop the BS, Ron.

          • Ron Mackey

            Andy, just ask Battalion Chief Harold Clarke or retired firefighter Donald Clemons, you don’t have to believe me. Why would you be surprised by what I’m saying, hell, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays all had to deal with those conditions. Do you think those white males said welcome to the department and if there’s anything they could do for you, just ask firefighter Clarke, especially knowing he was the first and only black to ever be a member of the Bridgeport Fire Department.

  • Mojo

    *** There were a few firefighters who lost their jobs for being at unauthorized places while on duty, using their take-home vehicles as a personal vehicle while on duty and off; like you mentioned about the chief. And others I remember reading about but can’t remember what their so-called violations were that got them in trouble! It happened, it’s not made-up news; some might have fought along with their Union and got their jobs back and some might have not been so lucky! You should know, no? ***

    • Ron Mackey

      Mojo, you were on the City Council when that happen so tell us what did happen and did you know Rooney while on duty would leave his assigned district to go check on his rental property around the city especially those on the East Side and what punishment did Rooney received with the car accident he had with a City car at the airport in New York City to pickup his girlfriend? Wrong is wrong no matter who, right?

      • Andrew C Fardy

        You know Ron, you never stop. If Rooney did that as an assistant chief there is nothing wrong with that. Fire companies go out of their district all the time and you know it.
        Those guys who were fired deserved it. One guy would come in in the morning then hide his vehicle and stay home, another would visit a girlfriend in Massachusetts, another would work on one of his houses. You know Ron, you are also a one-trick pony.

        • Ron Mackey

          Andy, Rooney was a Captain and he would have his entire crew with him, in fact we would see him from the back of Engine 10 when we were on mobile inspection. Of course it was okay for him to get in a accident with a City car in New York and nothing happened to him by the City.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            How many times was Engine 10 up at Licios getting sandwiches? Do you actually know why Rooney was on the East Side? Maybe Rooney had permission to take the department car, did you check that out or is it more to your advantage to speculate?

          • Ron Mackey

            Andy, when I was a Lieutenant I left my district just like you did.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            Sorry Ron, I did not have a district the squad covered the city. You are the one who brought up leaving the district.

          • Ron Mackey

            Andy, so you didn’t work overtime at another fire company? And while you were on the squad and at headquarters you knew when a company stationed there with you would leave their district to go food shopping or dinner runs among other things.

  • Mojo

    *** I don’t know the ins and outs at the Bpt Fire Dept. just like I don’t know who was considered a good fireman and person on the job or off! However, I do know the gossip and complaints I used to hear while on the city council, etc. Some might have been true and some not from my point of view at that time. But what I did know or came off feeling during my six years on the council was there seemed to be some racial divide, mistrust in their union and a feeling of lack of respect for some of the fire dept. management and how they were promoted to their positions; like Chief Rooney who I thought had a tough job and I respected the fact he had a long time on the Dept before becoming Chief and worked his way up from the bottom. He seemed to be a disciplinarian in a dept that seemed to have many in-house issues of which you guys, Andy, Ron and Don would have a better idea more or less if in fact so! Many in the fire dept appeared to not be happy with the Rooney choice in the beginning as some of the council members would hear the gossip. Because as I mentioned before in a prior blog, he apparently seemed to know who was actually doing their jobs and who was slacking off thus dropped the admin. hammer later in time. Tough job being the Top Dog in a Hazardous Duty Job and Dept; it’s a position where your impact while on the job (good or bad) is not realized and felt until after you’re gone! I believe after Chief Rooney retires, in time those who really knew him and his job ethics will feel he did a good job and maybe made the Bpt Fire Dept. a safer better place to be a Fireman, no? ***

    • Ron Mackey

      Mojo, below is the profile of the person who placed number one for the Bridgeport Fire Chief position who was passed over to select Rooney who only has a high school diploma.

      Daniel Andrus Fire Chief at City of Concord New Hampshire

      • Deputy Fire Chief for Administration
      Salt Lake City Fire Department
      August 2007 – June 2008 (11 months)

      Headed Administrative Bureau overseeing the Emergency Medical Services and Safety Division, Fire Investigation Unit, Airport Operations Division, Human Resources Section, Administrative Services and Finance Division, and Emergency Management Division.

      • Battalion Chief-Operations Bureau
      Salt Lake City Fire Department
      September 2003 – August 2007 (4 years)

      District chief overseeing operations at seven fire stations. Primary duties included emergency response, incident command, Fire/HazMat/EMS/Technical Rescue training coordination and delivery. Incident commander for several multiple alarm incidents including major wildland fires in City Creek Canyon and Emigration Canyon.

      • Fire Marshal
      Salt Lake City Fire Department
      March 1998 – September 2003 (5 years 7 months)

      Lead a staff of 18 in four areas-Fire Code Enforcement, Technical Services (Hazardous Materials and Plan Review), Community Safety Education, and Fire Investigation. Major responsibility for the planning of the Winter Olympic Games of 2002, including tents and temporary structures, fireworks, and propane use. Instituted a program for high rise inspections and the National Fire Protection Association RiskWatch program.

      • Battalion Chief-Communications and Emergency Management Division
      Salt Lake City Fire Department
      September 1996 – March 1998 (1 year 7 months)

      Oversaw the establishment of a dedicated Fire/EMS communications center dispatching >25,000 emergency calls annually, together with the technical services support section and emergency planning. The communications center became the 15th accredited “Center of Excellence” in the world by the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch in December of 1997 and was the cornerstone of a redesigned delivery system based on prioritized call determinants. Lead role in the request for proposal process for a new computer aided dispatch system and records management system.

      • Public Information Officer/Administrative Assistant to the Fire Chief
      Salt Lake City Fire Department
      July 1991 – October 1994 (3 years 4 months)

      Managed all media relations for the department, including emergency response information, community safety news and routine event publicity. Served as Administrative Assistant to the Fire Chief performing special projects such as deployment studies and policy analysis and served as the Department Total Quality Coordinator and lead facilitator for the redesign of licensing and permitting processes.

      Education

      • University of Utah
      Master of Science (M.S.), Economics 2004

      • University of Utah
      Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.), Local Government Administration 1988

      • Western Oregon University
      Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Fire Services Administration 1991

      • University of Utah
      Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Management 1984

      • University of Utah
      Graduate Certificate Program in Conflict Resolution 2003 – 2004

      • National Fire Academy
      Executive Fire Officer Program 1999 – 2003

      • Greater Concord Area Task Force Against Racism and Intolerance

      Board Member
      September 2008 – January 2016
      • International Association of Fire Chiefs

  • Donald Day

    Thanks, Ron. As you can see Mojo the difference between Rooney and Dan were different as Day and Night. Guys like Rooney and Fardy always talked about merit until it came to them. Rooney was chosen over a clearly more qualified individual and Andy was given the position in the Fire Marshall’s office that paid in between Lieutenant’s and Captain’s pay and never took an exam. Fardy was then promoted to Senior Inspector that paid between Captain and Battalion Chief and never took an exam.

    When Rooney is gone there will be celebration not only from the black firefighters, but the whites and Latinos as well. He wasn’t good for this department and will go down as one of the worst chiefs to ever command the BFD.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Well Day, here you go again. The new job in the Fire Marshal’s office was advertised in the firehouse. Rentz and I were the only ones who signed up. Nobody wanted the job because at that time there was a ton of OT in the fire houses and none in arson plus it was a day job, no 3 on and 3 off.
    I did not take any promotional exams for the first 19 years I was on the job and even when I took and passed the LT exam the others were tied up with Judge Daly as the city could not get enough minorities to pass the captains test as given and that’s when they went to the oral exam for captain.
    The city could not develop a test for the fire marshal’s office while I was there. I understand they have since given that exam. This was a new division that was added to the TO and was open to all.
    I still believe in the merit system, I believe it gets the best candidates. Day, under the merit system you would still have been a firefighter and not a captain.

  • Ron Mackey

    Don, don’t forget Rooney, Fardy and 70 other white males were made Provisional Lieutenants and they were paid and some retired without taking a Lieutenant exam and they were in those positions for years, where was the merit?

  • Donald Day

    I clearly remember Ron, merit was just for blacks and Latinos and white privilege for Fardy and his ilk. There has never in the history of the BFD been an all-oral exam for Captain and the exam I took was written and oral with the written being scored higher. Andy, you forgot I passed the Engineer exam as well as the Lieutenant’s exam.

    Andy, you’re very lucky white privilege threw you a bone because you would have retired as a firefighter or had to retire as a provisional lieutenant, which you didn’t earn either.

    • Andrew C Fardy

      Mackey and Day, you are both wrong. Sure there were a lot of provisional Lt’s because someone needed to lead the company as there were no Lt tests for 19 years. Day, just so you know I passed the LT Test and finished 40th. I took the captain’s test and failed that was all oral. Now the funny part of that is I finished #1 on the LT oral and failed the captains oral yet certain minorities with the exception of Earl Pettway who finished way behind me on the LT test suddenly were in the top 13 for captain, go figure. It’s sad to see what you two have become, nothing more than professional minorities, what a shame.

  • Ron Mackey

    Andy, you passed the Lieutenant exam afterwards. How many years were you a Provisional Lieutenant? I passed and was promoted to Pumper Engineer and Lieutenant. Deputy Chief Joe DeCarlo appointed me to be a Provisional Lieutenant but I refused to accept appointment and I became a Lieutenant when I placed number 10 on the exam and Day placed number 2 on the Captain exam, as you can see nobody gave us anything.

  • Mojo

    *** Exactly gentlemen, you all have just proven to me some of my blog about the Racial Divide and the failure of the dept. to come up with a fair written and oral exam for promotions and handle the process fairly for all who tested was correct. I can see having an advantage over new testers if certain personal had more than a year-plus on the job as provisionals and then took the test! You would figure everyone who passed the written and oral exam gets say three months as provisional then after everyone’s had their turn, you pick the best person suited at that time for the job, no? The testing problem alone seems like it was a staff morale killer to boot. And also the stories I would hear about the lack of faith in the Dept. Union that not only represented the Firefighters but negotiated their contracts! The Union, EFMB, Firebirds, NHFA, etc. with such overall mistrust, favoritism, dept. politics, racial divide, unfair promotional written and oral testing system and hiring practices, O/T infighting, unqualified personnel who should have never been hired, profiling in general! It’s a wonder to me how many on the Bpt. Fire Dept. managed to stay above all the crap going on and still do your jobs in a professional manner every day of the year. *** CORRECT ME IF ANYTHING I’VE WRITTEN IS WRONG IN ANY WAY. ***

    • Ron Mackey

      Mojo, some things you got right and some things wrong. The Racial Divide has always been there and when Fabrizi had a chance to do something about it he didn’t, instead he made it worse by selecting Rooney. Fabrizi knew the history of the Racial Divide but he needed the support of the fire union vote (who don’t live in the City but the black firefighters do) but also Fabs didn’t want any contract issues with the union.

      Mojo, when you read the profile of Daniel Andrus the person who placed number one for the Bridgeport Fire Chief position who was passed over to select Rooney who only has a high school diploma, this man could run for mayor. After the lawsuits in the 1980s Civil Service got it right with testing and blacks and Hispanics really made great progress in being hired and getting promoted in the higher ranks but all of that stopped when David Dunn was made Acting Personnel. Now Rooney had no interest or concern about those numbers because he could care less. Rooney attempted to meet with black and Hispanic firefighters to see and hear what their concerns were so we could truly be a family of firefighters. The major problem in the Bridgeport Fire Department since the 1970s until now is race.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    THE EXAM YOU TWO TOOK WAS A GIFT IN AND OF ITSELF.

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