Saying he's had enough of hostilities, rumors and criticisms, Mayor James C. Galie Thursday renewed his call for the hiring of an Illinois firm to study the city's firefighting needs.
Galie said he made a mistake in backing down from his choice of David W. Griffith Associates of Northbrook, Ill., after the city's two fire unions objected and the contract was tabled by the City Council. Galie said he will stick by his initial choice of Griffith, which submitted the lowest of five bids to the city.
Galie said he backed off the study in June in part to calm the waters and in part because he didn't have the Council votes to pass the study.
But, hostilities between his administration and the fire unions only have escalated since June, he said. He blamed the Council for not supporting him and said things would not have reached this point had the Council backed him.
Galie previously has blamed some members of the fire unions for rumors regarding alleged FBI investigations of members of his administration. The unions have denied involvement. Galie also admitted Thursday that public criticism over the issue of public safety has been getting to him because he does not believe it is warranted. Now, Galie said, he will toss the problem back into the Council's lap by placing the contract on the agenda for its meeting Oct. 20 -- just two weeks before the Nov. 4 election. He said he still doesn't know if he will have the needed four Council votes, but he hopes for quick Council action. He said he will keep putting the contract on the agenda until the Council approves no matter how long it takes.
Galie claimed the Council was reluctant to act on the contract because of the election. Now, he said, public safety has been made an issue in the campaign. The fire unions are playing an active political role this year and are plastering the city with 200 signs and three billboards announcing their endorsement of four Council candidates -- incumbents John G. Accardo, Vincent R. Morello and Anthony F. Quaranto and former Councilwoman Barbara A. Geracitano -- according to Stefan G. Kundl, president of the Fire Officers Association.
Galie said he wasn't acting politically by bringing the study back now. He said he was doing what he should have done all along.
"I made a mistake. I erred," he said.
The study was tabled by the City Council April 28 after the two fire unions objected to Griffith. Most Council members said they wanted to see some agreement between Galie and the unions on the choice of consultants before the city spent nearly $40,000 on a study. The unions objected because of their belief that Galie wanted to use the study as a means of further reducing the size of the department and that the study would be slanted toward the conclusions Galie wanted.
Galie Thursday repeated his promise that he would abide by the results of the study even if that meant finding money to put on extra firefighters. But, he said, he still firmly believes that won't be the case. That statement, which Galie has made repeatedly, led the unions to conclude that the results of the study had already been decided.
Kundl, speaking on behalf of his union and the Niagara Falls Uniformed Firefighters Association 714, said Griffith's appearance before the City Council last spring showed that the firm was very biased in favor of the administration. He said the Council "saw through the smoke and mirrors."
After Galie dropped the effort for an independent study, Kundl said, Fire Chief Paul S. Shanks was to have done a comprehensive in-house study. Kundl said that hasn't been done.
"The fire unions are not against a formal unbiased study," Kundl said, but in order for one to occur, the unions and the City Council would have to have a say in selecting the firm.