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Council rejects Fire Dept. promotion

The Common Council is playing it tough on Fire Department promotions.

After a 40-minute closed-door session with Fire Chief Thomas J. Passuite on Wednesday, Alderman Joseph C. Kibler said the Council wanted the Fire Board to rescind last week's promotion of Capt. Matthew Streckewald to assistant chief.

Kibler, R-at Large, said the promotion had to be taken back, at least as a permanent selection, until the city gets done paying off former Assistant Chief Mark S. Devine, who resigned under pressure last month.

Devine was arrested three times this year, the first time on charges of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and the other two times for allegedly violating a court order of protection the woman received.

Kibler disclosed that Devine is still on the city payroll, using up a backlog of sick and vacation days, and will be until about Jan. 15. That was confirmed by Elroy D. Powley, a member of the Fire Board.

Kibler said the city doesn't have money in this year's budget to pay another assistant chief, so Streckewald, who had been acting assistant chief since Devine was suspended from his job, will have to settle for lesser "out-of-grade" pay instead of a full raise to assistant chief. The difference in pay is about $6,000.

"What you're telling me could be true if the Council wanted to be tough about it," Powley told a reporter who informed him of Kibler's comments. "[Kibler] might have something there. All I know is the fire chief told us we had to appoint an assistant chief."

Kibler also griped that the Fire Board's moves last week were made with one member absent and voting by proxy. He insisted the City Charter requires three in-person votes on the four-person board.

"None of us knew the entire Fire Board has to be there to vote on a promotion," said Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, the Council's representative on the board. He said a firefighter showed him the charter provision in question.

Kibler said the Fire Board would meet today to temporarily rescind Streckewald's promotion, but Powley said although there is a special meeting at 4:15 p.m., he had no knowledge of that alleged agenda item.

"[The meeting] is for the purpose of reviewing a lieutenant appointment," Powley said. There is a vacancy at that rank since the board last week promoted Lt. Thomas Lupo, former president of the Lockport Professional Firefighters Association, to captain.

Kibler said he couldn't challenge Lupo's promotion because another captain, Martin Prendergast, retired earlier this month. That left a vacancy at captain besides the one Streckewald was supposed to leave.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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