The Montgomery County executive has been told that the county's fire and rescue service often provides in adequate manpower to deal with emergencies that there are "lapses in leadership at the scene of incidents (and that) career morale is at an all time and dangerous low."
These assertion, called vague yesterday by an aide to County Executive James P. Gleason, are contained in a Feb. 27 memo from Warren E. Isman, director of the county fire and rescue services, and Lt. Tom Finnin, president of Local 1664 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO, which represent about 350 of the county's 600 paid fire fighters.
Gleason could not be reached for comment but an aide, Charles Maier, said: "I guess they though they were being helpful. I don't really know much about a what they're saying. Their memo is really very vague. We went through the same experience with the police service several years ago. I think we're dealing with a military mentality."
The memorandum contains no specific examples to substantiate its assertions about manpower, leadership or morale. Bill R. Bliss, vice chairman of the county fire board, said he expexts the specifics will be given to Gleason at a meeting May 15.
The memorandum also claims that firefighters who make grievances risk retaliation in the form of the "phone calls in the middle of the night, threats of physical violence . . . damage to personal property," or being passed over for promotion."
. . . Different requirements for firefighters and officers in the volunteer ranks . . . create a potentially explosive and disastrous situation among career personnel," it says.
Fire and rescue services in Montgomery and handled by 18 indepent fire and rescue departments staffed by the 600 paid firefighters and more than 850 volunteers.
Volunteers and the paid firefighters have had a series disagreements over the desirability of centralization and the method of submitting budget requests to the county. The county supplies $19.1 million for fire and rescue services in the current fiscal year.
Masier said Gleason has established a task force to review fire and rescue services and internal personnel problems associated with them and report back to him on May 15.
The memorandum was written after a meeting Feb. 23 with Gleason, Isman, Finnin and other members of the county fire board, which is made up of representatives of the fire and rescue companies.
In a covering letter, Isman and Finnin say the memorandum was sent "as a result of your (Gleason's) request ...(for) an examination of the career firefighters."
Maier denied Gleason had requested the document.
Isman declined yesterday to expand on the statements in the memorandum. "That was in internal document and it would be inappropriate for me to be more specific now" he said. Finnin could not be reached for comment.
Last year Finnin's union issued a report urging the centralization of all county firefighter services, and an end to what it claimed were "back-scratching" methods of budget review in which the independent fire departments looked favorable on each other's budget requests.
Isman said at the time the county's dual system of paid and unpaid firefighters "provides better services at least cost to the taxpayer" than would a centralized system, and denied the charge of budget review "back-scratching."
Additionally, last year several members of Local 1664 filed suit in Montgomery County Circuit, claiming they were in fct county employees rather than employes of their individual departments. A judge rejected their suit.
Isman said yesterday that he agreed with Gleason that it is time to review the county's system of delivering fire and rescue services.