Retiring District of Columbia Assistant Fire Chief John P. Devine, passed over for the chief's job here, will be named commissioner of Chicago's strike-torn fire department today, D.C. fire department sources said yesterday.
Devine, a 26-year veteran of D.C.'s department, is scheduled to retire Aug. 31. As one of the city's two assistant fire chiefs, he is in charge of firefighting, fire prevention and training. He said yesterday he would "neither confirm nor deny reports" that he was selected for the job.
Devine, 48, said his decision to retire from the D.C. department came when "it reached a point where I felt my career was not going any further within the department." He is one of 22high-level D.C. fire officials, most of whom are white -- who will be retiring at the end of this month.
As commissioner of Chicago's 4,500 member department, Devine is expected to be paid about $75,000. His D.C. retirement pension will amount to about $39,000 a year. D.C.'s fire department has about 1,400 members.
Devine said he was invited to apply for the Chicago position three weeks ago and that he know he was one of at least two finalists for the job.
A spokesman for Chicago Mayor JaneByrne said yesterday that no final choice has been made.
However, The Chicago Sun-Times, in yesterday's editions, quoted Chicago city hall sources as saying that Byrne will announce Devine's appointment at a press conference today.
The Chicago sources said Byrne's selection was, at least in part, based upon Devine's handling of labor negotiations for the District fire department. Chicago's acting commissioner, Richard G. Albrecht, apparently fell out of favor with Byrne as a result of a 23-day workout by firefighters last February and March.
Devine said that should he be selected for the job, he would start immediately after his retirement from the District department.
Also retiring with Devine will be 17of the D.C. department's 33 battalion chiefs, three of six deputy fire chiefs and the other assistant chief. The retirements mark the largest single exodus of high-level managers in the recent history of the department.This mass retirement, fire officials say, could create at least a partial vacuum of expertise and long-term experience which could hamper the effectiveness of the department. Only two of those retiring are black.
D.C. department sources have said that Devine's retirement was hastened by Mayor Marion Barry's selection of Norman Richardson as fire chief last January. Devine, a white who was the preferred candidate of the predominantly white Local 36 of the International Association of Firefighters, was a finalist for the fire chief's position along with Deputy Chief Joseph A. Kitt and Richardson, who are black.
Many white fire officials who are retiring have said they are doing so because they have no future in the department, that they have been boxed out of the promotional track and policy-making apparatus by a city administration committed to accelerating black promotions in the traditionally white-dominated department.