January 5, 2011 —
On a 5-2 vote at their meeting Tuesday evening the Hudson City Council voiced their support of the the city manager in relieving former Hudson Fire Chief Brian Gerig of his position in November.
The dispute arose over a fire truck the city manager was interested in purchasing, although he was not supported in the purchase by Gerig or members of the fire department.
Tuesday’s action was in response to a hearing Gerig had called for to review the discussion. While open to the public, Mayor Dennis Smoke refused to allow members of the public to address the council on the issue.
In a written statement presented to the council, City Manager Steven Hartsel said that he had relieved Gerig of the post following the chief’s actions in contacting city council members about the purchase of a new fire truck after he had been specifically ordered not to have such contacts, and referred to Gerig’s refusal as “insubordination.”
At the meeting, Gerig admitted having approached several council members over the truck dispute, at least partly because his impression from the city manager was that he would not be allowed to approach council directly at the meeting to state his opinions against the fire truck the city manager wanted to purchase. At Tuesday’s meeting, Hartsel said that Gerig would have been given the option to state his case to council .
In the end, the council decided to not purchase that truck and has since decided to purchase another one at the recommendation of Hartsel and acting Fire Chief Jerry Tanner Jr.
The council was clearly uncomfortable with the topic. Mayor Smoke said, “I have had numerous contacts with city employees over city business over the years, but I can’t recall having an employee being told not to talk to me.”
However, Councilman and long-time fireman Jim Stele said that firemen should respect the chain of command.
Councilman Lee Daugherty commented that he was uncomfortable with the way that both parties had handled the dispute. Councilman Ed Engle added that “Both of you got a little upset,” as a part of the action.
In the end, the vote was five to two in favor of supporting the city manager’s actions. Daugherty and Councilman Corey Borck voted in opposition.
Following the decision, Councilman Ed Engle directing a comment directly to Hartsel: “I think you are going to face great challenges in mending fences with the fire department.”