Augusta Firefighters Association calls for chief to step down

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – “The multitude of individuals on the department are calling the atmosphere toxic, terrible, worst it’s ever been,” said Mike Tomaszewski, President, Augusta Firefighters Association.

It’s for those reasons that Mike Tomaszewski says something has to be done. As president of the Augusta Firefighters Association, he’s publicly announcing he wants Chief Chris James to go.

“You don’t have a response to that. You focus on doing your job the best you can do your job every day,” said Chief Chris James, Augusta Fire Department.

Tomaszewski requested more than 700 pages in an open records request spanning 2 years. A majority of his concerns deal with lack of staffing within the department.

“That concern is not just about the Augusta Fire Department. That’s the concern of the industry in itself,” said Chief James.

“We’re operationally right now facing the levels of being short an entire shift on the fire department,” said Tomaszewski.

“These are highly trained people after they’re run through your training and they become attractive to private industry that will have the ability to offer them more money and that’s the whole routine,” said Chief James.

Tomaszewski says morale within the department is at an all time low.

“We have increased salaries, I’ve probably promoted more people than any other chief has ever promoted anyone. I probably have bought more new fire apparatus. We’ve got 3 more coming in, ” said Chief James.

Tomaszewski says he’s tried to bring this to the attention of commissioners but was shut out of a legal meeting last week in which he was originally invited to attend.

“This is about the fact that the department needs changed, and the city needs that change within that department. We need to recover, we need to move on, we need to be productive. And that’s not going to happen with him here,” said Tomaszewski.

“We are a class 1 fire department. You can’t get a higher rating. When I first became the chief we were a class 5. We have moved to class 1. And so that goes to show of the advancements and the things we have done to move forward to make our department better not only for the citizens but for the employees as well,” said Chief James.

The press conference hosted by the Augusta Firefighter’s Association is Tuesday at 10am.

In regards to the legal meeting on June 24th. We reached out to the Mayor’s office for Hardie Davis’s response as to why Tomaszewski was never able to present. As of 2pm Monday, June 29th we have still not received a response.

The city’s attorney, Wayne Brown, did respond to Bishop’s email saying this:

In response to your inquiry, I can state the follow:

“When a commissioner requests an item for Executive Session Agenda and identify a speaker, I place the item on the Executive Session Agenda, and I.T. Dept., in turn, sends the speaker a zoom link. This is the standard practice. Such activities is merely in preparation of the topics and personnel the Commission may need for the meeting. The Executive Session Agenda, however, belongs to and is controlled by the Commission body. The Commission decides whether and item is heard. The Commission decides who is allowed to speak or not speak on any given item. An item prepared for the agenda or list of persons who may be needed is not binding on the Commission.

The Executive Session and its agenda, held on June 24, 2020, was part of a closed meeting authorized by Georgia Open Meeting Act. Therefore, as General Counsel, I am not at liberty to disclose the content of that agenda, the discussion in Executive Session, the identity of who was sent a zoom link or whether or not any given person was invited and/or allowed to speak during the Executive Session. The privilege of such disclosure belongs to the Commission, not staff members.”

Watch the full interview with Mike Tomaszewski, President of Augusta Firefighters Association

Watch the full interview with Chief Chris James, Augusta Fire Department

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