Firefighters Local 1230 Vote “No Confidence” in Chief Henderson

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The union representing East Contra Costa Fire Protection District firefighters took a vote of no confidence in Fire Chief Hugh Henderson last week.

In a letter to Board President Joel Bryant on June 26, the Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, Local 1230 outlined their concerns with Chief Henderson leadership ability and response to concerns facing the district.

According to the letter, the vote is not a personal attack on Chief Henderson, but rather a lack in confidence on his ineffective leadership after the district has been reduced to just 3-stations with 9-firefighters covering 249-square miles. They also cite communication gaps with firefighters and the public.

Chief Henderson, who has two years remaining on his contract, says he plans to continue through the remainder of his contract and hopes to strengthen the relationship with the firefighters.

“My plans are to continue to serve the community through the end of my contract. Firefighter safety has been and always will be my number one priority.  Our firefighters do an outstanding job of trying to protect the community with the lack of adequate resources due funding. I will continue to work with our firefighters in building and strengthening our relationships,” said Henderson Tuesday morning.

IMG_8971In May of 2014, Directors of the District voted unanimously to give Chief Henderson a three-year contract extension which included a $13,000 raise. Under that agreement, the chief is making $139,654.

According to Vince Wells, president of Local 1230, only firefighters within the ECCFPD voted on the no confidence rather than the entire union which includes Contra Costa County Fire. Well said the vote was unanimous.

The District serves Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Byron, Knightsen and Marsh Creek-Morgan Territory.

The Letter, published below, was sent on June 26 which outlines Local 1230 concerns.

June 26, 2015

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District
Joel Bryant, President
134 Oak Street
Brentwood, CA 94513

RE: Vote of No Confidence

Dear President Bryant,

The firefighters of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, represented by the United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, Local 1230, have lost all confidence in Fire Chief Hugh Henderson’s ability to lead this Fire District and voted to present this “Vote of No Confidence” to the Fire Board of Directors.

The facts supporting the “Vote of No Confidence” were brought before the membership pursuant to Local 1230”s Constitution and By-laws. The “Vote of No Confidence” was unanimously approved.

We would like to make clear that, despite this vote, we remain fully committed to serving the community and performing our duties to protect lives and property to the best of our abilities and will not be swayed from that mission. This vote is not a personal attack on Chief Henderson. Rather, the lack of confidence is based on Chief Henderson’s ineffective leadership.

We believe that Chief Henderson’s failure to lead the Fire District has been manifested in several ways: his lack of communication with employees; his inability to effectively manage or represent the issues faced by the organization; his failure to provide the leadership necessary to assure the safety and well-being of the firefighters under his command; and his recent unilateral actions that have violated his own policies and
jeopardized firefighter safety.

We believe that Chief Henderson faces the many challenges of the Fire District by “keeping his head in the sand”. He has not provided the leadership necessary to resolve the many issues facing the Fire District. Instead, his approach has been to make only minor adjustments while failing to tackle the larger problems. We believe this approach could eventually result in a catastrophic event that could jeopardize the lives of firefighters or members of the community.

We believe that Chief Henderson’s lack of leadership has fostered a lack of trust of the firefighters under his command and has allowed the public to be apathetic to the impact of station closures.

After several failed attempts to raise the necessary revenue to properly fund the Fire District through a parcel tax and a benefit assessment, Chief Henderson did not take aggressive actions to inform the public and community leaders of the safety ramifications of staffing levels and their relationship to the protection of the citizens of the Fire District. Instead, he just proceeded with his marching orders and closed fire stations without adequate warning.

We do not believe Chief Henderson has communicated effectively with the fire board, staff, line personnel, or community as these critical changes were being made to the fire district’s operational capabilities. Instead, he has created a disconnection among himself, management and line personnel. We believe his failure regularly to communicate critical updates to line personnel leads to an unsafe work environment for firefighters who must nonetheless respond to emergencies on a moment’s notice.

The Fire District has been faced with many challenges during Chief Henderson’s tenure. Many of them have significantly affected morale within the Fire District. Chief Henderson has made little effort to address this. He has failed to apply accountability equally from the top down. This has led to further distrust of his ability to lead this organization through these challenging times.

Although we understand that not all of these challenges were created by Chief Henderson, it is clear to the firefighters that he lacks the leadership qualities necessary to address the major issues facing the Fire District. We believe a change in leadership is necessary for the Fire District to move forward productively.

We have a long list of examples that support our difficult decision to bring this vote to your attention. The membership has felt this way for a long time but did not take formal action in order to avoid a distraction that could jeopardize the Board’s efforts to make a positive change. The Fire Chief should be able to lead the Board, the firefighters, and the community to a resolution. We do not feel that Chief Henderson has the qualities necessary to accomplish this.

Recent decisions made by Chief Henderson and the reality of the situation we faced with, has given us no choice but to bring these concerns forward for your immediate attention.

Please let us know when you would like to meet so we can provide any necessary details and respond to any questions. Again, this vote comes from the members of the ECCFPD represented by Local 1230; it was not initiated by the Local 1230 leadership.

We believe these issues are significant not only to Fire District employees, but also to the public we serve.

Respectfully,

Vincent Wells, President
United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, Local 1230

CC:
Vice President Ronald Johansen
Director Greg Cooper
Director Robert Kenny
Director Jonathan Michaelson
Director Cheryl Morgan
Director Randy Pope
Director Stephen Smith
Director Joe Young


30 COMMENTS

  1. Hugh Henderson is great and should stay right where he is. He is a nice man and always treated everyone fair and with respect. I support the firefighters, but cannot support this action. Hope this board does not cave to the union pressure.

  2. This is just Vince Wells showing how truly two faced he is. I think Henderson should go also but I have never said anything different.

  3. A vote of “No Confidence” in dealing with the current situation? The voters did this to themselves. What this community has voted themselves into cannot be solved by one Fire Chief, (unless of course he has the magical ability to spin straw into gold) which I do not believe Chief Henderson nor any potential future candidate would have. Here it is in a nutshell…X amount of money can fund X amount of coverage. Period. The End. Basic High School Economics. A Fire Chief, cannot “lead” a Fire District out of a hard and fast math problem. The union letter provides plenty of ominous and vague visions of doom and gloom (politicians and unions do this very well) which almost, but not quite, go as far as stating that bad things are coming and when they do , it will be Chief Henderson’s fault directly! Someone dies on Vasco in an accident because it takes longer to get there with the reduced staffing model? It’s the CHIEF! More acres burn and a resident loses a home because of decreased resources. It’s the CHIEF!…. Not the fault of lowered staffing. Not the fault of lowered funding. Not the fault of increased response times. Nope, all just because of one man….Makes sense…oh sorry, it makes NO sense… Sorry to look at the situation the community and Fire District are in due to the last vote as “basic elementary school math” but it is what it is..The vote of no confidence from the union should be leveled at the voters who did not pay attention to multitude of mailers and public meeting notices over the months leading up to measure. I know my mailbox was full. Unfortunately, in politics you cannot make a scapegoat of a multitude, it has to be one person, idea, or policy that needs to be rooted out and paraded around and that is what this union letter represents.

  4. Union intervention as usual. Henderson who works 27 hours out 24 is the best thing they could have. If any doom or gloom occurs its at the hands of the 1230 union, the fire board, and the board of supervisors. Get rid of this manipulating Union. They are destroying our fire district.

    • Hey John, what do the Board of Supervisors have to do with it? The “district” has been independent from the County for over 10 YEARS.

      Time to go over it sourpuss!

  5. One can certainly divide blame between the County, Union, voters and perhaps even the Board, but the Fire Chief? All he can do is implement with the resources he is granted.

    This isn’t going to fly with most of us and it certainly isn’t going to help our district solve its problems. Perhaps this is part of Mr. Wells’ goal to merge ECCFPD with ConFire?

    Vince Wells can add P.R. to the list of problems facing the Union. …and he brought this one on all by himself.

  6. You are forgetting those “thugs” are your firefighters who are literally breaking their backs for YOU. You got rid of half of them when you voted to close down fire stations and lay them off. SMH the nerve of some people.

  7. The union needs to sit down, shut up, and remember their place. As the final straw they have now lost all credibility with the public and with local leaders. Good going firefighters….you just screwed the pooch.

  8. One of the reasons I fought off this vote of no confidence over the last 4 years was because I knew I would be the one to get all of the personal attacks and our efforts would be misrepresented, and it could be political suicide for the effort of our firefighters to improve their conditions. Taking this position hasn’t changed anything for our firefighters. So the attacks on me or the “union” was expected. I’ve been here before.
    The East Contra Costa firefighters were not going to allow me to talk them out of a vote this time and quite frankly; I agree with the need of a leadership change. Hugh is a great guy and I have always had a great relationship with him. It was not an easy decision for most, but overwhelmingly it was felt that it is necessary. Many Giants fans liked Dusty Baker. The change to hire Bruce Bochy got them three World Series rings. We need a new coach.
    I expected that many would use political terms like the “union” “union thugs”, or my name, in an effort to attack this decision but hide the fact that you know this came from Hugh’s firefighters. This came from the very firefighters that are busting their ass for your community. Not Vince Wells, Local 1230 or whatever other smoke screen you want to use. And someone called me two faced in a post above?
    Hugh did not create the problems he just isn’t the guy to lead us out of it either. My letter generalizes the many issues that led to this vote but there are many specifics. Going back to the sports analogy; many coaches have been fired but those outside never knew the internal issues as to why. We are good with that because it is not the public’s decision to make.
    It is time for a change in leadership at the level of Fire Chief. Hugh has learned to adjust to the situation and is done fighting. The underlying problem is mathematical as someone said; so does that mean give up? I’m just going to finish out my contract. Hell, my term as President is up October 1, so I should just ride it out?
    The Fire Chief needs to realize and make it clear to all, that we cannot provide services with 9 firefighters. Moving forward like we can or like we can afford to re-address this issue in two more years is a non-starter. I don’t know what the answer is but that isn’t it.
    I’m the spokesperson for the ECC fighters and you can say what you want to divert from the current situation and play the blame game too if you want. The “regular bloggers” love this. We need a Fire Chief that is going to bring new ideas and lobby for change; not just finish out the terms of his contract.

    • I am not a regular blogger..I only went to the site to see the scoop on what I felt was a massive amount of fireworks on the fourth for related news…I appreciate the sports analogy as I am a rabid SF Giants fan., all I see relevant in this case would be a salary cap….. I watched Dusty and I love the Boch….talent and salary cap is the difference between the two.. Not sure how you want someone to coach you out of a voter approved salary cap.. Jumping up and down does not produce revenue.. May make the rank and file “feel better” but still will not man up an additional station., I would like to see the plan that is being offered by the group issuing the vote of no confidence…what station would you close? What staffing model do you propose? I live in a profit and loss world so my boss expects a plan when I come to him with an issue……

    • Mr. Wells you are not to blame for any of what has happened to this fire district. You have done a excellent job as a local 1230 representative. Hats off to you for bringing this district together and into the 21st century with enhanced fire services.

      Great Job !

  9. As history has shown, I’m not always in agreement with 1230’s positions. Heck, back in the day even I quit the union over the East County issue. That said, no confidence votes are seldom issued capriciously and the union does have the responsibility to represent the views of its rank and file employees. So in this case it’s really not fair to take shots at the “messenger,” Mr. Wells.

    The current problem is the result of several complex issues, many of them originating decades ago. It’s now time to get past the blame game, that I, too, have previously played, and look for solutions. Funding is part of the issue. Organizational structure is part of the issue. Creativity, or lack thereof, is part of the issue. Bottom line: The current trend is unsustainable.

    Somebody has to step forward, stabilize services as much as can be done under the circumstances, then start thinking outside the box in order to rebuild the fire district. But everyone is going to have to give something to make things work. Reconstruction can’t solely be achieved on the backs of the line personnel, but some staffing model changes may be required. The taxpayers can’t be solely responsible since the tax rate scheme is somewhat rigged following Proposition 13 and they are being asked to pay more but still get less than most of the rest of the county, but clearly some additional funds are required. What needs to happen is for a consensus builder to step forward, look at all the feasible options, and develop a service and business plan that ultimately demonstrates “value added” for all the stakeholders. Otherwise this fire district runs the chance of sinking due to its own weight.

    The opportunities for more simple solutions have long passed. It’s now time to dig in and do the hard work.

  10. What do you really expect from 9 firefighters to cover over 110,000 people and 250 square miles? These guys are out there doing their best with what is given to them! You can’t expect a mechanic to fix a car without tools or A cop can’t do his job without the things that are given to Them to keep us safe and him or her safe (gun, handcuffs, bullet proof vest, car ect) a baker can’t bake a cake without ingredients so why would you expect them to be able to do their job with less then what they need Let’s be realistic here!

  11. I am not a “regular blogger”. As a matter of fact this is my first time and I only looked at this website to see what happened on the Fourth of July as it seemed there were a lot more fireworks than usual… I appreciate the sports analogy as a rabid fan..but as to the relevance in this situation the only thing that even comes close to being a factor would be a salary cap….still boils down to dollars and cents…period. I love the Boch..Dusty given the same money and talent in field could have had the same outcome…anybody could.. The coach does not win the game by themself..,they have the resources to get the job done…in this case….the resources aren’t there., not sure of the strategy that could “fight for them”…a salary cap is a salary cap.. Jumping up and down and pissing and moaning does not gain one dollar of funding…. Sorry., propositions passed by our parents (or in many cases Grandparents) set the bar years ago..,,

  12. Well said Vince. Firefighters have spoken – they cannot be led by a man who’s not willing to cause ripples but would rather instead people please and ensure he can out his kids through college.

  13. Tommy you must know and hate the Chief very well to insult him like this. From what I have seen and read in the media, the Chief is the last person responsible for the financial failures of the Fire District. The excessive employee costs are the main problem as always. That falls back to your BFF Mr. Wells. This move looks like a push for a Con Fire take over. That actually is the best thing that could happen to East County. Especially before lives are lost by the reckless poor decisions of the Fire Board. Three fire union obligated seats on the fire board and you blame Henderson is about as far as blaming the County.

    • Firefighters in ECCFPD make $17/hr to start and top out in the low 20s. What’s your frame of reference to suggest that is excessive for this type of profession?

      How is a merge with ConFire going to address those “excessive employee costs”, as you call them?

      • The logic is you are wrong. Its public information what a firefighter makes. What worse is the debt that is building up because of the excessive EMPLOYEE costs. 13 million in debt with only 9 firefighters ? Now you have a BC who wants to oust the Chief and a Capt. who wants to be a BC and the union pushing too because the Chief is not a union yes man. While this is going on homes are burning and lives are being put in arms way so the union can play games. It is so pathetic. It’s great that the people are smart enough to see how pathetic this situation really is and will not pay to play.

        • Boy, I bet your glad you saved that $100 per year while the houses around you go up in flames…….it’s for the principal of it, we pay them to much, where did you pull the $13M in debt out of, it is not in the ECCFPD benefit liabilities.

  14. I upport our firefighters. They are the ones that are out their doing the work. The chief should try working with them and coming to an agreement with them.

  15. Steve, meet Robyn-Robyn meet Steve. You both have bad information in common.

    Thanks for sharing………….NOT.

  16. The Chief has done the best with what he has to work with. I remember that polling rated fire service satisfaction as very high despite not having enough fire houses and fire fighters. Quite frankly what other chief would want to take on the unreasonable situation that Chief Henderson works with? He is a local guy that has committed himself to trying to work with a community that continues to not step up and support his district. The Tax Payers Assiociation has contributed towards this situation too.

    It’s ridiculous and sadly, this won’t get fixed until something really tragic happens.

    The Fire Board, Union, Oakley & Brentwood City Councils, Board of Supervisors, Assemblyman Frazier, Senator Glazer and Congressman McNerney should be asking themselves will their actions and inactions speak well of them when that tragedy occurs? Right now I point my finger to all of them to come up with an action plan to fix this situation NOW.

    It starts with getting an elected fire board. Then it begins with the county and state and federal agencies funding a plan to get them to the right levels.

  17. Good comment Jim. For some reason this fire board believes it is productive to continue spending money on public outreach for a third attempt at a new tax. Most people do not know this but not one firefighter was laid off when they closed the knightsen station. The fire board just keeps trying the same thing expecting to get a different result. All the failures have nothing to do with Chief Henderson. The dissolution of the district needs to take place before lives are lost.

  18. “Then it begins with the county and state and federal agencies funding a plan to get them to the right levels.”

    Actually it doesn’t. None, (I repeat; NONE) of those agencies are under any obligation legally or otherwise to provide local fire protection.

  19. 90% of the district’s calls are for medical service, and those other agencies DO have legal and financial responsibility for such things while the district has NO obligation, legal or otherwise to provide medical services. That’s what my favorite county supervisor explained to me.

    I can repeat that if it helps

    • No need to repeat. You’ve proved how narrow minded you are with that one.

      There is no legal mechanism dictating compensation. If you left the engines in the station, you’d save less than $200k a year. Meaning you don’t have a pot to piss in for any money above that amount. So much for filling your 4 million dollar hole.

      Your alternative is to fill the void you just created with ambulances that will run in excess of $1 Million per year to operate. You’ll probably need 2, 3 or maybe even 4. Not sure what planet you’re from, but on this one trading a $200k cost for a 1 to 4 million dollar one doesn’t add up. You really are having a hard time understanding how the role of fire departments have evolved in the last 30 years. Darwin eventually weeds out thinkers like you, but sure is a painful process to wait out.

      Engines are not paid by the call, medical, fire or otherwise. Common sense would tell you that. But I can see how you missed it being you’re obsessed with expecting a handout from the County.

  20. @ anonymous too,

    You are an idiot. I repeat, you are an idiot. Got that? Probably not, since it has already been pounded into your thick skull several times. The county only has responsibility to provide ambulatory service to a medical facility. That’s right numbskull, ambulance only. In case you lost track, the county provides this service without issue. This conversation is specifically about the fire department (keep up bozo). You never really did grasp the concept between first responder and medical transport. Maybe you should, before mouthing off about things that are miles above your pay grade. Always mouthing off, hoping and praying someone will listen. You have become everyone’s punch line. How’s that feel dummy?

    And to think,you didn’t even need your supervisor to explain it to you.

    Stupid should hurt. I can repeat it if it helps.

  21. The county does not have to provide yada, yada, So what. What the county is doing is screwing the district over by not paying for medical calls.That is what they do have to provide. First responders use to always be an ambulance and police unless it was a fire.This changed when the fire departments didn’t have enough to justify 24/7. That’s when the engines were clean and polished.Today they unionized and are too good for certain things except get paid to work and sleep. When the change over began the counties screwed over the fire departments by not sharing the health services money.

    So, close the fire stations and let Cal Fire take over. It can’t be any worse than it is.This district is repulsive. They can’t do anything without another agency holding their hand.Like one said, it’s a ship under mutiny.Mind as well sink it before innocent lives are lost.

    • You’re really stuck on stupid with that idea that fire departments get paid by the call thing, aren’t you?

      The fire district already receives money from the County in the form of Measure H funds, by the way.

      Now read this very carefully: EMERGENCY TRANSPORT

      That’s the service the County needs to provide you…….not for free……you will get a nice fat bill if you use the service……….but they need to have it available for when you wrap your drunk ass around a tree. So that “not sharing the health services money” bit really doesn’t even make any sense.

      CalFire would be more expensive than the existing District, by quite a bit. Meaning even less service. You really don’t have a clue about much of anything having to do with the District, do you? You just think if you throw yourself a real big middle aged fit somebody will come along and pat you on the head.

      How do you even get through a normal day around people with that kind of behavior?

      Your hard-on with the Union appears to be part of your problem. Maybe one day you’ll be able to stop your crying like a child and use your words to explain yourself. But I wouldn’t bank on it.

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