Ann Arbor Fire Chief’s Resignation Letter

In a letter to the city council dated March 18, 2011, fire chief Dominick Lanza makes clear that the personal reasons he gave earlier in announcing his resignation on Feb. 15, 2011 were not the only impetus behind his decision to leave the job: “Yes, I leave for personal reasons but had it not been for that it would be for the lack of support and the systematic destruction of your Fire Department.” Lanza started the job just last year on March 22.

In his letter, Lanza compares the city’s approach to fire protection to “playing baseball with a basketball team.” He specifically criticizes the possibility of transforming fire protection in Ann Arbor to a combined career firefighter and paid-on-call department, calling instead for regional cooperation as a way to be more cost effective.

By way of background, at a December 2010 city council budget retreat, the council discussed the possibility of moving to a combined paid-on-call department, and a fire protection services study was authorized by the council at its Feb. 7, 2011 meeting to explore that option. At the council’s most recent meeting, on March 7, 2011, the chair of the council’s labor committee, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), asked the city attorney to explore the legalities involved with a recent move by Allen Park, Mich. – that community had decided to send layoff notices to nearly its entire fire department.

In his letter, Lanza also refers to a 3% reduction in pay the firefighters union accepted last January in order to preserve 14 firefighter positions that had been planned for elimination. He objects to the characterization of that concession as only lasting for six months: “Your firefighters … have taken permanent pay cuts of 3% not for six months as reported but in perpetuity as well as an additional 1% pension contribution.”

The contract under which the firefighters are working – which was revised to make the 3% salary cut – expired on June 30, 2010. So for now, firefighters continue to work for 3% less than they made in 2009 before making the concession.