Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A controversial pay raise. Firefighters and some city residents are upset with a new contract that gives the city fire chief more money at a time when fire companies are being closed.
Derek Valcourt has more on the raise and reaction to it.
The permanent closure of three city fire companies because of budget constraints already had city firefighters angry, which is why the mayor’s request for pay raises for Fire Chief James Clack had firefighter union leaders saying no way.
“I, we are all going to suck this up. I think it needs to start from the top down. I don’t think Chief Clack or his command staff should take the raise,” said Rick Hoffman, Baltimore City Firefighters’ Union.
But in 3-2 vote, the city Board of Estimates agreed to extend the chief’s contract for six years.
The deal grants Clack more than $28,000 worth of pay increases, 2 percent in almost every year except year four when he would earn little more than 8 percent — nearly $14,000.
In her support, the mayor touted Clack’s accomplishments as fire chief, pointing to a record low of 17 fire fatalities last year – and only three so far this year.
“I believe that extending his contract will allow him to continue to implement meaningful changes to the department and improve public safety in the city,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.
“She must have a reason for him being so deserving I guess,” said John Chant.
While some city residents offered lukewarm support of a pay increase for the chief, others disapprove.
“If they’re cutting everything else, he needs to take the cut with everybody else.” said Eric Atkinson.
For his part Chief Clack released a statement to WJZ, saying, “I am very happy that the mayor has asked me to continue to serve as fire chief for the next several years. We’ve made great progress. We have more work to do.”
City Comptroller Joan Pratt and City Council President Jack Young were the two votes opposing the fire chief’s pay raise.
The chief’s contract allows for the mayor to terminate the chief’s employment at any time if she chooses.