April 21, 2014

Medina
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Firefighters protest Valley City fire chief for ‘lack of leadership’

More than a third of the Valley City Fire Department has signed a “no-confidence” petition criticizing Fire Chief Jack Petrone for “lack of leadership and decision-making.”

The petition, submitted to the Liverpool Township trustees Monday, complained of poor morale that has resulted in a shrinking staff and slow response times to fires and medical emergencies since Petrone became chief in 2011.

The petition asks the trustees to remove Petrone and appoint Assistant Chief Greg Smith to serve until trustees can interview and appoint a new chief. The petition also warns that if the trustees don’t take action, members of the department will be forced to take unspecified “further action.”

The trustees dismissed the petition as the reaction of a handful of disgruntled firefighters upset by changes Petrone has made to make the department more professional.

“There’s a few people who have a problem,” Trustee Jim Crocker said. “It’s a free country and if they want to leave, they can leave.”

Crocker said he stood behind Petrone “100 percent.”

The two other trustees, Paul Schaefer and Cathy Keller, also signaled their support of Petrone, but declined to comment on the petition after Monday’s meeting.

“There were a couple people who were unhappy we had someone dismissed,” Crocker said. “There’s some sour grapes and most of this stuff revolves around that.”

The petition was signed by 13 active members of the department and five former members. Douglas Borling, who signed the petition, had his resignation letter accepted by the trustees at the meeting.

Borling said he enjoyed serving his community but thought his training over the past year or so had been inadequate under Petrone.

“It was never about the money for me,” said Borling, who served about eight years on the department. “It was about getting training and doing service for the community. They’re trying to run it like a business.”

Borling said he thinks he can do more to help the community and highlight the department issues now that he can’t be threatened with a reprimand for speaking out.

“I feel I can do more now, as a civilian, than being on the department,” Borling said.

More than 10 members of the department agreed to be interviewed by a Gazette reporter several weeks ago but asked that their names not be used, saying they feared they would be fired.

“A lot of people don’t want to work there anymore,” one firefighter said. “There is no morale.”

Eighteen months ago, the “on call” squad had more than 50 active members and now they have about 35, he said.

Among the concerns listed by firefighters who signed the petition included the response times for calls, which have exceeded 40 minutes in a few cases as the ranks are whittled down by people who chose to leave the department or said they were “forced” out by Petrone.

“People think oh, you call 911, and someone will respond right away. Well, we’re getting to the point where that may not be the case anymore,” a firefighter said.

Petrone disputed the criticism, saying response times are no different than other communities.

“The insinuation that we have a longer response time isn’t accurate,” he said.

Petrone agreed with trustees that his effort to make the department more professional was the reason some of the firefighters are upset.

“We’re giving residents the service of a 19-member department, and we’re doing it on a budget of $300,000,” Petrone said.

The chief also disputed questions about his qualifications raised in the petition.

“In comparison to surrounding Medina County departments, the current chief’s qualifications are minimal at best, or absent,” the petition states.

“How can effective leadership and direction be administered when our top decision maker has the minimum fire safety certification and NO medical training at all,” the petition says.

Petrone said received his emergency medical training in Illinois, where he moved to after getting his 36-hour minimum certification from the state of Ohio when he joined the department in 1977.

When he returned to the Valley City Fire Department, he never expected to serve as fire chief. When the position opened up, he was qualified under state law. He said he saw no reason to pursue additional certification.

“When I came back, I was almost 60 years old, I was getting ready to retire. I thought I don’t need all those certifications,” said Petrone, who now is 67.

Firefighters said they would have had even more signatures on the petition, but members were told they faced termination if they signed their names to the document.

Harvey Hartman, the oldest and one of the longest-serving members of the department, approached the board with the petition Monday night and spoke briefly, although though he was interrupted by a warning from Trustee Crocker for stepping out of the chain of command.

“Harvey, you are aware you’re violating the chain of command,” Crocker said.

“So be it,” Hartman responded. “The citizens are upset. They ask me what’s going on and I’m not even allowed to talk about it.”

Hartman wasn’t the only longtime member who lent his signature to the petition. Included on the petition is the signature of former Valley City Fire Chief Mario D’Amico, who served on the department for more than 30 years before his retirement in 2011.

Petrone said no members would be fired specifically for signing the petition, but said township trustees could decide to remove them from the force.

“The trustees are the ones who hire and fire people,” Petrone said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

  • Jenny

    Eighteen months ago 50 “on calls” now there’s 35! I’d say there’s something wrong somewhere. That’s a substantial loss of manpower for a small community. Believe the trustees should do their job and investigate a little further. And the trustess can remove those who signed the petition. Seems a bit much. To threaten someone with termination because they sign a petition . . . how sad. Sounds like there is in fact a problem not just with the chief but with the trustess as well. And “nice attitude”, Jim Crocker!! I’d say the blame will lie with the trustess when a innocent member of the community dies because of the slow response times to fires and medical emergencies.

  • interesting differences

    A fire department cannot be run by the members it must be run by the administration.. The solution is easy here it is a volunteer department or at best paid part time… Fire all the members who signed the petition, sue the gazette for the names of the ones who did the interview, and up the pay of the remaining members and sign up new members… If you pay them they will come and if you up the pay I bet half the folks running their mouths now would shut up and take the money…As far as a problem if there was a huge problem that was Earth shattering I would suspect more members would be belly aching No this is a small (less that 1/3 of the dept.) “CLICK” who is mad one of their buddies got pushed out… As far as chief qualifications there are chiefs in this county in fact not far from Valley City that have less that ten years total on any fire department…A missed point is what did the Assistant Chief a Mr. Smith I read have to do with this did the group use his name with or with out his permission and if it was with his permission the trustees need to investigate to see if this was an attempt to move up over the existing chief. If his name was used without his permission the Gazette needs to state that and the petition signers need reprimanded for doing that as well because it makes Mr. Smith look bad…

  • KENNY

    So is this part to blame for the way the street fair was this year? I along with other loved ones noticed that the annual Valley City Street Fair didn’t have the same look and feel that it had in previous years. While trying to keep an open mind when reading this article it seems to me that the problem runs deeper then the chief. Have the trustees no idea what goes on in their fire department? If they are the ones to hire and fire then why haven’t they stepped in yet. Crocker states that “There’s some sour grapes and most of this stuff revolves around that.” What kind of sour grapes would lead to such a large number of employees trying to replace their chief? Obviously this is not the first time that there has been some issues down there that were not settled correctly. The answer shouldn’t be give more money to shut them up. It seems like they had people who did it for the love of serving their community. We shouldn’t fear calling 911 when we have an emergency.

  • Sense

    Jack has been an asset to both the community and the fire department. He is working to professionalize a group of firefighters/emt’s from all types of backgrounds and that will create problems. These growing pains are what happens when you bring a professional leader in. Valley City is in very capable hands with Jack in charge.nI would believe that Greg Smith has an axe to grind with this since he has been passed over for the fire chief position multiple times. Greg doesn’t understand that his lack of leadership and lack of personal skills will be much worse for the department.

  • Denny

    Ok. Lets settle a few things here. Number one. More money won’t shut anyone up. These firemen do it because they like it. They serve their community with pride. They know what it was like before Jack, and there weren’t problems. Number two. Greg Smith has zero to do with any of this. The reason he was mentioned, was because he is entitled to the position, seeing as he is the assistant chief. not to mention, his credentials vs Jacks. Lastly, someone please explain how Jack Petrone is such great asset to this community! He’s a salesman, and a liar. You can sell 1000 scalpels to a surgeon, but that doesn’t make you a surgeon. Same way selling 1000 fire trucks to a bunch of firemen, say Chicago for instance… Doesn’t make you a fireman. I know jack and all the firefighters very well. No one is better off with him in this community. He’s dangerous on a fire ground, and a liar to your face. Wake up and see it people. Better yet, since he’s such an asset to anyone’s community… Ask him why he’s not back in Illinois selling his beloved firetrucks, being a great asset to their community and their fire dept.

  • angry

    Anyone in favor of that man doesnt have their facts straight. He is the “yes” man hired by the trustees. Lets look at the big picture, why do the trustees think that he is ok for our community? Why do they not care what anyone thinks? Arent they suposed to represent us, and be here for the good of our community? So why don’t they care enough to listen to anyone or look into the situation. Instead they put Jack in there, the “yes” man who is their little puppet. Please tell me all their qualifications to run a fire department! Because when someones house catches fire in our community you want to be confident that your fire department knows what to do, and when they get there that the person in command will be making the correct calls… with Jack in charge you better hope for some mutual aid from surrounding communities! And doesn’t anyone ever wonder why things are like this now? With the old cheif that department was well trained, had good response times, and were proud to be members of the Valley City Fire Department. Anyone wonder why he suddenly “retired”? Why things took such a drastic change? Try asking your trustees, their games have cost our community. Lets make a change and fast! Starting with those trustees, and a new fire cheif!!!

  • lenny

    at least petrone isn’t still claiming that he used to have his 240 credentials. he used to tell everyone that he let it lapse. denny is right on the money. selling scalpels does not make you a surgeon.

  • this is nuts

    With all this ruckus and all the politics that accompany a fire department not to mention the high cost of in infrastructure and training etc. why do we even have a fire department and why do we need to put up with all of the drama that seems to accompany fire departments in this area??? Wouldn’t we be better off and it be cheaper to hire another fire department to protect our community maybe Brunswick or Columbia Station pay them some sort of a flat rate and we have none of this intrigue that follows fire departments everywhere.. We may even save a bit of money to pay for better policing or even maybe our own police department… It seems like every two weeks some fire department around here is in the news and it is never a good thing. This playing politics with peoples lives by the members when they are mad is not a good way to go and they seem to think they have the community over a barrel. Cry fowl and we just will not show up to your emergency. I say fire them all and hire either a private contractor or another more professional department to handle our emergencies!!! Heck I bet I can get a petition together and get it to the trustees stating this especially if it saves us money… If I have to choose between a dis-functional fire department or a decent police department I’m taking the police odds are I will need them more…Ill tell you this I’m done voting for Fire levies and I’m going to make it a mission to campaign against everyone of them…

  • OhioGuy10

    Not being a member of the department I cannot comment firstnhand on the Chiefu2019s job skills. I will tell you I hear a lot of complaining andncritique of the Liverpool Trustees. Some issues are: Focused on whatu2019s best fornthem or their interest, Not big school supporters, big egos, not very smart, donnot plan for long term, take care of friends (Show favoritism) and the listngoes on. nnI agree with a lot about what is being said about thentrustees but do live in another township. My question to the people who live innValley City those have issues with them, why donu2019t you run? This November therenare 2 incumbents running and no one else. It would be nice to get the statusnquo and good old boy network out of there for a change> At least show up onncandidates night and ask a trustee a tough question or two.

  • Fred

    I happen to know he does have 240 firefighter – it was in his original application. Better check your facts, but I can see facts don’t mean much here.

  • Lenny

    Not in ohio….ever

  • Fred

    Ya, they put out fires different in other states

  • Teddy

    One of the real questions to ask yourself is, why in 2011 when the former Chief resigned was there no interview process or formal hiring process for a new Chief. Why was Jack Petrone placed in the Chief’s postion when he was not even an officer on the dept. at that time. Why were the two Assistant Chief’s at the time not given the option to take the position or even asked for that matter. You have to ask yourself what was in it for ntrustee Crocker to appoint Petrone as the Fire Chief. The last time the department was in need of a new Chief, when former Chief Pete Berger retired the trustees had a formal hiring process and interview process with multi. canidates. Why was this not done in 2011 when we needed a new Chief. What are the trustees really getting out of this deal with Petrone as the Chief.

  • Lenny

    Apparently so, considering his tactics. Has he ever produced his card?

  • Lenny

    Fire cards do transfer from state to state……as long as they are real.

  • Fred

    Not to YOU.

  • Puzzled

    Less then a 1/3 better read again its more then a 1/3. Then you account for the others who are on roster that hardly ever participate and you’re probably talking half of the dept at least.

  • Puzzled

    So you’re telling us he lied on his original application…..interesting????

  • Puzzled

    Yeah go with Brunswick they got it all figured out….. two departments crammed into one township and the city has had firefighters fighting each in the station. Not a great choice judging by track records.

  • Realistic

    This is a volunteer / part time department. These people are not working at the FD for their career job. So, why don’t these people quit and join another department? There are several close by that they can join if they do not like it in Valley City. I do not understand the need to do what these folks did – it embarasses themselves and the community. Save face and quit. If the working number slips below a certain level, then it can be addressed. Runs are being made by this department everyday and the residents are getting the treatment and protection that they expect. The unhappy people need to go elsewhere… I just don’t understand why they would stick around and be so unhappy. Move on.

  • see the light people!

    what no one is understanding is that residents are not getting the treatment and protection they expect or need. It is getting sloppy down there, and these people speaking out are not doing this for themselvs they are doing this for the communities safety and the integrity of the fire department…. go ask neighboring departments about cheif patrone. Him and Valley City Fire are becoming a running joke!

  • denny

    What facts? Jack was denied by departments in Illinois. The old timers of this department used to say, “don’t let jack become chief. ” word for word. Jacks been trying to get this postiton ever since he moved back after losing his dealership. he is a danger to this community. He has made several mistakes on firegrounds that end in more property loss. Please, ask your surrounding department’s. And if anyone has a scanner, turn on the Medina fire channel. Notice, all his bull traffic. 15-1 is not a dept. Vehicle. Its jacks person. And take note of how he conducts business compared to every other dept in this county. Its that easy, just by listening to the radio traffic. You can see how big his ego is. Not to mention his inability to formulate a sentance. Its time to hang it up jack. Take your money and bull elsewhere. The people in this community are sick of your lies. You and Crocker both. Go play brokeback mountain on someone elses soil.

  • Realistic

    There is a bare minimum, threshold of service reqired and they would be shut down if this was not provided. Valley City is still getting the emergency services that they pay for. nThese bad apples in the department need to retire or go to another neighboring department. I do not understand why they would want to tarnish the reputation of their small town by going this route. They emabrassed themselves. There are other, proper, channels to voice/show their concern. What these unhappy members of VCFD did was inappropriate and unprofessional.

  • Fred

    What department would that be Mickey?

  • see the light

    i dont feel bringing it to the communitys attention is a joke. as part of the community i did appreciate finding out what was going on down there. And since then i have been asking some questions, and from what i hear they did try and go through the chain of communication through the department. they voiced their concerns and no one would listen, no one cared…. to me this is the only thing they had left to do. get the community involved. and you probably being a jack supporter on the department youd like nothing more then them all to quit, but why didnt you all just try listening to them and working with them first. constantly blowing them off has gotten it to this point. EVERYONE is to blame here, both sides. And at the department, as higher ups… isnt it their job to listen to the members and hear their concerns and work with them so everyone feels proud of the department they work on. everyone down there seems to have a hidden adgenda and if you dont agree with what they have to say your just a trouble maker. from what i see that department isnt being run correctly.

  • Realistic

    If these folks would have quit the deaprtment, it would have sent a message. That was the proper channel. When there are not people available to run calls, that is when the problem will surface and be dealt with accordingly.nAgain, I know a bit about VCFD and the general attitude/direction that it has had for many years is that it was treated like a club. This cannot go on and professionalism needs put in place. Yes, the fire department should be run like a business… because it IS a business. People expect professional behavior and service – which is what Jack has been working on. If the members do not embrace it, go work somewhere else. Guess what – your neighbors run professional departments… will these guys then complain and start another witch hunt there??

  • interesting differences

    What you mean like they did in Litchfield it was in the Gazette a few months ago that they do not have any paramedics are you publicly saying they give less care to their community than we receive here???

  • interesting differences

    Well i called a friend in Lorain County seems they have not heard anything bad about Petron over there folks say he is a nice enough guy and they deal with our dept quite regularly…

  • interesting differences

    Right on the button the Trustees need to get with other trustees in the area get a contract for services from another community and fire all the Jokers over at the fire dept… It is insane how much trouble one or two bad apples can cause over there. The response times are available or if you have a scanner like we have you can track them yourself and they do not appear to be long average seems around 5 minutes day time to 8 or so in the evening when folks are asleep. I say fold the department up and hire a private firm like they did when we lived out west a private company maybe Rural Metro ran the fire service and ambulance service… I would bet that if the trustees threatened to close the place down the same bad apples would cry foul for one reason it would end there little kingdom the only place they think they have any sort of power.. FOLKS A NEWS FLASH WE LIVE IN VALLEY CITY!!!! IF THE DEPARTMENT CLOSED DOWN TOMORROW THE WORLD WOULD NOT EVEN NOTICE IT!!!! The folks at the fire dept better find their place and that is as servants to the taxpayer and then to our elected reps the trustees you don’t like it quit and then you are one of the “PEOPLE” and can run your mouth all you want…Mark my words your levy is not as secure now as you think this whole deal was stupid to begin with as it gives folks a reason to vote down your financing…

  • interesting differences

    Go with Columbia or pay LST like other areas do and split the fire departments area with other Townships lots of possibilities.. I for one would love to see a private management company formed or contracted to manage the dept trust me this would not be tolerated by a private manager and keep them all part time means no benefits and no union win win…I wonder if we go enough signatures if we could get this on the ballot???

  • Realistic

    This would be a huge undertaking and would take a very long time to implement – if at all. There will always be a VCFD… the only change that could be coming would be that all fire departments in Medina county merge and would be known as Medina County Fire Department. This is being looked into but is a long-term option. This would be done to benefit funding issues as well as increase services. nnThe best bet here is for the unhappy folks on the department should quit or go to a neighboring department. There is no issue with VCFD and the leadership there is working hard to bring it up to where the neighboring departments are. Again, this is no longer a “club”… this is a part time job with clear deliverables, performance reviews and continuous improvement. If the department members are not onboard with that, they should do something different.

  • Angela

    Alright I have been watching the chatter on here the last two days, watching both sides from the department obviously go at it on here. Cant we all agree that the fire department needs help, if it didnt none of this would be happening! but with that… who ever this fred is, because im sure that is not your real name. get one thing straight this denny person is not my husband. im sure your one of jacks guys down there at the department so before you go accusing my husband of being on here saying that stuff get your facts straight! cuz we all know you guys like to create your own truth.non that note… if you all want the best for the department why dont we now take this opportunity to make it better, lets all listen to both sides… and stop bitching like a bunch of teenage girls! both sides need to figure this out together. you can say these guys who spoke out are wrong and are doing all these bad things but guess what jack and his supporters are doing just as much wrong, and are just as guilty. man up, grow up and as higher ups in the department fix this! (and the trustees are equally or more to blame for this situation)

  • Diane H

    As a concerned citizen and tax payer of Valley City I would be very interested in hearing the actual details from both sides. Sounds a little suspicious with regards to the trustees and fire chief. My curiosity has been peaked and I would like these questions addressed by both the trustees and fire chief. If there is nothing to hide, then us tax paying citizens that elected these trustees to work for US should put our minds at ease with proof of all questions that have been raised. I’m FURIOUS and am NOT CONFIDENT of Valley City Fire coming to assist my family, children or myself. SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE. I feel like some of these postings are from the chief and trustees themselves. VERY SUSPICIOUS. I will be talking to other communities and people regarding this. Let’s not disregard these concerns.

  • Diane H

    We all know that nobody lies on their applications! Geez!

  • Danielle

    I agree and vote that as many concerned community members as we can get should go to the next trustee meeting and demand answers and the truth. Make them listen.

  • Realistic

    Their service has not detriorated one bit. Actually, they have been staffing well and they have made all of their runs with no incident. I would not call that a let-down in service. The fire/ems service is a redundant system… what this means is that any incident in the township will be handled promptly and in a professional manner. There is no worry about level of service.nThis whole issue breaks down to two different sides:n1) Those that are stuck in their old ways and want to keep the fire department as a CLUBn2) Those that want to move the fire department forward to a more business like environment where people are held accountable.nReally – it is that simple. The faction that put together their petition were of the “don’t change anything and let me have my club” opinion.

  • your a liar

    you are completely full of it. as someone who knows some of the members who signed that petition i can tell you that what you are trying to convince everyone of is a lie. that is not why they are so upset. stop telling lies and start facing the truth.

  • Realistic

    If these people are so unhappy, why do that not quit? That sends a bigger message than this unprofessional, inappropriate attack on the department. This is an embarassment for themselves and they took the community down in the process. This could have been handled much more professionally.

  • Realistic

    Sorry for my error above… the point is that they should have quit rather than do this.

  • Diane H

    I have to disagree with you here. I don’t believe that them quitting would have sent a bigger message. In fact, I doubt the community would have realized there were any issues to be concerned with. I am a citizen in this community and do not feel the community was taken down OR embarrassed by their actions. Honestly, if these issues are found to be true, I appreciate them jeopardizing their positions to inform the public. As I said before, I would like to hear from BOTH sides and come to my own conclusions. I am not one that just takes another’s word without question, especially when they appear to be somewhat suspicious. Some of these postings are OBVIOUSLY written by both sides of the department. I hate to say this, but the comments that attack those behind this petition seem a bit manipulative to the community. That is one thing in particular that raises my suspicion. Let’s open this up for all to discuss, and air their grievances and concerns. That is the only way the truth will come out.

  • Diane H

    I completely agree that we in the community need to attend the next meeting. Time to get involved and informed, as we should have done all along. As I said in my reply to Realistic’s posting, I want to hear BOTH sides and come to my own conclusions. Something just doesn’t sit right in regards to all of this. The truth needs to be revealed and which ever party is being dishonest, needs to be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

  • Diane H

    I plan on watching the last meeting, which will be airing this Thursday on cable channel 36 (I think it’s 36). Let’s start there and see if anything questionable emerges. I would suggest that any in the community that are equally concerned watch too. Perhaps start a discussion thereafter. I will encourage those I know to do the same, and watch with an open mind and a fine-toothed comb.