Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg Fire Chief Jim Large responds to transition team report

ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue rarely came under fire during the administrations led by former Mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster.

That changed with the November election.

Besides calling for a new fire chief, a subcommittee of Mayor Rick Kriseman's transition team suggested taxpayers could save money by shifting highly paid firefighters from desk work back to fire stations. The group also criticized the agency for not having more minorities in its senior ranks.

In his first public comments to the report, fire Chief Jim Large scoffed at the suggestion that he needs to be replaced.

"The recommendation stated it was based on the swap time controversy," Large wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "The mayor has received a detailed explanation of swap time, the relative laws, industry practices and policies and level of administrative oversight. It will be up to him to determine what recommendations he will or will not agree with."

The Times reported last month that for decades firefighters could swap shifts with co-workers with little oversight by either trading hours or paying their colleagues cash.

Large, a 39-year agency veteran, defended the shift trades in the months leading up to the Times' story. He tightened the practice days after the Dec. 15 story was published.

The St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters, called Local 747, supports Large.

The subcommittee report "falls short due to incorrect information and somewhat biased information provided" to the committee, according to a union statement.

"Information found within the report is either wrong or has already been addressed in several of the cases," the statement said. "Therefore, we find no real value or relevance in the report."

A union official declined further questions.

Subcommittee members included former Assistant Police Chief Cedric Gordon; former fire union president Will Newton (brother of council member Wengay Newton); CONA president Lisa Wheeler-Brown; NAACP president Manuel Sykes; and attorney Johnny Bardine.

Kriseman will get a final report that combines all nine subcommittees that analyzed different city functions. Then he'll act.

"He's begun reading some of them," said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman. "He's waiting for the final report. We don't know when that is."

The idea of moving high-paid first responders from behind desks isn't new.

In belt-tightening times, the desk jobs are the first ones critics assail as unnecessary in police and fire departments.

The move could help prevent "browning out" equipment — idling vehicles and apparatus for several hours at a time or an entire day — instead of paying overtime to cover firefighters on vacation or others who call in sick.

Large disagreed.

"Sworn members were never taken from the stations for these positions so there are none to return to," he said. "To create a place in the stations for these sworn personnel and replace their positions with civilians would be a significant and unnecessary expense."

Currently, 13 firefighters are assigned to headquarters for administrative work.

Another nine work there on light-duty status for medical reasons. Some are near the end of their careers and enrolled in the state's deferred retirement program.

Citing Florida law, Large declined to provide details on how long the firefighters have worked light duty at headquarters. But he said none have exceeded the two years allowed.

Large also said he has diversity in the ranks.

He pointed to one female in his senior staff and a Hispanic and an African-American who were promoted to senior jobs but have since retired.

"Of the 114 people I have hired, 39 percent are minorities," Large said. "I have made 39 promotions of which 28 percent are minorities. The department strives to be representative of the community at all levels."

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter @markpuente.

Comments
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three games without pay to start the regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expect...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

TAMPA — The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start this season likely means the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for the first three games of the regular season.Fitzpatrick took over as the starter for th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

More than a year ago, Kevin Knox stepped across the stage at the Straz Center to receive his high school diploma.On Thursday, the former Tampa Catholic star was on basketball's biggest stage as he fulfilled his lifelong goal of making the NBA.Knox wa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's draft, but that's not to say the weekend couldn't be busy for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.Whatever.Just get rid of him.Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.He already will miss the first three...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

ST. PETERSBURG – Rookie 1B Jake Bauers has impressed at the plate and in the field since his June 7 promotion.Also, with his hustling on the bases."I knew he played hard; everybody said that at every level,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I di...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

TAMPA — The Bucs will open the upcoming season without the face of their franchise, as quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended three games by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.Winston, 24, was accused of groping a ...
Updated: 3 hours ago