Firefighter who blew whistle on hazardous firehouse conditions was disciplined

Detroit Fire Department

For years, the Detroit Fire Department has ignored hazardous, vile conditions at its firehouses.

One fire sergeant finally had enough and alerted the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration to serious violations at a firehouse in the Cass Corridor. A recent inspection revealed long-neglected smoke and fire alarms, numerous fire hazards, an eroding ceiling and doors with no locks or handles.

But the sergeant won’t be enjoying the improvements and repairs that are underway at the firehouse. After being cited for alerting MIOSHA, the sergeant was moved to a less desirable battalion.

Fire commissioner Edsel Jenkins
Fire commissioner Edsel Jenkins

“The Sgt. was disciplined for violating a chain of command policy,” Commissioner Edsel Jenkins wrote us in an e-mail.

Jenkins maintains the sergeant was moved to another battalion “due primarily to another unrelated personnel matter involving this Sgt. that is currently under investigation.”

Jenkins declined to elaborate. “Because this is a personnel matter, we are unable to say anything more,” Jenkins said.

Since Mayor Mike Duggan took office, firefighters have been hesitant to complain about chronic problems that have been ignored for years. As conditions worsened and the fire rigs began breaking down at unprecedented rates last year, Duggan’s administration posted memos warning firefighters they could be disciplined for talking with the media.

 

Cracking down on whistleblowers has been costly to taxpayers in the past and ultimately led to the resignation of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick after he lied under oath in a whistleblower case that cost taxpayers $6.5 million.

Federal and state laws protect whistleblowers from being retaliated against for notifying authorities to problems such as dangerous living conditions.

Mayor Duggan’s office declined to comment for this story.

 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • LAHeat

    Hmm…less desirable? A lot of things are less desiravble, maybe Muchraker mispoke? Maybe the new assignment might be the best fire station in the city? But less desirable may be the distance the firefighter has to travel to his new assignment? It’s called “freeway therapy” in some circles and this “therapy” is given to those folks who speak out (whistle blower) to give them time to think about their sins…and it gives them time to think about how they will spend the money they will be awarded from the lawsuit he surely will be (or has) filed as a result of his transfer which smacks of retaliation by the fire department’s short sighted brass. And again, the tax payers will foot the bill…unless his attorney is imaginiative enough to ask the court to assign punitive damages (on top of any award he gets) as well, to those fire administrators to “punish” them and discourage them from retaliating against the next whistle blower!

    • NORA EARHART RN

      Amen

  • santini

    If “no snitch” comes from the head honcho in Detroit, how do you expect the residents to snitch.?

    You are wrong Duggan.

    • bebow

      This is a charade, santini.

  • Jesse Rangel

    Start the paper trail. There will be more discipline to follow. These city boys aren’t too bright and their egos will inevitably lead to a whistleblower lawsuit. Too bad the taxpayers will end up paying the bill.

    • Mike

      Mr Muckraker, check your comments and facts!!! I know you have done well for the department and reported on a lot of important issues, but you comment “THE SGT HAS BEEN TRANSFERRED TO A LESS DESIRABLE BATTALION” is totally wrong, I invite you to visit this Battalion, that has some of the most decorated members & best firefighters in the WORLD!! As does the rest of the department!!! This Battalion ranks only 2nd in the amount of fire service, only behind the 9th Battalion, and has quadruple the amount of fires as the Battalion that the SGT was transferred from. In the future please be careful how you put quotes in about “OUR” department before you know what battalions are the most desirable!!!

      Captain/Acting Chief of that less desirable Battalion
      Michael Jefferson

      • muckraker_steve

        I think you know why it would be less desirable for him, no? I am not saying that Battalion is objectively less desirable, but it is for someone who didn’t want to go there. So relax.

        • Mike

          Well next time state that it is the member that finds it less desirable, and not the department as a whole. So chill.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          Correct. Even more general not specific to fire, just being sent somewhere new, its usually a punishment even if its lateral. It messes your routine, you need to adjust, prove yourself again, build new friendships etc etc.

          Why? To punish tge dude, with out making it seem like thats the goal

  • bebow

    No snitch.