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