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Fire department, city ‘moving forward’ after no-confidence vote in fire chief

Published: Monday, June 9, 2014 11:05 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 9, 2014 11:26 a.m. CDT

The City of Newton and the Newton Association of Professional Firefighters Local 1457 have reached an “amicable understanding” on the “Vote of No Confidence” filed by Local 1457 regarding Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik.

According to a release issued Friday by Newton City Administrator Robert Knabel, IAFF 1457 President Tom Richmond and Wellik, Local 1457 and the city have reached a decision regarding the union’s no-confidence vote and have agreed to work collaboratively to move forward to meet the Values and Mission Statement of the City of Newton.  

“Through collaboration and teamwork and with participation and cooperation in future meetings and committees we will be able to assure that the values and goals of the union are met and kept: 1) A safe fire department for its members and its citizens; 2) A fire department that communicates, collaborates, that supports and has compassion for its members; and 3) A fire department that creates a good work environment,” Richmond stated. “Local 1457 and City of Newton staff will be collaborating and working together for a plan so that the fire department will move forward in a positive direction.”

In the joint statement, Wellik stated he “supports the goals of Local 1457 and believes they can be best accomplished through a cooperative and collaborative environment, emphasizing positive communication, accountability and teamwork.”

Knabel noted that there were many frustrations that were the result of a lack of information, miscommunication or inappropriate communication. The recent discussions between the groups focused on how these concerns can be better addressed.

“Wellik and Richmond and all members of Local 1457 have committed to continue to work together to accomplish the goals and the mission of the department,” according to the statement.

Knabel emphasized that while many issues were identified in the investigation, there were no findings of dishonesty or lack of integrity on the part of Wellik. He also emphasized that the burden for improving the department lies with the three major players — the chief, the captains and the firefighters themselves, according to the statement.

Knabel’s goal is to assist the three parties to:

• Create a climate of professionalism and respect between all groups.

• Regain an atmosphere where all members can contribute to the department’s success at fulfilling its mission.

• Clarify roles and expectations so that everyone is on the same page as it moves forward.

“While it has been a difficult and arduous effort, I believe that as a result of the ‘Vote of No Confidence’ and the positive dialogue that followed, the department will be stronger under the leadership of Chief Wellik with the collaborative support from the firefighters,” Knabel said.  

Knabel expressed his appreciation for Richmond and the firefighters of Local 1457 for their willingness to step up and be a part of the solution, while commending Wellik for his positive response to addressing the needs of the department.

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