94% of firefighters who took part in last week's survey said Blackwell must go. The no confidence numbers were even higher for Deputy Chief Ron Aaron and Division Chief of Training Billy Wenzel, with 97% of union members calling for their resignations.
Union president Matt Schulte released the results Monday. He said it's the first time in the 140 year history of the Wichita Fire Department that members have held a no confidence vote.
Schulte said the vote had been brewing for a few years because of repeated violations of the union contract. He also blamed "misplaced budget priorities" that gave large salary increases to top WFD administrators, while reducing the number of firefighters on duty each day and putting public safety at risk.
Since 2008, deputy and division chiefs have seen their pay jump anywhere from 20%-36%, while many rank and file firefighters have seen no raises because of budget constraints, Schulte said.
Confidence in Blackwell's adminstration was further eroded last November, Schulte said, when errors in the promotional process caused several firefighters to receive incorrect scores. The error resulted in promotions being reversed while the process was redone.
The results of the vote weren't all negative. 93% of those who participated expressed "confidence" in the leadership of Interim Chief of Operations Tammy Snow.
Schulte said public safety remains the firefighters' top priority and this vote does nothing to change their commitment to the citizens of Wichita and surrounding communities.
Blackwell is out of town for a conference and released the following statement through the city:
“The recent vote by the firefighter’s union is disappointing but it’s also an opportunity for the WFD union and leadership team to focus our efforts and continue working together to provide effective fire services for our residents. I remain honored that, since 2007, I have had the opportunity to help lead some of the best firefighters in the world and I remain committed to doing the best job I can every day.”Wichita firefighters call for chief's resignation