SF firefighters meet with Mayor in push for Fire Chief's resignation

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ByCarolyn Tyler KGO logo
Thursday, September 25, 2014
SF firefighters meet with Mayor in push for Fire Chief's resignation
San Francisco firefighters are calling on Mayor Ed Lee to replace Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An unprecedented meeting over San Francisco's Fire Chief ended Wednesday evening between the mayor and employees with the fire department. The groups are calling for the resignation of Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

It has never happened before. The leaders representing various factions of the San Francisco Fire Department took a united stand late Wednesday afternoon as they walked into Mayor Ed Lee's office to deliver a letter they unanimously agreed to earlier this week, citing a "grave crisis of confidence in the direction and leadership of the current administration under Hayes-White."

"We had a very fruitful and frank discussion with the mayor. He heard all of our concerns he understands the gravity of the situation that the firefighters are facing," said Tom O'Connor, a spokesman for Local 798 Firefighters Union. "He understands that this is the first time that every single group in the San Francisco Fire Department has stood united and had one message."

Union leaders say the department is failing to meet its most basic mission of public safety, citing a shortage of ambulances and long wait times for an emergency medical response.

The chief says progress is being made with the addition of 35 EMTs on the streets since August.

ABC7 News caught up with Hayes-White heading into a meeting dealing with that very issue.

"We have work to do to rebuild the department after five consecutive years of reductions," Hayes-White said.

She wrote a letter last night to her 1,500 member department saying.

"I have moved this department forward and saying the attempt to force her out is an unfortunate distraction to the real issues," Hayes-White wrote.

Hayes-White said she will still lead with confidence and with support from the Mayor's office, despite some members of her department's resolution to have her removed.

The ultimate fate of the fire chief lies in the hands of the five member fire commission under a legal opinion by the city attorney's office. The commission may remove the chief on its own. The mayor can recommend removal, and the commission would have 30 days to respond to that request. They have a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday.