On Monday, Jan. 27, the City Council promoted a number of servicemen in the Everett Fire Department, including Fire Chief Anthony Carli – that coming amidst some controversy within the ranks of the firefighters’ union.
Chief Carli had served as the acting chief for 18 months and was promoted Monday by a vote of 9-1.
Family members and colleagues packed the Council chambers to standing-room only capacity to support those being promoted. But what usually would have been a brief ceremony turned into a half-hour discussion about whether or not Council should promote the chief.
Just 15 minutes prior to the vote, councilors learned that there was an outstanding grievance with the Everett Local 143 Firefighters Union regarding Chief Carli’s promotion. They invited Asst. City Solicitor Keith Slattery and Union President Craig Hardy to explain the situation.
Hardy alleged that the promotion of the temporary chief went against union rules that state that it must be involved in any promotions. In addition, he said that Chief Carli was not required to complete a written exam as part of his evaluation process—something that has been the long-running standard in the Everett Fire Department. Chief Carli scored highest on the other evaluation criteria, which an approved Assessment Center conducted last year, but the mayor has historically appointed the individual who scored highest on the written Chief’s exam.
“We were never involved in the process,” said Hardy. “We hope that the City will go with past practice and call for the chief’s written exam.”
Hardy added that there were several other union members who desired a fair shot at the position and that the union would have no choice but to file another grievance if the fire chief were promoted.
“We’re not here to prevent Carli from becoming chief,” he continued. “We are here to protect our members.”
However, Asst. Solicitor Slattery maintained that the mayor’s appointment of the fire chief was entirely legal and that Council had an obligation to vote on the matter.
“Municipalities, and not unions, have the right to determine this process,” he said. “The union does not necessarily need to be a part of it. Other cities have done it this way.”
Asst. Solicitor Slattery admitted that he had not had the time to review the sections in the union laws regarding promotions.
Some councilors expressed frustration that the conflict had just been brought to their attention and questioned whether it was responsible to appoint the chief in light of the new information.
“To vote for this tonight is truly irresponsible,” said Councilor Michael McLaughlin. “We were only told about this today. The administration did a disservice by not letting the Council know beforehand.”
Councilor Gerly Adrien concurred, stating that she had specifically asked the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Kevin O’Donnell on Thursday if there were any concerns with any of the promotions on Monday’s agenda and had been told that there were none.
“That’s a big concern for me,” said Councilor Adrien. “It’s not appropriate for us to make this decision.”
Councilor Anthony DiPierro disagreed.
“The gentleman has essentially been chief for a handful of years,” he said. “Let’s take this vote tonight.”
“The administration has the right to appoint the fire chief,” echoed Council President Rosa DiFlorio. “We are not here to get involved in labor negotiations.”
A motion by Councilor McLaughlin to move the matter to committee was not supported by his colleagues and the promotion was put up for a vote. Councilor Adrien was the sole councilor to vote against Chief Carli’s appointment.
“The way the City keeps hiring and promoting people without an open process is not right,” the councilwoman later told Independent. “Other [union members] were not given a fair chance.”