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Firefighters Union Votes to Censure Chief, Deputy Chief

Baihly Warfield
Updated: June 12, 2018 07:16 PM

The Duluth firefighters union has voted to submit a resolution censuring Chief Dennis Edwards and Deputy Chief Shawn Krizaj. 

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A statement from the Firefighters Local 101 said the censure resolution is a "formal way to express severe disapproval." 

Right now, the resolution is in draft form, according to IAFF 101 secretary Erik Roadfedlt. Union members at the June 6 and 7 meetings unanimously approved the draft. 

Roadfeldt said in an email the draft must be reviewed by the International Association of Fire Fighters first "and then voted on by delegates at the August biennial convention for it to become official and disseminated." 

The exact reasons leading to the censure resolution have not been released. However, the IAFF 101 statement said the union believes administration in the department is trying to change terms and conditions of employment without negotiations.

"In just two short years, we believe that Chief Edwards and Deputy Chief Krizaj have operated the department in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Minnesota Public Employment Labor Relations Act, the Local 101 collective bargaining agreement, and city policy," the statement says.

The union release also says they believe administration is trying to force the assistant chiefs and fire marshal out of Local 101 and into a separate supervisory association. 

In response, the city said this move follows a recent application to the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services to determine whether the fire department's assistant chiefs are supervisory employees. Currently, the assistant chiefs are members of the IAFF Local 101. 

"Duluth is currently the only Minnesota city of the first class that operates without a separate supervisory unit within its management structure other than a chief and deputy chief," a city release read.

According to the city, there are 143 people on the Duluth Fire Department in several different divisions. 

"The current management structure does not reflect public safety organizational best practices," the city release read.

According to Local 101, they brought the censure resolution forward "because we believe we've exhausted all other means at our disposal."

They said that there have been "many conversations" between union executive board members and the chiefs, Duluth mayor and Chief Administrative Officer, but "nothing is changing."

Chief Edwards provided a statement saying that he has committed his career to the public's safety and the safety of his colleagues. 

"I will continue to work with Duluth firefighters to maintain and improve the excellent and trusted service that the public expects and that the Duluth Fire Department provides," Edwards wrote.

An email to Deputy Chief Krizaj replied with an automatic message that he was out of the office until June 18. 

City of Duluth Chief Administrative Officer Dave Montgomery expressed "full faith and confidence" in Edwards and Krizaj. 

"We are hopeful the city and the union can work together to build on the department's excellent reputation of service to the community," Montgomery wrote.

Mayor Emily Larson has yet to comment.

Roadfeldt said the "list of grievances against the two chiefs" will likely change before the August convention but said he hopes the union's issues do not have to be brought forward. 

"We are hoping that conditions improve within the department and we can solve our issues internally before the August convention so we can pull the resolution from consideration," Roadfeldt wrote in an email to Eyewitness News. 

The union statement said the endgame is to "hold leaders accountable and apply pressure for positive change." 

The city's application for mediation is set to be heard at an administrative hearing later this summer. The IAFF convention is Aug. 6-10 in Seattle.

The Duluth City Council approved a new three-year contract with IAFF 101 in April. 

Edwards has been the chief since summer 2016.

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Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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