OFD chief ‘unprepared' when Hurricane Irma hit, union says

Chief Williams calls allegations 'false' says department had clear plan

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - A group of Orlando firefighters cast a vote of no confidence in department Chief Roderick Williams this week after, the group said, he was unprepared for Hurricane Irma.

The Orlando Professional Fire Fighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1365 sent out a news release Monday after 93 percent of its members who voted expressed their lack of confidence in Williams during a vote.

“Fire chief Williams has demonstrated time and time again that he does not understand the importance of the position he holds and shows little respect for the men and women who serve this community,”Orlando Professional Fire Fighters President Ronald Glass said. “His failed (sic) leadership has placed this city on the verge of a public safety crisis.”

Williams called the vote a bullying tactic and said "It's not reflective of the entire department."

Almost 600 firefighters are in the union, 265 participated in the vote.

The group alleges that Williams was unprepared for Hurricane Irma due to a lack of planning days before the storm's arrival.

After the storm, the chief sent additional firefighters home but later had to call them back, according to the statement.

The group also alleges that Williams took up to four days to dispatch firefighters to assist Orlando special needs citizens.

Williams denied all of the union's allegations and said the department had a clear plan for Irma.

"False, I can't say it enough. False," Williams told News 6. "We had plans prior, during and after."

Glass said that the issues stem as far back as the Pulse nightclub shooting, which happened one door down from Orlando Fire Station 5 on June 12, 2016.

“Williams and his senior command staff were absent throughout the event,” and did not arrive until 6 a.m., according to the news release. The gunman, Omar Mateen, was dead by 5:30 a.m. after opening fire in the nightclub, killing 49 and injuring more than 50 others.

The group said Williams has failed to provide support for the members who responded the night of the tragedy and not addressed the health and safety issues firefighters face.

“During Williams’ tenure, three firefighters have suffered a cardiac arrest, numerous firefighters are battling cancer and over 70 firefighters have participated in the UCF Restores Program that was developed for first responders to cope with job related trauma,” according to the news release.

Glass closed his statement calling for action from the city and Williams before a “public safety crisis” arises.

According to the Orlando Business Journal, Williams makes more than $156,00 a year. Williams was appointed chief in 2015 by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Dyer told News 6 that he has "great confidence" in Williams' leadership and said that he thought the union had an ulterior motive with the vote and news release.

"I am disappointed that the union is using this type of antic to attempt to influence the contract negotiation process," Dyer said. "The city has worked hard to negotiate a contract with the fire unions that balances our commitment to supporting our firefighters, ensuring public safety and our fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.”

Copyright 2017 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.