January 10, 2013

Portland councilor wants full report on fireboat accident released

By Randy Billings rbillings@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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The MV City of Portland IV fireboat

Jack Milton/Staff Photographer

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Suslovic said he is planning to challenge the city's position.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who was recently appointed to the Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee, said she would like the city to release a full account so lingering questions can be answered, but that may not be possible.

"I think transparency is the better road to take, but here I think we're stymied by the law," she said.

The positions of other members of the Public Safety, Heath and Human Services Committee are unclear. When contacted Wednesday afternoon, Councilor Jill Duson had not read the arbitrator's report. Councilor John Coyne did not return calls for comment.

The suspended firefighters appealed their punishments, with the help of Local 740 of the International Association of Firefighters, the union representing the city's 234 firefighters.

The independent arbitrator ruled that the boat should have never left the "Destroyer Channel," but when it did, the arbitrator said, Goodall should have alerted Murphy to the marked underwater object.

"As engineer, (Goodall) should have alerted the pilot to possible hazards and, as lookout, should have been more aware of his surroundings," the arbitrator wrote.

The arbitrator, however, reduced the punishments of the men because of their good employment history and ordered the city to pay $878 in back wages to Goodall and $278 to Murphy.

An attempt to reach Goodall and Murphy through the union Wednesday was unsuccessful.

City officials have said the firefighters were not punished for having civilians aboard, since the city did not have a policy against it.

When asked about the dispute over the release of more information, Mayor Michael Brennan said he trusts city staff's opinion that the arbitrator's report is the only document the city can legally release.

"I don't mind providing information to the public," he said. "I prefer to err on the side of making information available, but at the same time, we can't violate state law."


Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:
Twitter: @randybillings


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