Fairfax: When Big Boys Pout

And The Evidence Mounts

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This is a story about a young woman dying while grown men complain about the bad news they have to hear.

Oh, the agony.

One guy said, ” I think it’s time for you to write something good…”

and

“All you want to do is beat us down.”

Who’s got the pacifier?

Dave McCormack, RIP

Dave McCormack

Dave McCormack

My first boss at the IAFF was the venerable Dave McCormack, former FDNY Assistant Chief and captain at 58 Engine in Harlem.

Whenever he heard someone bullshitting themselves he would roll his eyes and say, “We can tell any lie we want as long as we don’t start believing them ourselves.”

His point: get real and then get over yourself.

My colleagues need the spirit of Dave in their lives as they are believing their own bullshit, en masse.

Is the Medicine Too Bitter?

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Their criticism of my criticism is that “There is nothing constructive in your writings.”

Really?

How abut this, “self-reflection and assessment is much the proper course.”

Or this: Most of all, Statter made a strong call for transparency, calling for frequent updates and that the investigation go wherever it leads.”

Or this, “As part of the call for transparency Bowers should provide a complete accounting of any contact his administration had with Nicole in the weeks leading up to her suicide.  Such an accounting would include not just visits to the “office” but also phone calls, texts, emails, etc.  Bowers needs to be completely open and transparent as he proceeds, revealing all he knows, as soon as he knows it.”

Or this, “This is the time to search our souls, lay the cards on the table, let truth prevail.”

Or this, “Make sure the tough questions get asked, and answered.

Or this, “The Board of the Local should meet immediately to take the following steps:

1)  Take a formal position protesting the Fire and Rescue Department assuming any role in an investigation of Nicole’s death.

2)  Petition that the Fairfax County Police or the FBI be responsible for fully examining the circumstances of her passing.

3)  Hire a regarded and experienced criminal attorney to provide the local and the membership with a legal brief identifying criminal statutes that may be used to prosecute those suspected of harassment and bullying.

4) Lobby the Board of Supervisors, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the press to keep the issue a top priority.

Or this, “The right course would be for the Fairfax County Federation of Civic Associations to appoint a panel with full authority to investigate the incident, including holding public hearings,  and to issue a report to the Board of Supervisors. ”

Or this, “Bower’s first act should be to provide a report covering the last five years detailing every effort he has made to keep Fire & Rescue Department members trained up on workplace tolerance and anti-harassment and bullying.”

Or this, “Let’s not let anonymous cowards employing phony and unfairly applied sexual rules destroy the vision of a progressive and fair Fire and Rescue Department.

I see the problem.

I spend a lot of time around fifth-graders and some are relentlessly praised by their handlers for their inherent specialness.

Any critique must be bookmarked by sugary compliments lest they feel the awful sting of reality.

The fire and rescue department is now similarly run where the facts of life are drowned out by brotherly bullshit bonhomme chit chat.

The fire department is a red sandbox and the toys are leather helmets and tiller trucks while the kiddies romp about in shorts.

Hugs all around.

Catch the News Lately?

As a learned friend said the other day, “the red wall is crumbling.”

Those stones whacking you on the head represent the reality of an organization awash in a devastating crisis where leaders have aided and abetted the creation of a culture where women are blatantly victimized.

This is a place where an officer once said the department was full of c**ts and runts.

Each day brings a new revelation or sordid detail about a sexualized workplace targeting women, usually by those in power.

Good news, kiddies, is in very short supply.

Leadership Vacuum: Playing to the Kitchen Table

Dave Statter  recently enumerated the rapidly mounting questions for fire chief Bowers.

One senses that facing the tough issues is not Bowers’ forte as he is much better at giving the fifth graders what they want.

The firehouse parlance for this is playing to the kitchen table where the idea is to keep the toddlers happy with sweets whilst cooing soft lullabies in their ears.

But, the results, as we are seeing, can be devastating.

Nor has the local done their job.

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Niemiec and the board are at best complicit in failing to act and then failing to react.

They are both subordinate and subservient when their obligation is to question, protect and defend.

They have cast their lot with a fire chief who clams up and then hums loudly when answers are demanded.

Dave, Again

Churchill

Churchill

It was an honor to work for Dave McCormack who was a leader both by training and instinct.

He was also a great reader and we would occasionally trade books or talk about them.

It occurs to me that Dave, if musing, might see the current Fairfax leadership failures, both labor and management, through the eyes of William Manchester, surely one of the greatest biographers of Winston Churchill.

Churchill, overbearing, over-drinking and often exasperating, faced the crisis of his life at age 65 when as a House of Commons leader he chose to fight the injustice of Hitler rather than appease him.

Churchill offers an object lesson on eschewing so called “good news” when reality says otherwise.

Stand up and speak out for justice and fairness.

Don’t appease bullies and predators.

You might be surprised at the difference you can make.

Warning:  courage (and maturity) required.

 http://www.turnoutblog.com/2016/04/26/the-mittendorff-tragedy-leadership-and-workplace-sexualization/

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

  • Tim McMenamin says:

    Keep up the fight for transparency, Brother I am heartbroken over the recent events of my former Department

  • Cortez Lawrence says:

    Eric: Tough article. Two comments; I worked with Dave in the 90s as we built the 1710 std. I had great respect for him intellectually and for his career that spanned the FDNY to Superintendent at the NFA! He as a scrappy little guy who enjoyed a good tussle! Between him and Rich Duffey (bad cop, worse cop) and Brunno’s masterful chairmanship, the made 1710. I am not sure Dave gets the credit he deserves for that. He is an icon in our world. RIP.
    On the lawyer issue, you don’t really want a criminal attorney, they defend the sleaze you are attempting to uncover. They try to answer the tough questions you want asked. You need a good investigative attorney, probably one who has worked as a prosecutor and better yet, one who may have been or is still a firefighter, Curt Varone comes to mind and there are certainly others.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Thanks, Cortez. Actually, you do want a criminal attorney as they know the field and besides, many prosecutors go on to become very accomplished criminal lawyers, as well. It’s where the money is.

  • Sandy Cap,e says:

    It is so hard to hear the words Brothers and sisters, when the union wants to send a message out to the troops. Start standing up for the women in the department who are struggling because of lack of action..then you can use the term sister to me…The department a long time ago was under Justice Department mandate because of discrimination, you can sure tell that was lifted because we have slowly went back to before that was leveled. There are so many really good men and women out there working the job…being tainted by the few bad apples…..some of those bad apple at the top who should be settingthe example. Just my thoughts….

  • MK says:

    Eric,
    Judging by your continued criticism, I take it that you really don’t know what has been going on in the FCFRD in the wake of Nicole’s death. Several of the items you said needed to be done are currently being worked on. Members are continuously updated about issues brought to light in the wake of her passing. Upper management is engaged, as is the Local. Changes have already begun and will continue to be made. Those of us truly on the inside know that the organization is actively responding. You are not an insider. Sorry that no one has seen fit to constantly update YOU about all that is occurring. That fact doesn’t mean that nothing is going on. Continuing to pile on the organization when you clearly do not have the complete and correct information is not helpful. It makes you an additional part of an already complex problem.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      M-

      As for being informed, I am, and constantly, I might add.

      You don’t have to be on the “inside” for that, you just need friends and others who want the truth to be told.

      Those I have, too.

      For you and your’s, exposing the truth is to “to pile on the organization.”

      Are you all really that fragile?

      You say, “Changes have already begun and will continue to be made.”

      If true, those changes should be widely communicated as public trust has been seriously damaged, a fact which silence only increases.

      It took WUSA to make a change in the laughingly labeled “Office of Professional Standards” and it looks like the rest is up to the Federal District Courts.

      Tragically it took Nicole’s death to expose the sexualized and predatory nature of the department and by your own choice of language, (“inside” and “insider”), you still view it as some sort of secret kingdom walled off from the norms of civilization, a concept doomed to failure.

      You’re in the bubble and you don’t even realize it.

      E

  • Lara says:

    Thank you for speaking out, no matter whom it bothers. If they’re uncomfortable, it’s because they’re trying to rationalize burying the bad so they don’t have to deal.

  • Lisa McCauley Allen says:

    We may never know the truth. The truth has passed. Rest in peace Nicole.

  • Christine Penska Cournoyer says:

    Keep up the good work Eric. This tragedy should have never happened. Been going on way too long….. Thanks again

  • Its not surprising that an incident like this occurred being bullied and constant attempts at intimidation by Fairfax County’s “goon” squad made up of higher ranking officers who forgot not only where they came from but forgetting they have children regardless of age that could very well experience something similar or worse. Hey Sandy remember being told that you were in “OPERATIONS CROSS HAIRS if you don’t I do and trying to figure out just wtf did you to be in the cross hairs, maybe speaking up for a wrong, maybe turning down an unwanted intimate advance, maybe not backing down, or just maybe being yourself, or maybe just doing your job it’s so perplexing and amazing to to me how life as short as it is and this job how rewarding it’s supposed to be, end up being as culpable for such deeds.

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