Union Disputes Appointment of New Montgomery Fire Chief Charles Bailey

Source: Montgomery Community Media

Montgomery County, Maryland, has been experiencing a tough time recently. Its pick for fire chief has been denied because of new allegations surrounding the man’s record as a public officer. Let’s see why the eleven-member council voted against having Charles Bailey as the next fire chief.

Lots To Recommend Him For the Job

Bailey has quite a track record, with experience running large operations divisions like the fire department. He also helped the county through COVID-19, showing off his managerial skills.

Source: Flickr/Mick Chester

Unfortunately, the firefighters’ union thinks that Bailey is the wrong man for the job. They’ve erupted in open feuding with County Executive Marc Elrich (D) over who’s to blame.

A Fine Balance to Walk

Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large) mentioned that this is a particularly difficult time for responders and public safety leaders, and the county needs to get things right the first time around.

Source: Flickr/Martin Taylor

For the public, much unknown knowledge has been shared behind closed doors. Much of the issues regarding Bailey come from the union itself, highlighting a side of him the public hasn’t seen.

Private Meetings Open The Floodgates

Council members addressed union members in private meetings to get a feel for Bailey. Unfortunately, they didn’t get what they expected out of these meetings.

Source: Flickr/North Dakota National Guard

Three officials have stated that several concerns were raised about putting Bailey in such a position, and the complaints were serious enough to be forwarded to the Montgomery County Inspector General’s Office.

A Vague News Release Raises More Questions

The Montgomery County Inspector General’s Office subsequently released a news release that didn’t go into specifics but mentioned that certain senior fire officials engaged in misconduct.

Source: Unsplash/Debby Ledet

Although the name on the press release was omitted, most people who were aware of the situation stated that it had to be Bailey. A few days later, Bailey’s council support dwindled.

What Sort of Misconduct?

The press release doesn’t go into particulars but mentions “hands-off” and decorum provisions that senior officials were expected to abide by. Several other provisions were included.

Source: Flickr/Adam Cohn

Among the things the “senior official” was accused of engaging in included unwelcome touching, demeaning language, and potentially harmful play with other employees.

Still a Good Fit?

Elrich was still convinced that Bailey was a good fit for the position, even though he refused to comment on the inspector’s report, which was sent to him in full for perusal.

Source: Flickr/tgerus

Elrich said he would have no problem putting Bailey forward again but noted that they didn’t have the council’s support to confirm him, so there was no point in doing so.

Police Chief Also About to Retire

Aside from the county lacking a Fire Chief, it’s also about to lose its Chief of Police. The current chief, Marcus Jones, took the job a few years ago and is slated to retire this summer.

Source: Flickr/Corde11

Jones’ journey to the top was also tricky since he was first dismissed by Elrich, who put forward three other candidates that the council shot down before confirming Jones.

A Long Search For A New Chief

It took Elrich a year to finally get a new police chief for the county, and he might be in for a similar long haul regarding the fire chief. With Bailey ruled out, it means that he will need new candidates.

Source: Flickr/Englishpointers (Hate Sleep Apneoa)

The last fire chief, Scott Goldstein, announced his retirement last spring, and the search has been going on since then. There is some dispute about whether Elrich listened to the union’s initial complaints.

Union Mounts Complaints Multiple Times

Union president Jeff Buddle mentions that the union raised their concerns about Bailey six times between November 2022 and November 2023. Elrich rebuffed them for their statements.

Source: arstechnica

When asked whether Elrich understood their concerns, he stated that the council heard what they had to say but chose to ignore it and move forward with the nomination anyway.

Interviews Went Well

After Elrich decided to confirm Bailey as the chief, he submitted his name to the council so that they could ratify it. The council took the time to talk to Bailey and decide if he was a good fit.

Source: Flickr/Jack Sem

By all measures, Bailey looked like the man for the job. Naturally, the council also asked for an endorsement from heads of departments and other senior officials to qualify him for the position.

Senior Leadership has No Complaints

No less than twelve division chiefs and assistant chiefs vouched for Bailey in front of the council. Senior leadership at the department wrote to endorse Bailey for the job.

Source: Flickr/Lee Cannon

They stated that he had the intellect, character, and overall focus on the health of the employees, which made him the perfect man as the county’s fire chief. Not everyone was in agreement, however.

Unions Strike Back

Union President Buddle wrote to Andrew Friedson (D-District 1), who became council president on December 5th. In the letter, Buddle noted a survey of 1,235 bargaining unit employees to determine whether they supported Bailey as their next chief.

Source: Flickr/New York National Guard

Only 826 employees responded, but of those, 81% stated that they did not support Bailey. Buddle never publicly said what the union was worried about regarding Bailey, only that it was a personnel-related matter.

Union May Want Their Own Candidate

Elrich’s original pick for chief might have been defeated, but he thinks that there’s a calculated reason for the defeat. He assumes the union wants someone with a stronger union-based background as the chief.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The union’s choice is a former union president for over eleven years, who’s a fire chief running a five-station department. Elrich declined to say if he’d take the union’s option.

Concerns Were Right To Be Raised

While the accusations remain unproven, they should be investigated. The union may have an interest in ensuring Bailey doesn’t make it to chief because they could get someone they want into the position.

Source: The Student Lawyer

Bailey could take the matter to a public hearing and address it for everyone to see, but that may require Elrich to resubmit Bailey’s name. Even so, there is no guarantee that the council will arrange a public hearing for Bailey to contest the charges against him.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

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