A former captain of North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue is using “false charges, phony statistics and deliberate misinformation” to try and degrade a department that is thriving despite severe obstacles, its chief said.
An angered Fire Chief Brion McEldowney told CLIFFVIEW PILOT a letter by a “disgruntled” Steve Winters “carries many false statements and does a great disservice to our fire department….Claims about lay-offs, firehouse closures, legal costs and public relations fees are all completely wrong.”
He also noted that Winters was “fired in 2007 for cheating taxpayers.”
“While collecting his full salary of $90,472 and claiming he was too sick to work for the NHRFR, Winters secretly worked for two other municipalities collecting second and third paychecks from the taxpayers,” the chief explained. “His firing was upheld by the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law and the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.”
Winters was previously suspended and demoted on other charges, upheld by both agencies, as well, McEldowney added.
The chief also took issue with complaints that a firehouse was out of service when a blaze broke out a few doors away.
“The truth is that a NHRFR engine company from a firehouse on 66th Street (four blocks away) arrived in approximately three minutes,” McEldowney said. “In total, 76 firefighters from the NHRFR and surrounding communities responded to the fire.”
Engine Company No. 9 on Kennedy Boulevard was “temporarily out of service because of a very effective policy to reduce excessive overtime costs that will save taxpayers $1.5 million this year,” the chief said, adding: “Obviously the fire unions don’t like this policy very much.
“Our department strives to meet the highest safety standards possible,” McEldowney said. “That doesn’t mean we need a fire engine on every corner.”
Winters, in turn, said he couldn’t comment on the chief’s remarks “other than to say the are simply not true. Those matters cited by the chief are currently in the state appeals court and have not been fully litigated. “
“It is unfortunate that some choose to retaliate against firefighters for speaking publicly on matters that directly affect the safety and well-being of the taxpayers and themselves,” he added. “That is a legal right that all firefighters have and a quality that a taxpayer certainly benefits from.
Winters did admit an error: The cost for the public relations firm “was actually just under $300,000, as extracted from official public records,” he said. “I apologize for the error.”
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