Richmond firefighter’s union votes ‘no confidence’ in fire chief

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Richmond home badly damaged in fire
Photo credit: Mike Kinney

By Mike Kinney

Members of Richmond Firefighters Local 188, the union representing the city’s firefighters, have voted “no confidence” in Fire Chief Angel Montoya’s ability to lead the RFD and are calling for his firing or resignation.

In a statement, Local 188 said Chief Montoya’s “refusal to address pressing safety issues, unwillingness to meet and confer, and his excessive absence from the City of Richmond,” make him “incapable of running a safe, functonal, and cost-effective fire department.”

“It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this,” Richmond Firefighters Local 188 Union President Mike Velazquez said in the statement. “Union leadership made every effort to meet with Chief Montoya to voice our concerns. His refusal to meet with us while we have so many safety issues has left us no choice.”

Chief Montoya has not yet responded to the Standard’s request for comment about the union’s allegations.

Local 188 said its representatives met with the city manager to express their concerns “to no effect,” prompting the union to go public about the matter.

Local 188 charges Chief Montoya with allowing staffing levels to reach such low levels that “firefighters are commonly working up to 480 continuous hours without time off to rest.” The union says the chief refuses to meet and discuss work conditions or a program to address firefighter mental health. As a result, it has reportedly begun an Unfair Labor Practice Complaint with the State of California Public Employee Relations Board.

Local 188 further went on to state that the chief is “regularly absent from his office, spending much of his time at his home in Orange County,” which it said resulted in his absence at critical public safety incidents.

Velazquez told the Standard in an interview that the chief rarely attends community events or attempts community connections. He said Local 188 “never wanted to shine this kind of light on our department, city, or council.”

“We have exhausted all other means including talks with the City Manager and attempts to meet with the Fire Chief,” the union president said. “Local 188 was not able to get through to the City of our concerns as a membership. We had no other choice but to file a letter of ‘No Confidence’ in Fire Chief Montoya.”

Velazquez said he hopes the community “can see why we had to take such drastic measures.”