LAWRENCE (CBS) — Acting Chief Brian Murphy told Mayor William Lantigua Thursday night that he is stepping down as acting fire chief after the Lawrence City Council voted to give more power to the mayor over Murphy’s position, and remove it from civil service.
Murphy told the council that the position should be kept under civil service because it would become too political. He also claims that the mayor has put him under a “gag order” with a legal threat because he has been warning about dangerous conditions in the city.
Now, Mayor Lantigua is speaking out in response.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports.
“We were elected to make fundamental changes and that part of what I’m trying to accomplish. It’s just part of my job,” he said. “I was elected to make fundamental changes. I’m not rejoicing at this issue, I’m not looking at it as a personal gain, another victory. It’s just another step in the right direction to bring the city along where it should go.”
Mayor Lantigua says the fire chief was the only department head in the city not approved by the Mayor and City Council. He says 289 other communities in Massachusetts already have fire chief’s outside of civil service.
“We came in with a deficit close to $25 million, and we need people who put the interest of the citizens first, not the interest of the union.” The mayor said, “Mr. Murphy is a great person, but I think his role as fire chief is a role he has not yet understand. He cannot take the hat of the union representative, and put the hat of the manager, protecting his own workers at the time. That’s a problem. He has had a big problem trying to make that distinction between one job and another.”
In response to Murphy’s claims that Lantingua “gagged” him from speaking out about unsafe conditions, Lantigua says, “No city official representing the city is to make comments that scare the community. And every meeting he went to, that’s what he was doing. Literally telling people the safety of the city and that’s against the law. I said this is the law you do it again, and you will be suspended.”
Lantigua says he will have a widespread search for a new fire chief. “We are making progress. If you look at the books, for the first time in 20 years we are balancing the books on time and in real numbers. With real projections for revenue, not false expectations.”