Documents Show Statewide Firefighters’ Union Leader Pressuring UCD to End Shared Services

In November of 2013, Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza, and former Supervisor Helen Thomson wrote a letter opposing the City of Davis-UC Davis agreement for shared management services between the City of Davis and UC Davis Fire Department.

Despite this outside pressure, the Davis City Council voted 3-2 to implement the agreement which placed then-UC Davis Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht in charge of both departments. Since that time, the Davis firefighters’ union has done everything it can to undermine the agreement.

The Vanguard has learned that Bobby Weist, who is the head of the Davis Professional Firefighters Association, has enlisted Lou Paulson, President of the California Professional Firefighters, to put political pressure on UC Davis.

After months of their attempts at a meeting with UC President Janet Napolitano, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) referred the matter to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.

They eventually arranged a meeting in September, which was originally scheduled to be between the chancellor and Lou Paulson; however, it was discovered that Bobby Weist and Captain Joe Tenney would also be in attendance. This caused a furor that got Joe Newman, President of the UCD Firefighters, and Melissa Cheney, who is in charge of Human Resources for the city, also to attend.

At the last minute, Chancellor Katehi could not attend, and Vice Chancellor Karl Mohr was the UC Davis point person.

The Vanguard has acquired correspondence between Bobby Weist, UC Davis and Lou Paulson.

In an email dated September 11, 2014, from Bobby Weist to Associate Vice Chancellor Karl Engelbach and Interim City Manager Gene Rogers, Mr. Weist writes, “Local 3494 embraces the suggestion that a mutually agreed upon, qualified neutral third-party be retained for the purpose of conducting an evaluation and independent audit of the agreement.” He continued, “Doing so will ensure that all parties are provided an objective examination and understanding of the adequacy and compliance of stated goals, as well as the effectiveness of the agreement’s implementation.”

Mr. Weist then offers that Local 3494 “fund the evaluation/audit and requests your support in establishing a reasonable time frame for parties to submit their respective recommendations and develop a scope of work to be conducted.”

On September 19, Vice Chancellor Mohr and Interim City Manager Rogers “provide” CPFA President Paulson with “additional information about the Agreement.”

They write, “We wish to provide additional information on three topics that we discussed during our meeting; liability with respect to personnel actions; the ‘pilot phase’ nature of the Agreement and assessing the efficacy of the shared management arrangement; and creating venues for ongoing discussion of local concerns.”

They continue, “Regarding your question about liability for personnel actions, both the City and the University believe the Agreement contains the necessary indemnification clauses. In particular, as was noted during our discussion, in executing the role of Fire Chief, decisions affecting City employees are made under the auspices of City labor agreements and are the City’s responsibility. Likewise, decisions affecting the University’s employees are made under the auspices of University labor agreements and are the University’s responsibility.

“Our colleagues from Local 3494 raised a question about the nature of the Shared Management Agreement in relation to a reference in a City staff report about a ‘pilot program,’ and whether an independent audit of the Agreement is needed,” they wrote. They noted that the term of the agreement is one year with an automatic renewal, unless either party provides written notice within six months.

They write, “Because July 1, 2014 has passed with no such notice being provided, the current Agreement will be in place at least through December 31, 2015.”

They add, “The City and the University have and will continue to assess the value and efficacy of the Agreement. Chief Trauernicht presents quarterly reports to the Davis City Council and monthly briefings to both the University and City Fire Departments. City and University executive leadership meet at least monthly to coordinate and collaborate on providing supervision to Chief Trauernicht.”

Most critically, they write, “We will continue to advise our respective leadership about the advisability of continuing the shared management arrangement pursuant to the Agreement. We do not believe an audit of the Agreement is necessary or appropriate at this time.”

Lou Paulson pushed back on September 23, arguing, “While your joint September 19th letter touches on some of the liability concerns raised during our September 5th meeting, what remains unclear is whether liability associated with scope of representation issues impacting Local 3494 members, should they arise, is the sole responsibility of the City of Davis and not UC Davis, or a combination thereof.”

More critically, however, he appears to question the veracity of Chief Trauernicht’s monthly reports, arguing, “The quarterly reports and monthly briefings provided by Chief Trauernicht may or may not provide an accurate assessment of the true efficacy of the arrangement given that a qualified, neutral third-party has not been retained to date for the purpose of properly examining the program.”

Mr. Paulson continues, “From programmatic deliveries to cost analyses, and a myriad of related deliverables in between, the Davis City Council has not had an opportunity to utilize information on the agreement that is provided by a neutral, third-party evaluator for the purpose of enlisting public discussion or debate at its regular Council meetings.”

He adds, “Has UCD independently engaged the services of an auditor and/or recently performed its own internal audit of the agreement’s cost-impact where findings may be useful in determining the effectiveness of the agreement? If not, CPF continues to question whether taxpayers to whom the City of Davis, UCD and their respective employees are accountable, are being adequately informed.”

Mr. Paulson writes, “As such, we support Local 3494’s offer to fund an audit in this regard and encourage both the City of Davis and UCD to partner with Local 3494 as soon as practically possible to move forward with such an independent examination.”

He continues, “Finally, we are encouraged by your commitment to enhancing communication among affected employees via regular meetings and look forward to hearing back from our affiliates — Local 3494 and Local 4920 — that such future meetings prove productive. To this end, please clarify your statement that ‘[t]o the extent that there are issues that transcend local boundaries, we will also convene meetings with both groups and fire management as appropriate.’

“The inter-agency agreement between the City of Davis and UCD is for ‘Shared Management’ of the City of Davis and UC Davis Fire Departments. As was mentioned in our September 5th meeting, the spirit and scope of the agreement does not provide for expanding beyond management positions or beyond City of Davis borders, including ‘mission creep’ into other municipalities or municipal services traditionally provided for by government.”

The Vanguard was informed that neither UC Davis nor the city of Davis responded to this letter.

This correspondence illustrates a few key points.

  • First, Bobby Weist is actively working to undermine the shared management agreement.
  • Second, the Davis firefighters’ union, led by Mr. Weist, wish to end the agreement and install a Davis chief in charge of the department, one whom Mr. Weist feels he is more likely to be able to control.
  • Third, he has solicited statewide union leader Lou Paulson to help put political pressure on UCOP and UC Davis to end the agreement.
  • Fourth, Mr. Paulson and Mr. Weist have reportedly gone so far as to solicit state legislators to pass legislation that would prohibit the University of California from shared agreements with municipalities for emergency services. Even if they found a taker, that legislation would be considered a long shot at best.

Clearly, the actions of Mr. Weist indicate that the firefighters’ union believes that UC Davis rather than the city of Davis is the weak link – but, for now, the chancellor is standing strong. At least right now UC Davis has signaled that they are strongly behind the agreement and rejected the idea of an independent auditor – which most feel is a canard that would give Mr. Weist an additional point of pressure.

The City of Davis, in the meantime, seems to still have three councilmembers backing the agreement. The two returning members of the Davis City Council who voted for the agreement have told the Vanguard that they strongly back the agreement. Recently-elected Councilmember Robb Davis stated during the campaign that he supported the agreement and has since reiterated that support.  While the new city manager has not publicly weighed in on this issue, the council majority is likely to be the most critical factor.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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52 thoughts on “Documents Show Statewide Firefighters’ Union Leader Pressuring UCD to End Shared Services”

  1. Tia Will

    Thanks David. You appear to have provided the additional information that I felt was needed prior to arriving at any conclusion. I continue to strongly support the “Shared Management Agreement” as what I believe to be in the best interests of the health and safety of both the UCD and city of Davis communities.

     

  2. Sam

    Why don’t we work to address some of Mr. Weist’s concerns with liability and contract out ALL fire services to UCD? That would lower the cost to the City, since UCD pays less than the City and Mr. Weist can find another job somewhere else since UCD would hire all new firefighters.

    1. Barack Palin

      Exactly Sam, it’s time to play hardball with the firefighter’s union.  If they aren’t happy with their jobs the way they are currently structured they can go find employment elsewhere.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  When they are gone the residents of the city can hold a party at Vito’s complete with a countdown.

        1. Sam

          OK, but when we have to pass another parcel tax to pay for the increased cost of Mr. Weist’s demands can we at least use an honest title for the new tax “Fire Union fee that adds no value to the community that could have been better used on decaying roads, large homeless population, social service programs and broken swimming pools.” Or will that not fit on the annual tax assessment?

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      I suggested this same thing a few years ago. What I would envision is having the three current city fire houses become UCDFD fire houses and the engines, trucks and other gear in each would be used by the UCDFD. All of the current UCDFD employees would remain in their jobs. All current DFD employees would have the opportunity to apply for a position in the new, larger UCDFD, which would provide fire service for all of Davis and UC Davis under the terms of the current UCDFD contracts.

      1. hpierce

        Rich… I suspect you know that UCD would never go there, based on their “stated” position that anything not academic is not funded except “by user fees” to fully compensate actual costs, plus, admin., plus…

        Not sure the City should go there, absent details.  Could easily see where UC would try to put all costs, UCD and City, on the backs of City taxpayers.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Historically, the university has been in favor of a merger of the two departments into one. The thought had always been to fold the UCDFD into the DFD. The main reason this never could be brought about is because the city firefighters make roughly twice as much money, and thus that sort of a merger would end up costing UCD twice as much for its fire labor. … All I am proposing is the reverse, to meld the city’s department into UCD’s, under the management of UCD (which already is in place) and the contract terms of the UCDFD (which would cost UCD nothing, but would save the city millions of dollars).

          The problem with doing what I suggest is, of course, the DFD, its union and other forces in city government, county government and state government, all tied to the unions and the Democrats, would fight that merger tooth and nail. As such, it’s a total non-starter. But again, you are wrong to think UCD is the sticking point. Union politics and union power in our city and on up is the problem. Unions run our state, starting with the CTA, which lords over all.

  3. Davis Progressive

    something interesting here is the reference perhaps to woodland as an expanded partner on joint services, it sounds like the union is scared to death of that approach.  maybe because they’ll lose interest, maybe because the more unions, the less bobby has the ability to bully local electeds.

      1. hpierce

        “fire marshall“, Lexicon artist? Methinks, “marshal”.  Please correct, or get the “l” out of your pomposity [meant as a friendly tease, and bad pun].

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I stand corrected. It is marshal. I’d like to claim a typo or auto-correct. But in truth, I was just wrong. (I looked.) Then again, I am the lexicon artist, not the orthographic artist.

  4. Frankly

    Question.

    I think 75% or more of fire department calls are for EMS.  Best practices require seeking reimbursement for up to 100% of related costs (medical billing etc.).   Does anyone know if this is being done, and if so, if it is being done to its full extent?

    1. Anon

      You want the individual assisted to pay for the full cost of EMS and fire services provided?  Health insurance costs are already high enough, and co-pays on individuals needing services can wipe folks out financially.

      1. Frankly

        No worries… Obamacare covers everyone and everything.

        Seriously though… I understand that it is common practice for EMS service to seek reimbursement when it is covered.  I just wondered if we are doing this in Davis.

      2. hpierce

        Nobody pays “full cost”… that is a joke.  Insurance pays ~ 10 cents on the dollar for what ambulance services bill, and they take it as full compensation.  People who have no insurance are billed for ~10 times actual cost, knowing that many will never pay, and to catch the uninformed, thinking that they really “should” owe the entire amount.  On this, Frankly and I agree, that the City should bill, but I suggest that it be billed at the amount reimbursable from insurance such as Kaiser (not the 10 X rate).  Makes sense to me.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Right, but if a fire company is called out to provide medical services, as they often do before the ambulance arrives, the City does not bill anyone for its medical services provided. That situation has not changed. However, I know that Rochelle Swanson was interested in seeing if Davis could charge for its medical services provided. … To me, unless the person is uninsured and poor, that seems reasonable.

        *The same logic would hold for almost all city services that the DFD provides for “free.” For example, if a fire crew arrives at a car accident and cuts open the vehicle to save the lives of the people inside, that should be a recoverable cost if ambulance transport is.

        1. hpierce

          Frankly… I am frankly surprised by your complaint that the public sector subsidizes and/or supports the profit margins of the private sector.  If you are involved in financing SF property loans, I could give more examples of where the private sector “uses” public sector resources to add to their profit margins.

  5. Frankly

    Related to the previous… we need to completely re-think and reform fire safety.  The number of fires is WAY down due to significant advances in fire safety construction code and materials fire safety improvements.  The population is aging and traffic continues to increase… the point here is that “fire fighting” is much less the need as is emergency medical response.

    How might fire safety 2.0 need to look if we were to optimize service with REAL need?

    Here is one fire district trying something different: http://contracostafirefighters.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/press-release-cccfpd-ems-squad-pilot-program-agreement-by-firefighters/

  6. Anon

    Same old, same old.  The pressure brought to bear by the head of the firefighters union to get his way on fire department issues is not working.  This is nothing new.  Cheers to the City Council and UCD for standing strong and giving shared management a chance to succeed.  Just as Phil Coleman predicted, it is not likely shared management is going away; nor is it likely the current fire chief is going anywhere unless of his own accord.  To try and gut shared management at this juncture would be political suicide.

    In my day, we had an all volunteer fire department that worked just fine.  Just saying’…

    1. Davis Progressive

      “The pressure brought to bear by the head of the firefighters union to get his way on fire department issues is not working.”

       

      i think you underestimate the risk.  the pressure is working on some people and it’s making the good people involved in this process want to get out of dodge.

        1. South of Davis

          Student firefighters may not be common but it is not “ridiculous”.

          The current issue of the Stanford Alumni Magazine has a letter to the editor that says:

          “My sophomore year, a friend got me an interview with the fire chief, who brought me in as a student fireman. We got our room and $60 per month for working every other night. About a dozen of us lived at the station, two to a room. My roommate, Dennis, was a center on the football team. I write this to let you know what was common for a scholarship athlete then. Although it was difficult to balance all the work, study, training and competing, I considered myself extremely lucky. ”

          https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=74797

    2. South of Davis

      Anon:

      > To try and gut shared management at this juncture would be political suicide.

      I’m not so sure about this since so few people pay attention to what is going on.  If the union is putting pressure on the city to have Chief Weist run the Fire Department in town separate from UC Davis the city will buckle to the union pressure UNLESS the people put pressure on them to let them know it is “political suicide” (I don’t see this pressure from the voters yet)…

  7. DavisBurns

    Using firefighters as first EMS responders is a win win situation.  Yes, the number of fires is quite low therefore the firefighters need regular practice: EMS response provides that practice.  If firefighters didn’t respond, they would have to establish other non-productive ways to practice.  Perhaps training practice is a part of what we pay them for and shouldn’t be billed to anyone because it is necessary for them to be prepared when there is a fire.  They are well paid and a large portion of their time is waiting, why not use their time and skills for the benefit of the community?

    1. Jim Frame

      As a member of Davis CERT for the last 5 years, I’m living proof that emergency response skills get stale fast without regular exercise.  DFD oversees Davis CERT and coordinates most of our training, but it’s a challenge to get a bunch of volunteers in the same place at the same time with a knowledgeable trainer, so we usually start each exercise from a remedial position.  Even basic skills like radio operation and traffic control have to be maintained in order to work smoothly in an emergency, so having firefighters respond to non-fire calls is a no-brainer.

  8. PhilColeman

    Just noted Davis Progressive’s response. A “few weeks” now becomes July, 2015. and the prediction has been downgraded to a “guess.”

    Marked my July 2015 calendar and UCD fire pulls out, Got it.

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      that is based on this information:

      They noted that the term of the agreement is one year with an automatic renewal, unless either party provides written notice within six months.
      They write, “Because July 1, 2014 has passed with no such notice being provided, the current Agreement will be in place at least through December 31, 2015.”

      1. hpierce

        Ok… it’s now a true bet.  Phil… can I get in on the action?  If Weist et. all torpedo the status quo today, I’ll apologize and admit error.  If the other side of the bet wins, I expect the same.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I sense it could go either way. Right now there are three councilmembers in support of shared management. However, that may be tenuous and the university could decide at some point that the Davis Firefighters Union is more trouble than its worth and cut bait. July 1 appears to be the key date.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            sorry, it’s the accurate assessment at the this time. there are a few factors up in the air that have to play out and depending on how they play out, the agreement could remain or be eliminated.

  9. PhilColeman

    Questions for Lou Paulson:

    Chief Trauernicht’s detailed monthly reports on performance results since the merger are judged by you with the term “may or may not be true.” The statistical performance measures shown reflect the actions of your constituents, they even helped in their compilation.  Presumably you have asked them as to their veracity. Was your ambiguous judgment of Trauernicht’s reporting efforts reflective of ambiguous assessments from your constituents?

    “May or may not” judging report accuracy is far from compelling evidence in support of a costly audit. Please provide some specifics in the “may not be true” alternative that gives legitimacy to your concern.

    This independent audit that you ask the city and university to initiate (and you are willing to pay for), you have the interest and you have the resources, how about the Fire Fighter Union commission an audit on its own initiative? The University turned you down, the City apparently was never even asked. So, how about doing it yourself?

     

  10. Tia Will

    For those who are advocating charging for emergency medical services , I would have the following questions. Is there a difference between both subsidizing with our tax dollars and then having to pay for a service or just paying for the service outright ? If you believe that the person who uses the service should pay for it, do you believe that there should be different rates based on the quality of the service, or the rapidity of the service ?  Would a call to an address with an inhabitant deemed less likely to be able to pay get the same service as someone from a very affluent neighborhood ? How long do you think it would take for a “differential service” mentality to start manifesting ?  We don’t exactly get the same service at the Dollar Store that we get at Nordstroms, nor the same at McDonalds that we expect at Chez Panisse ? Do we really anticipate that this would be any different ? Is differential service in emergency medical support services that we already pay for really what we want ?

    1. Anon

      I would like to add to Tia’s point.  We already have citizens (particularly seniors) who hesitate to call 911 for a medical emergency because they cannot or do not want to pay for the EMS bill that comes, either as a co-pay or a straight bill if they didn’t have insurance.  If added onto that bill is the cost of the fire department services as well, for the fire dept getting there 1 minute earlier than EMS, these hesitant folks are even less likely to call 911 – even if they are in dire need of services.  IMO, charging the user for the fire dept services on medical calls is not a good idea.  And believe me, if the insurance companies have to cover fire service bills, they pass that cost on to the customer, and everyone’s insurance rates will increase.

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