Fire Chief McDonnell's demands: Tuition reimbursement, protection for firefighters - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm / Updated at 10:27 pm
Fire Chief McDonnell's demands: Tuition reimbursement, protection for firefighters

Fire Chief Mike McDonnell tried to get several revisions to his deal with Mayor Jean Stothert last week before it fell apart.

Tuesday, the Mayor's Office released documents that it said contained McDonnell's demands: reimburse his tuition, assure that rigs won't be temporarily taken out of service and clarify something the mayor said.

McDonnell said the documents released by the Mayor's Office are misleading and are actually drafts created during the process that he never intended to submit.

Early last week, Stothert and McDonnell tentatively agreed to a deal that would block the city from laying off firefighters and keep rigs in service until next July, while ushering out the fire chief. McDonnell would get credit for an extra 14 months of service, qualifying him for the largest pension in city history.

The exact details of the deal were to be hammered out by a Friday deadline of 4:30 p.m.

The day before the deadline, McDonnell proposed a change, according to the Mayor's Office. He asked for tuition reimbursement and strengthened language requiring the city to keep rigs in service, saying they could not be removed temporarily even for economic reasons.

Stothert turned down the offer, spokeswoman Carrie Murphy said.

That night, in a television interview, Stothert addressed a state inspection that failed the Fire Department's paramedic training agency in seven of nine categories.

“The current paramedic class has been the source of controversy and increased costs in the Omaha Fire Department budget,” she said on TV. “The city is prepared to take action that is appropriate, which could include discipline and discontinuing the class.”

The next day, McDonnell submitted a new proposal, asking Stothert to say her comments were not directed toward him or his performance as fire chief, according to the Mayor's Office.

McDonnell also sought confirmation that the paramedic students would be eligible to try to test out of the program, the Mayor's Office said.

Stothert declined the proposal. In a statement, she said “Mr. McDonnell's demand is outside the scope of our agreement and we believe inappropriate for inclusion.”

McDonnell said he gave the mayor three signed versions of the agreement.

“None of them had anything to do with tuition,” he said. “I even took the (original memo) and signed it, wrote 'Agreement' on it. There can't be a dispute about language in that.”

He said that on Saturday, he told a city lawyer that he would agree to the original deal.

McDonnell remains on administrative leave, and city officials say he is under investigation.

Contact the writer: Matt Wynn

matt.wynn@owh.com    |   402-444-3144    |  

Matt does document- and data-driven stories and builds things for the Web that leverage both.

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