November 1, 2014
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Firefighters reprimanded for attending marina party

The camera zooms in on a Warwick special hazards truck. The shadows are long. It’s evening.

The voice is that of Rob Cote, who led the car tax revolt several years ago and since has shot and disseminated a number of videos reportedly taken while following public works trucks. According to his reports, the trucks spent a lot of time driving around the city but not much more than that.

In his latest video that he sent out last Tuesday, Cote tells the viewer there’s no fire at the dock, at the pool or the boat storage area. He says he’s “relaxing” on his boat; it’s June 24 and that it’s 7:49 p.m.

So, he raises the question, what’s a million dollar piece of equipment doing at Greenwich Bay Marina, which is in the Cowesett section of Warwick?

“Let’s find out,” he says.

And then the camera shows the marina gazebo. People are congregated around it. They appear to be talking in what appears to be a social setting although, from the grainy photos, it’s hard to identify them or tell what they are doing.

Cote intones that it’s a party and catches a picture of what could be a pizza box on the ground. He says the firefighters are “having a grand old time on the taxpayer’s dime.”

The YouTube video clip, the subject of the Dan York WPRO talk show, and stories by Channel 10 and the Providence Journal have prompted an outcry from some residents wanting an explanation. Last Thursday, the mayor’s office responded. It was reported that three firefighters had been reprimanded.

The following statement was released by the mayor’s office: “My administration became aware of the video regarding the Fire Department Special Hazards team members, and, accordingly, I instructed Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong to investigate these allegations immediately. The employees involved have been reprimanded and disciplined. Because this is a personnel matter, the City is unable to comment further.”

On Sunday, Mayor Scott Avedisian was asked what a reprimand entailed. He said letters went into the personnel files of the three men. They were reprimanded on the basis they were outside of their district while on duty – the truck is stationed on Post Road, near Ann & Hope, and the marina is in Cowesett. Would they have their pay docked?

“We don’t know how long they were there,” he answered.

But he believes there’s more to the story than what the video shows. He said the city requested the full video, but Cote hasn’t provided it. And he speculates that the firefighters might have been set up to take the fall. He didn’t identify who invited the firefighters to the marina.

But why would a special hazards truck go to a marina when there isn’t a fire?

Avedisian said that, in the wake of the Edgewood Yacht Club fire, the department has questioned how it would or should fight a marina fire. He said the department initiated a program to assess marinas to determine what the department would face when responding to a fire. This, presumably, would take into consideration the length of docks, proximity to hydrants and other issues that could impact the ability to fight fires.

Cote said he doesn’t believe it.

He recounted how the incident happened on Sunday. He said on the evening of June 24 he went down to the marina to check on his boat about 7. When he pulled into the lot, he spotted the special hazards truck and didn’t think much of it. While at the boat, he said he received a call from a client and, after nearly 40 minutes on the phone, the phone battery was close to being drained. When he returned to his car to charge it, he said the fire truck was still there. He wondered what was happening, looked around and saw the party at the gazebo and started recording the scene with his phone.

He said a couple of men saw what he was doing and a woman who was with them walked over to Cote’s car and blocked his view. He said she demanded to know why he was taking pictures of her, while she was blocking his view of the gazebo. With no mention of the firefighters, he said she volunteered, “They weren’t drinking.” As this was happening, Cote said, the three men skirted the area and returned to the truck and left.

Cote said he then called fire dispatch, identified himself, said what he had seen and asked for the chief’s number. He said the chief told him he would have to check out the story and get back to him. In about an hour, he said, the chief called and reported the men had been reprimanded.

Cote said he told the chief he was fed up with the wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money and he was going to post the video.

Acting chief of staff and City Planner William DePasquale said yesterday the firefighters “exercised poor judgment” by attending the party. He did not make an issue of the video or how the information was disseminated.

“If the action was not appropriate it doesn’t matter who brought it up. It was not appropriate.”

He said the chief acted “swiftly” in dealing with the situation when it came to his attention and that the men involved have been reprimanded.


Comments
28 comments on this item

Mayor Avedisian is supposed to report to the City Council and the people of Warwick, not the firefighters. The firefighters were responsible for the truck. If they took it to a party at a marina then they should not expect to "be protected" while the city was left bare. Arnolds Neck Road is not exactly an easy road on which to respond to an emergency - say at the Warwick Mall.

The mayor must get out of the mindset "Because this is a personnel matter, the City is unable to comment further." What would have happened if someone died because of this. Would he keep saying "the City is unable to comment further." The police department has some special protections built into personnel complaints issues. Do other city employees have similar protections?????

The truth is they did nothing wrong, what Rob fails to show in his little snitch video is that they stopped by for five minutes. They have very right to take the truck to do pre plans and inspections that the city and mayor require us to do. 40 minutes is the biggest lie going. That's why Rob won't w

Show more of the video. Talk about making a big deal of nothing. The captain is nothing more than a lying manipulative little weasel.... So when we are in the public WORKING and someone says hello we can't stop and say hello back? Give me a break.

It really is incredible how Mayor Avedisian issues a statement on Thursday reprimanding the firefighter thus acknowledging they did somthing wrong and then in his next breath he "speculates that the firefighters might have been set up to take the fall" with nothing what so ever to substantiate his claim.

Another flip-flop, dog chases it tail moment from the Mayor. This guy needs to go. Thankfully we have an opportunity to retire him in September.

Steve: You're so right. I'm sure the gang was at the party was engaged in "pre plans". Six municipalities in the Unites States have more firemen than policemen. All six are located in RI. Humorous, pathetic, and yet another reason why the state, and city, continues it's death spiral.

Special Hazards is a city wide truck. It responds to fires, accidents, technical rescues and hazmat situations throughout the entire city. It's district is the entire city. To say it was out of district is completely erroneous. Furthermore, firefighters pre-plan locations all the time. It's huge part of the job and is standard practice nationwide. When something is burning, it's not the time to find out where the hydrants are, where the standpipe connections are, where the sprinkler connections are etc. Companies need to know these things before a fire starts. So they go out and plan in advance. It is completely feasable that these firefighters were pre-planning and were engaged by some residents in conversation. There is nothing to suggest these firefighters "attended a party." Firefighters have conversations with residents while out and about performing functions of the job daily. Shame on the Mayor for admittedly reprimanding workers without knowing the whole story.

?

The mayors acting chief of staff addmitted that they were out of the district. End of story. How much more evidence do people need?

JonStark, your comment is a classic kitchen sink argument. You say nothing to refute the claim that they could have been pre-planning and instead throw some arbitrary, unfounded and unrelated negative claim out there to distract from the fact that common sense suggest it's actually very probable that these firefighters were conversing with residents while performing a function of the job.

The mayors chief of staff is ill informed. That truck has no district. It is quartered on post road but responds to all incidents city wide. He is simply wrong. It's a specialized truck. It is not a engine or a ladder with a first due district. That marina is in it's district, so is CCRI, Oakland Beach and Narragansett Parkway. It is the only truck that responds to incidents all over the city. He's completely wrong. Simple as that.

To support my claim: there are 9 engine companies in the city all with a district. There is only 1 Special Hazards truck. Not 9, not even 2. If there is a fire, hazmat or rescue situation across the city, there is only one Special Hazards truck to respond. It's a city wide truck it has no district and as such they need to be familiar with the hazards posed throughout the entire city, thus making it completely appropriate for them to be at that marina or anywhere else in the city for that matter.

You don't need to take a massive truck down a back road and through a narrow rail road underpass to "pre plan." Someone should FOIA the pre plan for the Marina. Suggest using the fire marshal's SUV for that kind of work.

Mr Langseth, that's someone who isn't involved in the fire services opinion. I don't tell accountants how to file taxes. The grunts on the ground need the information derived from pre plans and they need to see it for themselves. They need to see where that fence is that can block you after humping hose around the left, meaning you have to drag it all the way back and now around the right. This is not fire marshal plans. This is guys figuring out when this thing burns, what do we need to know that is unique to this structure that will aid them in effecting rescues and extinguishing the fire as expeditiously as possible. That's to say nothing about learning the construction of the building to keep firefighters safe. Example, is that a bowstring truss hidden behind a parapet wall? Bowstring trusses fail catastrophically when impinged by fire. It killed a bunch of firefighters at a car dealership in New York when they didn't know they were under a bow string. It's these types of things the average person doesn't even think to think of yet it doesn't stop anyone from telling firefighters how to do their job. "I have no idea how to do your job but the beacon comments say you're doing it wrong."

And guess what, if something burns down that back road, that massive truck has to get there. Maybe a little experience doing so in a less pressure filled enviorment means it will actually make it there.

So what happens if Shift A sees something like a strange fence. Do they write it down or try to remember it when coming back in a raging gale complete with heavy wet snow. Of course they write it down so that Shift B might know about it. Otherwise we might simply go back to neighborhood volunteers. I wonder how many fire plans the Special Hazards truck writes up? Betcha it is the regular fire crews and management that do that except for things like a chemical warehouse etc.

We all know the truck can get there. But is it worth driving by to make sure???? Don't be so smug when it comes to our paid fire fighters goofing off!

Forgive me if this reads in a smug way. That is not my intention. Furthermore, I don't condone goofing off in such a maner either. My point is that Mr. Cote saw a glimpse of time and made all sorts of conjectures and assumptions. Mr Cote is a self anointed Govt watchdog and there is nothing wrong with that. However, he obviously brings an inherent bias with him. I'm offering up very real, valid, beneficial reasons why that truck may have been there and attempting to show that the truck was not out of its district as reported, which implies wrong doing erroneously. Mr. Langseth, information is indeed passed from crew to crew and pertainet information is filed and stored for dissemination to responding crews. That information is compiled by crews performing pre-plans and district inspections. The Special Hazards truck is a city wide truck and they have a vital role not just at Haz-Mat incidents but also at working fires. They cannot work in a bubble. They need to get out and learn the city, it's structures and the hazards they lose like any other fire company. I know everyone is tax concious. I pay property tax in this city as well. However, staying in quarters all day is a waste of money. We're paying for a full time dept. They ought to be out there training and learning their city. Don't get me wrong, it's not a blanket excuse to stop by every party and get together. My point is that Mr. Cote and inturn the Media and the Mayor made all sorts of assumptions. If Mr. Cote saw them dancing and gallivanting I'd be inclined to agree with him. However, to see a truck that's likely out on preplans and some guys conversing with residents is not in of itself an indication of graft and shame on the Mayor for acting impulsively and the media for half reporting a story.

Yes Richard and other Monday morning QBs. We have a giant database with all the city's commercial and residential addresses that we update daily. Dispatch then uses this info DAILY to tell us anything noted about the address. It maybe something small like dogs or guns on the premises to a marina which changes it's look daily (new boats added, boats moved, etc.). Pre planning is what we do. I don't want to find out on the day your house is on fire that the truck doesn't fit down the road. Maybe you don't care but we do.

Just something to think about. The acting chief of staff / planning chief would have no idea what district the hazards truck belongs in because he doesn't even live in warwick, but he sure collects a nice paycheck to make comments he has no idea about. Let alone PLANNING for expansion areas in Warwick, as long as he leaves the city at the end of his day why would he care. Maybe Bill should check the facts before making comments for the Mayor.

This article, and the comments that have followed are exactly what's wrong with this city. Mr. Cote, you are NOT a journalist. I don't think you realize how many people you turn off to your "reporting" when you literally follow around city workers like some type of crazed ex girlfriend. I understand your intentions may be good, however you have gone about it in a completely wrong way. If you see something wrong, call an ACTUAL reporter. If the reporter isn't listening or fails to follow up, perhaps the offense isn't as great as you continually make it out to be. I can assure you if there was news to be broken, WPRI or any local news network would be there to document it as they have done dozens of times in the past.

To the firefighters who have commented on this you should be embarrassed. Nobody should be defending what occurred (especially not the mayor). Yes I'm sure trucks do go down to the marina's regularly, but that's NOT what this was. I'm amazed at how far you will all go to defend a practice that makes every single one of you look bad. Not only that, making every single one of you look bad at a time you demand a raise. You ought to spend your time chastising your co-workers instead of people on the beacon's website. I knew it was only a matter of time before the "well if it was your house burning you'd want the truck to be there" argument that I hear so often used. Shame on you!!!! Playing to peoples fears is something that is beneath every single one of you (the majority of which do a great job for this city).

I hope in the near future this practice of self appointed watchdog stops. I also hope that employees of this city will respect the job they have, and the people that they work for. It is a privilege to hold the positions you have, it would be nice if all of you start treating it like it is.

I'm a taxpayer, not related to any firefighter or police officer. I'm no fan of how this city works,but let's think about this for a minute: When not on a call, fire-fighters are in the station and a lot of their time is spent maintaining equipment,but a lot of time is also spent in front of the TV, computers etc. What difference does it make if instead of sitting in the fire house, they are having pizza at a marina? Do you think they wouldn't jump in the truck and leave if a call came through? And doesn't this truck cover the whole city? It's not like they left their jurisdiction.

Not fear it's the truth. The city wants us out doing pre plans and inspections and we get in trouble for doing it. If the guys were doing anything illegal they should be fired. That was not the case. Again your looking at the story from a 1 and a half minute video. Say what you want they did nothing wrong.

This all boils down to Rob Cote being a worthless RAT, he has nothing better to do except follow city workers. all he shows in his chopped up, snippets of videos is short burts of footage. #1, buy a real camera, #2, show the people the whole unedited footage!!! oh thats right, you dont have hours of video do you??

You are ranked with all of the famous RI RATS,,,,Freitas from plunder dome and now Rob Cote.!!! I have been a Warwick tax payer for over 40 years, and unlike you, i like seeing my firefighters out and about in the community!! Seems like you are jealous of these firefighters too!!! Probably couldnt pass the test back in the day!!!

In this age of one sided journalism and shock jock hyperbolic talk radio, someone has to present a view from the other side. I make no excuses for anyone. Firefighters are adults, they'll take their licks like anyone else. What I sought to do here is point out some inaccuracies, provide a reasonable explanation for why that truck may have been rightfully there.

scal1024,

Step up to the plate and grow some testicles to contribute to ending the waste fraud and abuse in the community. You obviously have no idea how the press works or how the city operates. Lets all close our eyes and ears and make believe everything is ok. Please lay out your strategy on how to make these issues public so the get attention and wake up the people. What have you done?

Also, feel free to cntact the marina's and find out about this misterious "action plan" which doesnt exist.

Wake up!!

Why would the marina have a pre plans? Stop in any station or dispatch and look at the 1000s of pre plans on all the computers.

Sorry Mr. Cote but if you think that taxpayers aren't aware that city employees take the long way home, or the occasional hour long trip to dunkin donuts than you are mistaken. This is something i have known to be true since i was a child...and i didn't need a camera to help me. You have gone about this in a way that makes the public resent what you are doing. My contribution to ending the fraud and abuse in this city, would simply be to ask you to stop. You make serious people who care about local government look bad and it hurts the cause way more than it helps it. I find it funny that you suggest i don't know how the press works, i certainly know that appointing yourself a journalist doesn't make you one. I also know that WPRI has done numerous stories on local government and some abuses that have taken place. All of those started with a tip, if you catch something that you believe is abuse than report it to the professionals. You have gone about this in a way that seems to make you part of the story every single time. How does that help fight fraud and abuse? You are perceived as having an ax to grind against city employees, and you have done NOTHING to show otherwise.

I will say once again this all comes off as some crazed ex girlfriend, trying so hard to prove all along it was the boyfriends fault. There are other ways to take your case to the public, other outlets who deal in this business regularly for a living. I appreciate your anatomy lesson, further proof of how childish and pathetic most of your antics are. We need some adults in the room to fight fraud and abuse, you sir are not one of them. My suggestion to you is that you find a hobby. Something other than driving around attacking people trying to make a living. Firefighters in Warwick do an outstanding job, and while i'm sure there are abuses i believe you are barking up the wrong tree. Good luck to you sir!

cote get a life these guys do a great job maybe you should go work for wpri

Mr. Scall,

What you don t seem to understand that not only is this behavior ignored by the mayor and the department heads, it is standard activity. The reason that it has proliferated to this point is that it has come to be the norm as the mayor is controlled by the workers. What you also fail to realize is that this behavior has been brought to the mayors attention privately behind closed doors for years and again, nothing has been done. You can stand on the sidelines and do nothing but criticize, but that will never assist in ending the problem. Furthermore, this behavior, which can be seen everyday without looking for it, contributes to our current fiscal dilemma, breeds inefficiency and complacency, and one other small thing, IS CRIMINAL!!! Maybe you don't understand that when you are hired to do a job that is paid for by the taxpayer, and you take premeditated action to avoid doing that job, or doing as little as possible, that's called obtaining money under false pretenses. I would invite you to look up some of the numerous examples of court cases which show that fact, as there are many.

The other issue that is problematic is that good hard workers are effected by the slackers. You may choose to sit back and comment but the general public has the right to document this behavior and make it public in an effort to stop it. It is exhausting hearing the comments that condone the behavior, moreover, it's insane.

To address your comments about the press, I have been involved in numerous issues with the press such as this and what you don't understand is that for the press that is already overburdened in Rhode Island, they don't just jump when they get a tip. It is numerous hours of legal battles behind the scene before they can even get clearance to begin.

You do state one fact, people do have an ax to grind with city workers. We don't like being robbed and that's what they are doing. Maybe you think that they should be allowed to drive across the city on the clock to go to the bank and perform personal business on the clock. I don't. Maybe you feel a joy ride on a backhoe is ok, I don't. Maybe you think taking a water department truck to L:owes to buy a home air conditioner and then bring it you your house on the taxpayers dime is ok. I don't. Maybe you think that its ok for certain members of the tree cutting crew to cut down a tree, cut it into cord wood, deliver it to their own house on the clock with a company vehicle where they sell it, I don't.

No business can operate in this fashion, but the Warwick Mayor allows this to happen every day.

So do something about it as you show nothing but words. Words are not actions, so try to solve a problem instead of defending your relatives who are most likely some of the culprits.

In the past Mr. Cote when you spoke out against the car tax, I thought that was an effective way to try and bring change to the city. When you (I believe it was you, my apologies if I am wrong) spoke out in last weeks Beacon about education funding I thought that was an effective way to try and bring change. However, when you follow people (that's exactly what you're doing) without anyone asking you to do so it comes across as borderline psychotic. You can tell me the amount of times that you've brought this up to the mayor, media and other outlets but if none of them have acted doesn't that suggest that the offenses you claim are taking place just aren't that bad?

I do not have any relatives who work for the city. I do however recall a family member having a bad fall on a summer morning 2 years ago. The fire dept. was there immediately and notified the family of what had occurred. Had it not been for their fast response and knowledge I'm not sure this person would be alive today (due to the head trauma she suffered). I also don't see too many Beacon stories about my elderly neighbor who has had a couple of bad falls out of bed in recent weeks. Although the fire dept. has reported to the scene multiple times before, it never stops them from showing up with a courteous, helpful attitude to help get her up off the ground. It's funny Mr. Cote that your videos have never uncovered any of those stories. Stories of hard work and dedication to make peoples lives better. Instead you just keep the camera rolling...waiting for the right 2 minutes to come along so you can take it out of context.

You keep telling people to get off the sidelines and do something. Perhaps YOU are the one who should be on the sidelines watching. Let somebody else anoint themselves to this role of "watchdog". What's funny about you telling me to get off the sidelines (you have no idea who I am or what I do) is over the last couple of years you and I have accomplished the same on fraud and abuse. Nothing!!!

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