Report: Letter sparks harsh words from firefighter, fears of retaliation
ELYRIA — A Parks and Recreation Department employee told police he feared for his safety after a firefighter berated him over a letter to the editor critical of the Fire Department.
Timothy J. Gallagher filed a police report Thursday in which he told police he received a nasty phone call at his home from Dave Street, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 474 in Elyria, after a letter Gallagher wrote appeared Thursday in The Chronicle-Telegram.
Street was yelling and told Gallagher his actions “started a war,” the police report said. Street sounded upset and was very aggressive during the short conversation, Gallagher told police.
That’s not how Street saw the conversation, however. He called it a much-needed response to attacks on the fire union.
“I did yell, but there were no threats,” Street said in a telephone interview Friday while on vacation. “People who know me know I’m not an aggressive guy. No matter what was said, it was directed toward the Fire Department and was responded to accordingly.”
Firefighters and city workers have been at odds since Mayor Bill Grace reduced the fire department’s minimum station staffing from 17 to 14, resulting in sporadic shutdowns at fire Station No. 2 on Broad Street. The decision has sparked public debates and led firefighters to picket in front of fire stations and City Hall. It also has brought several strongly worded letters to the editor.
Later Thursday, Gallagher told police the situation grew worse: As he pulled into the driveway of St. Jude Church on Poplar Street to attend Grace’s political fundraiser, firefighters who were picketing at the event started yelling at him and approached his vehicle.
Gallagher told police when the report was made that he was concerned for he and his family’s safety and that he believed Street or another member of the Elyria Fire Department would retaliate against him.
Grace said steps have been taken to ensure that nothing happens to Gallagher.
“The situation is taken care of through the city’s internal policy and procedure,” he said. “It’s a private process. I will let it take its course and see what happens from there.”
Gallagher would not elaborate on what has happened since the police report was filed, but he said, short of a receiving a direct apology, the incident has been taken care of and should be forgotten.
He said he has not received any other phone calls or experienced any subsequent harassment.
Gallagher said his letter was a response to a letter that appeared earlier in the week that said the city’s Parks and Recreation Department should be closed and its money given to the Fire Department.
Gallagher said his letter actually was prepared with the help of 10 other employees from the Parks and Recreation Department. He was chosen as the sole signer because someone needed to put a name on it, he said.
“I’m being singled out because of The Chronicle’s policy, and this thing has turned into an unfair issue,” Gallagher said. “There was no intention for this to turn into a departmental feud. The letter was directed at (another letter writer), and we need to get back to our jobs.”
Street said he does not regret making the call.
“It doesn’t hurt our cause because inaccuracies have to be addressed,” he said. “I didn’t do anything to apologize for. But we will accept (Gallagher’s) apology if he offers one."
Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.