CHARLOTTE, Mich. — The Charlotte Fire Department has been left with six full-time firefighters for almost two weeks now since all 23 volunteer firefighters resigned on Monday, March 21. The city determined last week that the volunteer firefighters need to reapply if they wish to return to their duties. However, volunteer firefighter Ronald Smith told FOX 47 today that they are not reapplying at this time.
A statement released by the volunteer firefighters and the Rural Fire Association today reads, “at this point in time, no volunteers have returned to duty, as the city has made no good faith gestures to acknowledge or investigate issues, we have addressed to them.”
The statement further reads that no conversations have been followed up with action from the city and that “issues and violations have continued even after resignation.” Most initial allegations have been against Mayor Michael Armitage, who said no council member had "malicious intent." In contrast to the city’s statement last week, the volunteers state that they cannot be categorized as employees and that they have never been directly employed by the city. “The city has never hired a volunteer onto the Charlotte Volunteer Fire Department,” the volunteer’s statement reads.
"When the Charlotte Volunteer Fire Department brings concerns of Charter violations to the City, they choose to ignore it and sweep it under the rug, hiding behind attorneys along the way," the statement reads. "This is deeply concerning, not just for the volunteers, but for all the citizens of this city."
According to City Manager Erin LaPere, the volunteers must reapply because of city policies. City Attorney Thomas Hitch stated in a letter to LaPere that the “firefighters appear to have the mistaken belief that their Charter and Bylaws set forth the framework for their employment with the Fire Department.” He defines the volunteers as public employees.
Last week, LaPere encouraged former volunteers to reapply because they “never wanted them to leave in the first place.”
While LaPere is expected to give an update on the volunteer hiring process at tomorrow’s council meeting, starting at 7 p.m., Smith said they will be at the meeting to give a statement.
This means the fire department is still down to six full-time firefighters. Since Chief Vogel resigned a day after the volunteers, Mark Jordan has been selected as the Interim Fire Chief. Jordan is the retired Fire Chief from the Bellevue Fire Department.
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