DM Fire Union Creates Website Condeming Chief

City Manager Defends Chief, Says He Has No Plans For Replacement

By Nikki Davidson | ndavidson@weareiowa.com

Published 09/01 2015 12:04AM

Updated 09/01 2015 12:26AM

"Save Des Moines Fire Department," is the message front and center of a new website created by a group of Des Moines Firefighters. 

The website, www.savedmfd.com launched filled with a collection of material denouncing leadership inside the department, and singling out Fire Chief John TeKippe. 

Des Moines Local 4, a union of professional firefighters in Des Moines created the site as what they call a "last-ditch" effort to spur change in the fire department administration. They feel Chief TeKippe isn't making decisions that are keeping firefighters safe, adequately staffed and best-serving the citizens of Des Moines. 

"We do feel a little desperate," said Local 4 Union President Joe VanHaalen. "We need new administration, it's obvious our problems aren't getting fixed." 

Local 4 conducted a vote in which 249 ballots were cast, asking its members their level of confidence with the current chief. Eight voted they have confidence in Chief TeKippe, 20 chose not to vote and 221 voted they do not have confidence in the chief. 

Included on the website is a petition for the public to sign in support of replacing current fire chief John TeKippe. 

Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders is in charge of hiring and firing for the fire chief position. He told Local 5 News Monday that he hadn't gotten a chance to look at the new website, but feels Chief TeKippe is doing a good job. 

"He's got my full support, he's done everything I've asked for as a fire chief and then some," said Sanders. "I'm satisfied." 

Sanders pointed to a 2013 satisfaction survey conducted in which Des Moines residents responded they were 91% satisfied with the Des Moines Fire Department operations. 

"You don't get those kind of statistics without strong leadership," said Sanders. 

But the Des Moines Fire Union does have other support in City Hall. The city council has no power to fire or hire a fire chief, but councilmen Joe Gatto says some of the union's concerns are valid. He says the city manager is going to face some tough choices.

"He's going to have to make that decision, it's a matter of time before he decides how he wants to deal with this," said Gatto. "All of this is going to take up a lot of his time, and (the union) has some very valid points." 

Chief TeKippe would not agree to do an interview with Local 5 but gave this statement on the website:

"The tone is really disappointing, but we have great people who do great work. My focus is to continue to take care of firefighters so they can continue to take care of the citizens of Des Moines, that's our priority and focus and what we'll continue to stay focused on."

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