NEW HAVEN – The Board of Fire Commissioners confirmed the appointment of the Fire Department’s director of training in a special meeting held Friday following recent outcry questioning the legitimacy of the promotion.
It took the board less than two minutes to confirm Antonio Almodovar’s promotion and address what Mayor Toni Harp’s spokesman called a “minor, technical matter.” The promotion was overshadowed last week by fire union President Frank Ricci’s heated confrontation with Acting Fire Chief Ralph Black during Almodovar’s promotional ceremony. Ricci alleged that the promotion wasn’t in line with the city charter. The meeting Friday clarified the board’s position on promoting Almodovar from acting director of training to director of training.
Harp spokesman Laurence Grotheer said in a statement released Thursday that the commission would, on Friday, “adjust a minor, technical matter regarding the recent, proper, and legitimate promotion of Antonio Almodovar to the position of Director of Fire Training.”
While the statement from Harp’s spokesman suggests a possible procedural snafu, Chief Administrative Officer Michael Carter on Friday would not comment on whether the special meeting constituted an admission of a misstep on the city’s end. Carter was tasked with reviewing the promotion process last week.
“All charter, civil service, fire commission and other city policies were followed correctly, unequivocally,” Carter said after the meeting. “That was the purpose of the meeting.”
Carter said that if the meeting Friday didn’t take place, there would be “doubt” about the promotion. Board minutes from the May 31 fire commission meeting show the board was presented with the civil service list for director of training for its acceptance.
“I want to clear any and all doubt that the list was approved, it was valid, that the No. 1 candidate is Antonio Almodovar,” Carter said.
Black declined to comment Friday, referring questions to Carter.
Ricci, who was not at the meeting Friday, issued a statement about the special meeting. Ricci said in his statement that Black’s attempt to “vaccinate the public from the truth” was disheartening. A union representative was present at Friday’s meeting.
“The chief’s office must think the public are fools,” Ricci said in the statement. “If the promotion was legitimate and did not violate the law, would the chief have called for a commission meeting? While anyone can make an unintentional error it is clear here that the Interim Chief lied to the press to cover up for his own incompetence. The public deserves better. The cover up is always worse than the act.”
Ricci added that too many career have been affected as a result of “placing political will above the law.”
While whether the promotion violated the city charter remains a source of debate, there have been other recent instances of city administrators overlooking the charter.
Last year, for instance, an oversight led to the Board of Education having one more member than allowed by charter. The snafu escalated into a lawsuit, after the Board of Alders attempted to address the issue and was met with resistance from the school board. The lawsuit was later dropped after a settlement agreement was reached.
Further, City Corporation Counsel John Rose, who attended Friday’s meeting, said Monday that he would move to New Haven after it was made public that he was a Hartford resident. The city’s charter requires department heads to live in the city.
Reach Esteban L. Hernandez at 203-680-9901.