Less than three weeks after he was appointed, Kingston Fire Chief Chris Rea has been demoted and suspended without pay based on what Mayor Shayne Gallo called issues of “time and attendance” — the same language used to describe the still-unspecified allegations against Rea’s predecessor, Rick Salzmann, who resigned abruptly last month rather than face termination proceedings.
Gallo delivered the news at a hastily convened press conference Wednesday afternoon, during which he hinted strongly that Rea’s would not be the last head to roll at the fire department and issued a scathing critique of a “culture of entitlement” which he says has prevailed among the department’s upper ranks.
“There is a culture of entitlement for some at the expense of the rest of the city workforce,” said Gallo before an audience of media and about 20 off-duty firefighters in the Common Council chambers at City Hall. “At the expense of people they work with everyday and at the expense of the taxpayers.”
Rea, an assistant chief, was promoted to the department’s top spot following Salzmann’s retirement on Jan. 23. Salzmann, who served 37 years with the department including 14 as chief, put in for retirement after he was suspended without pay and threatened with termination.
Gallo declined to give specifics about Salzmann’s alleged misdeeds except to say that they involved “time and attendance.” Gallo said the problems were revealed during a spot audit of fire department records by City Comptroller John Tuey as the city prepared to implement a new system to centralize accrual of time off. At the time, Gallo expressed confidence in Rea and said that he did not believe the problems went farther than Salzmann.