Fire Chief responds to ‘attacks’ on his character!

Fire Chief Leslie Fontenelle says the dispute is affecting the productivity of his department.

Along standing dispute between the St Lucia Fire Service Association and the Fire Chief, has merited government involvement. The latest development is that Fire Chief Leslie Fontenelle has finally released a statement on the matter.
Fontenelle held a press conference on Monday at the Fire Service Department on Manoel Street. According to the Chief, his office has been the subject of much negative publicity “occasioned by what appears to be a personal agenda by the Fire Service Welfare Association.”
The Fire Chief believes the association’s agenda is to damage his character and smear his reputation.
“I have been publicly accused of fraud, crime and corruption. These accusations are baseless, malicious, slanderous and defamatory,” said Fontenelle while adding, “This no doubt has caused a lot of damage to my character and a dark cloud of doubt now hangs over my integrity.”
The St Lucia Fire Service Association attended a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs last week Tuesday to voice their side of complaints on the matter. The association saw officials from the Ministry, where they later came to a conclusion. At issue is what the Association says are violations of Public Service Policies and State Laws.
Secretary of the association, Shane Felix says the association wants to ensure its members are no longer disadvantaged in their dealings with the Fire Chief. He says the matter is taking a rather long time to reach a resolution and is hindering the performance of fire officers.
Chief Fontenelle agrees the matter is a distraction that is hindering productivity but also adds that the claims are not only damaging to him but also to the image of the Fire Service and other senior managers in the department “and it is obviously affecting the daily atmosphere within the organization and making it difficult for me to carry on with my duties.”
He further stated: “The secretary claims to have some documents to prove allegations; documents which I suspect, were obtained by questionable means and has challenged anyone to prove him wrong.”
Fontenelle says he will not be drawn into a public quarrel with the secretary of the Welfare Association.
“Wisdom dictates that I should be patient in dealing with this matter,” he said while he further explained, “There are established structures in government to deal with such matters – while the system may be slow, this is the established system for that purpose and it should be respected.
“The Association has chosen instead to attack my character and disrespect my high office in public. This is completely out of order. It is unprecedented for junior staff to publicly grandstand the head of their organization.”
The Chief indicated that this behavior must be dealt with very strictly by the authorities to avoid a complete breakdown of the public service. In any event, Fontenelle said, he has a responsibility to safeguard his image, name and integrity.
The dispute between the St Lucia Fire Service Association and the Fire Chief has been ongoing since last year and followed several letters from the association to government heads of the previous administration.
The Association had written to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister of the previous administration on a number of occasions, requesting meetings in an attempt to resolve these issues.
Last Tuesday’s meeting was the first time the Association has met with the new SLP administration to discuss its concerns.
Meanwhile, the Fire Chief announced a meeting scheduled with the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, Victor La Corbiniere later this week to discuss the issue for a possible conclusion to the matter.

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