VERONA (WKOW) — Verona’s assistant fire chief has resigned, citing lack of support from the mayor and city council following the release of a consultant’s report critical of the department.
The report by The Riseling Group was commissioned by the city of Verona following reports of inappropriate behavior, harassment and hostile work environment, according to a news release from Fire Fighters Local 311.
In a resignation letter submitted to the city Dec. 17, Assistant Chief Don Catenacci wrote that, “my resignation comes primarily from the fact that the mayor and council have shown almost no support for the fire chief, myself, or the many firefighters that have clearly expressed their opinions of the root cause of the problems at the department that the Riseling investigation exposed.”
Fire Fighter Local 311 Secretary/Treasurer Ted Higgins was mentioned by name in Catenacci’s resignation, it said “…an unending character assassination campaign by Local 311 led by Ted Higgins.”
“I don’t take it personally,” Higgins said. “My job is to look out for the well-being of the members and that is exactly what Local 311 did.”
Higgins said the portion of Catenacci’s resignation where he said he couldn’t tell his story is untrue.
“He had many times given his side of the story,” Higgins said.
Giving people in the department the chance to tell their story was the purpose of the Riseling Investigation. The group’s report cites inadequate training, lack of adherence to policies and procedures, accepted lack of professionalism and discipline, low-morale, micro-management and “a complete lack of leadership within the department,” according to the news release from the union.
“It was a chance for him to give an unbiased third party who was investigating all the complaints against him, that named him specifically, his side of the story,” he said.
Higgins also felt that Catenacci left some things out.
“What’s not in there is some of the potential criminal battery that he committed and we’re waiting for the Oregon Police Department to release their investigative report into allegation of criminal battery against firefighters,” Higgins said.
Oregon’s investigation is in response to more complaints following the release of the Riseling Group’s report back in November.
“Once we have the full Oregon Police report investigation our lawyers will be filling charges with the Verona Police and Fire Commission and we’ll be seeking the termination of Chief Giver.”
Catenacci says these issues existed before he joined the department.
“I resigned from the Verona Fire Department due to a toxic environment that has plagued the department for years including prior to my arrival at the department.”
Catenacci claims people told him about the work environment before he took the job. When asked why he still did, he said, “I don’t think that’s relevant anymore.”
After the report’s release, union officials are called for the immediate resignation of Chief Joe Giver and Catenacci.
Catenacci’s resignation letter: