November 12, 2018
FIRE FIGHTERS LOCAL 311
Independent investigation reveals gross mismanagement of the City of Verona Fire Department under Chief Joseph Giver
After receiving reports of inappropriate behavior, harassment, and hostile work environment by a member of the City of Verona Fire Department command staff, Fire Fighters Local 311, who represents the full-time City of Verona fire fighters, requested the city conduct an independent investigation into these allegations. The City of Verona leadership, in a good-faith response to the union’s concerns, hired The Riseling Group to conduct the neutral-party investigation into the allegations. The City also asked the Riseling Group to examine the workplace culture in the Verona Fire Department.
The report is alarming. It reveals serious organizational dysfunction, lack of professionalism, and Chief Joseph Giver’s outright failure to adequately lead this vital public safety department. This is not Local 311’s opinion: it is the findings of a reputable third-party professional organization that specializes in organization assessments and best practices. Dale Burke, a senior associate with the Riseling Group, was tasked with looking at the culture within the City of Verona Fire Department. Burke’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.” In a separate report by Mr. Burke, he investigated allegations of misconduct, intimidation, and on-duty physical assault of subordinates by Assistant Chief Don Catenacci. The union also conducted its own investigation and found the department is plagued by instances of intimidation, unfair labor practices, physical assault, lies, and disparate application of the rules and discipline by Chief Giver.
The rank-and-file fire fighters put their lives on the line every day for the citizens of Verona and deserve better than, as the Riseling Group, report states, “a toxic, hostile work environment which wears on staff.” The City of Verona is a growing and progressive community and deserves the best fire department possible. Chief Giver’s 8-years at the helm of the Verona Fire Department, as evidenced by this report, are fraught with undeniable incompetency that falls far short of the expectations that come along with the department head position and its $103,676/year salary.
The fish rots from the head down. The institutional damage caused by Giver’s rudderless leadership must stop. It is time for a fresh start. The City of Verona paid for a third-party assessment of the fire department and should act upon its findings. The taxpayers have a right to know about the inner-workings and culture within the public safety departments charged with protecting their lives and property – including, when necessary, the failings of its appointed leaders. Accordingly, Fire Fighters Local 311 is releasing this taxpayer-funded report to the public and is calling for the immediate resignations of Chief Joe Giver and Assistant Chief Don Catenacci as a proportionate response to years of substandard professionalism, lack of leadership, and conduct in breach of the public’s trust.
Media Contact: Ted Higgins, Secretary/Treasurer, Fire Fighters Local 311