Survey finds majority of Auburn Fire Department supports chiefBy MELISSA PROULX
Union Leader Correspondent
August 09. 2017 9:12PM
AUBURN — A recent survey of the town’s fire department showed a majority support for its leader after a complaint was filed against the chief earlier this year.
Just over 70 percent of the department said they support Fire Chief Ed Gannon and the work he’s done with the department over the last year.
“I feel pretty good about that,” he said. “All in all, I’m happy with the results of it.”
Town Administrator Bill Herman shared these sentiments.
“I thought last night’s meeting with the fire chief and the board of selectmen was productive and resulted in a positive step forward,” he said. “Everyone acknowledged there were both positives and negatives identified in the survey effort, and agreed to make efforts to makes improvements moving forward.”
The survey was conducted in May after a complaint was made against Gannon by the former fire chief, Bruce Phillips. The survey was used as a way to highlight any concerns people might have.
Of the roughly 50 people who were sent the survey, 35 responded. Of those, only 9 had something negative to say about Gannon, primarily concerns about favoritism and unequal application of rules and regulations.
The results were compiled into a report by the town’s counsel, Stephen Bennett, and were presented to selectmen Monday.
“The survey results indicate that Chief Gannon and his administration have the support of a large majority of the department’s members,” Bennett wrote in his report.
The report, as well as the original letter sent by Phillips, can be found on the town’s website.
In the four-page complaint sent to the town in March, Phillips writes that he has had several members approach him with concerns that the department is a “fiercely divided group.”
Phillips’ allegations include that Gannon did not hold firefighters accountable when they made derogatory comments against one another; that the two full-time officers “are not being held accountable and can basically do what they want”; and that Gannon is not approachable.
Phillips also wrote that members were concerned that Gannon was trying to model the department after Derry’s, where Gannon worked for more than three decades before coming to Auburn.
Phillips’ complaint came after a glowing report from an independent assessment that the town had done.
“The Auburn Fire Department is an excellent organization that more than meets the needs of the community,” according to Municipal Resources Inc.
The purpose of the report was to see how the department fared when compared to national standards and requirements. The assessment included a review of the fire facilities and equipment, an evaluation of the training programs and policies, and interviews with town officials. Overall, the findings showed the department to be in good standing with those standards.
Gannon said that he’s used the recommendations from the review as a guideline for his yearly goals. Of the 21 goals that he set for the department in December, Gannon said he’s already accomplished a dozen of them and will be meeting with the selectmen monthly from now on to provide updates.
Gannon said he has worked to build strong relationships with the other public safety groups in the area, including the town’s police department.
“The relationship between us and the police department has been phenomenal,” Gannon said.