New exit deal not as good for Fire Chief McDonnell — or remaining firefighters - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 2:12 pm
New exit deal not as good for Fire Chief McDonnell — or remaining firefighters

Omaha Fire Chief Mike McDonnell’s exit deal comes with the city’s second-highest pension and a pledge to protect his department from cuts — but it’s a step down from the package he nearly had a few weeks ago.

The agreement announced Monday has McDonnell retiring Nov. 8 with a pension based on his 24 years of service, which will amount to about $124,000 per year. In the deal that fell through last month, McDonnell would have received credit for an extra year, bringing his annual pension to more than $130,800.

Mayor Jean Stothert, meanwhile, will be able to lay off firefighters and take rigs out of service after Dec. 21, if she chooses. That’s also a concession from McDonnell that differs from the first deal, which blocked those moves through next June.

The new deal also gives Stothert the ability to reduce the number of assistant fire chiefs, an authority that had been limited in the original plan.

Still, McDonnell said Monday that he’s pleased with the deal reached after months of tension with the Mayor’s Office.

“This agreement gives the mayor and the fire union a chance to work together without taking any firetrucks out of service or laying firefighters off and to find another solution to the financial problems,” he said.

McDonnell will remain on paid administrative leave until Nov. 8. Already, his temporary replacement says he is finding ways to save money that could help stave off significant cuts.

Interim Chief Bernie Kanger has been filling in for McDonnell since his potential departure was announced three weeks ago. In that time, Kanger has reassigned about a half-dozen people from the department’s bureau to work on fire suppression. Those firefighters have filled in for others who would have worked overtime shifts.

Kanger said those moves are expected to save the city $300,000 over the last part of this year.

In addition, Kanger has shifted assistant fire chiefs from a 24-hour shift schedule to a 40-hour workweek, which he said also has reduced spending on overtime.

Stothert said Kanger is working to find ways to stay within the department’s $90.6 million budget next year.

That budget was the major point of contention between Stothert and McDonnell, who said the department needed $94 million to avoid cuts that could slow responses and put firefighters at risk.

At $90.6 million, Stothert said the city would most likely have to lay off 16 firefighters, demote eight Fire Department employees and pull two rigs from service.

The deal reached Monday allows Stothert to remove one South Omaha-based medic unit from service earlier than December.

“We don’t want to do layoffs, but if we have to, to control the budget, we will,” Stothert said Monday afternoon.

She said those layoffs could be avoided if Kanger and other officials make progress in asking the fire union for concessions.

Kanger said those kinds of deals have not yet been reached, but he’s optimistic.
Steve LeClair, the fire union’s president, could not be reached for comment.

“The lines of communication are open,” Kanger said. “They haven’t been for quite a while, or at least that was my perception when I first came through the door. They just weren’t talking about it, and we are now.”

The original retirement deal, which broke down after McDonnell asked for revisions to a tentative agreement, would have given the chief the largest pension in the city’s history. The new plan will put him at No. 2, behind former Police Chief Alex Hayes.

Monday’s agreement also puts an end — at least for a while — to any public criticism from Stothert about McDonnell or vice versa.

The deal includes a joint non-disparagement agreement that runs through Dec. 21.

Read the agreement (PDF).

Contact the writer: Erin Golden

erin.golden@owh.com    |   402-444-1543    |  

Erin covers the Omaha City Council and the Mayor's Office.

Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
Bellevue man is killed at Minnesota dance hall after South Sudanese basketball tourney
Spring corn planting still sputters in Nebraska, Iowa, other key states
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
U.S. Senate race: State Auditor Mike Foley defends Shane Osborn against ad campaign
Public defender to represent Nikko Jenkins in sentencing
Mid-America Center on track for lower operating loss
Bluffs City Council approves dozens of new numbered street lights
National Law Enforcement Memorial Week set for May
Ted Cruz backs Pete Ricketts' campaign for governor
Omahan charged with 5th-offense DUI after street race causes rollover
2 blocks of Grover Street closed
Safety board report blames pilot error in 2013 crash that killed UNO student, passenger
Omaha man accused in shooting ordered held on $75,000 bail
2 men charged with conspiracy to distribute meth held on $1 million bail each
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
La Vista plans meeting on sales tax proposal, 84th Street redevelopment
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Millard school board bans e-cigarettes from all district properties, events
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Breaking Brad: Photos with the Easter Bunny are so 2010
In a sign of the times, most kids ran out of patience waiting for a photo with the Easter Bunny at the mall, just snapped a selfie and went home.
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Steam-A-Way Carpet Cleaning
$50 for 3 rooms and a Hallway up to 600 square feet
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »