Wyandotte County firefighters are blatantly harassing former Unified Government Mayor Mark Holland.
There’s no other conclusion to be drawn from a series of indefensible actions that include a fire truck honking its horn and flashing its lights as it drove by Holland’s home this week at 6:43 a.m., waking his family as well as his neighbors. There was a similar incident last month during services at Holland’s church, where he serves as senior pastor. And Holland has been subjected to not-so-veiled threats from firefighters on social media.
The message: We hope your home doesn’t catch fire anytime soon.
“It’s that same obnoxious behavior,” said Holland, who’s now a private citizen.
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Pranksters who are supposed to be adults and public servants are engaging in juvenile antics of the worst kind. It’s wrong. And the perpetrators should be punished.
Interim Fire Chief Kevin Shirley investigated, and on Friday released a ridiculously tepid statement suggesting that those responsible won’t even be slapped on the wrist.
“Those firefighters that were involved will be dealt with as necessary to ensure that activation of sirens and lights will only be done in compliance with current policies,” a Unified Government statement said.
The release said Shirley and the department’s fire marshal investigated and found “one neighbor did confirm that they heard a sound that they thought could have been a siren that morning.” The statement said that a siren was activated for one to three seconds near Holland’s house.
Well, The Star did a bit of investigating and quickly found three residents who were willing to talk about it, and KCTV found another.
All this from an interim fire chief who told The Star Thursday that he was taking the matter “very seriously.”
At the root of this harassment is a serious public policy dispute between the fire department and Holland, who as mayor rightly made a big deal out of department pay policies. Specifically, Holland targeted the practice of shift trading that resulted in firefighters being paid $920,000 for work they didn’t do.
Before he left office last month, Holland was particularly aggressive in his criticism, referring to the practice as an example of “widespread corruption” and labeling it “a complete abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Fueling Holland’s disdain, no doubt, was the firefighters’ clear preference in the November election for his opponent, David Alvey, who wound up defeating him. Alvey declined to comment.
Still, Holland had a legitimate point about a pay practice run amok. Besides the cost of the policy, shift trading is also said to pose safety risks that result from weary firefighters.
Holland ate up 30 minutes of his last Unified Government Commission meeting as mayor upbraiding fire union officials about the practice.
“We cannot continue to pay people who do not come to work,” he said that night to the hisses of firefighters who packed the commission meeting room along with some Holland supporters.
The day before, firefighter Chris Wing had written on his Facebook page that Holland “might need security detail when you start witch hunts…” Wing’s father had been named in a government analysis of the shift-trading operation.
Holland also reported on Facebook the threats about what might happen if his home ever caught fire.
But this latest incident involving a fire truck making an extra-loud early morning pass by Holland’s home with its horn blaring and lights flashing is drawing the most attention. A security camera in Holland’s driveway captured the moment (albeit without sound), and the former mayor has posted the video on his Facebook page.
After a fire truck and an ambulance drove by the house, the drivers turned off the lights and silenced the horns.
Holland wrote on Facebook that Chief Shirley came to his front door to apologize personally for “immaturity” in the rank and file.
Of the three residents The Star talked to, one called the incident “very childish” and said the commotion had scared his wife. “One hundred percent deliberate harassment.”
“It woke me out of my sleep,” said another. “It was pretty loud.”
“To harass him after he already lost the election doesn’t make sense,” said the third.
The neighbors didn’t want to be named for fear that they, too, might be harassed.
Wyandotte County has some rogue firefighters who need to grow up. The interim chief should actually take this issue “very seriously” and discipline the members of his department who were involved.