UPDATE - Nov. 13, 9:11 a.m.:
During a follow-up interview with Coventry Patch on Tuesday morning, Capt. David Gorman reiterated the importance of making sure that CCFD employees are getting back on their feet, but also made it clear that lending a hand to the community is what the fire district has always been about.
"As I said before, we definitely want to participate in the Tis the Season drive and we will, we just do not have the resources to spearhead it this year," said Gorman. "
He explained that the district had agreed to continue running the annual boot drive after Chief Robert Seltzer had accepted a position in Smithfield, but that the decision was made before the special mastership process had begun.
"There is a ton of background work that Chief Seltzer had always done, including buying all of the toys, putting purchases on our credit card, matching funds," he said. "We just can't do that right now, we don't have the money, we don't even have a credit card that we could use at the moment. So it's not that we don't want to organize it, we really do, we just obviously don't have any reserve money this year."
Central Coventry has a history of participating in several other holiday events for the community, including the union's donation of 70 turkeys to the Coventry Food Bank, that were actually going to be supplemented with complete Thanksgiving meal baskets this year had the district not fallen into financial crisis.
"The union usually buys 70 turkeys for local families in need, but this year, our men and women are some of those families in need," said Gorman. "We wanted to make sure that our people had turkeys on their tables at Thanksgiving this year."
Another CCFD tradition in question is the week-long journey through the neighborhoods of Central Coventry that Santa Claus takes each year on one of the district's fire engines. Although a final decision has not yet been made in regards to whether Santa's trip will be canceled this year, Gorman explained that there is a significant fuel cost that comes with the week of nightly details - about $1,800.
"The majority of the people in our district love the Santa details - people even plan parties around it," he said. "That's something that our guys really want to do because we honestly enjoy doing it, but it takes us an entire week to cover our district and it costs money to fuel the truck. If the possibility exists, we would love to do it, but that decision will be up to Richard Land to make for us this year."
Gorman went on to stress that apart from providing the community with fire and emergency service, the district's other main concern right now is to take care of their own.
"Although we have received our paychecks, there are still several guys that are still owed thousands in cash and due money," he explained. "For the past five to six weeks, our employees have been living on credit cards, paying utility bills with credits cards, borrowing money from mom and dad or borrowing from other places. It's not like everything is hunky-dory and peachy here, it's certainly not over so we need to make sure our families are taken care of, too."
Nov. 12: Shortly before 9 p.m. on Monday, Central Coventry Fire District Captain and union president David Gorman sent an e-mail to WJAR NBC10 requesting that a retraction and correction be made to a story that aired during the network's 6 p.m. broadcast that evening.
The story entitled "Firefighters Shun Tradition" referenced the annual "Tis the Season" Boot Drive that will be held this weekend by Coventry and West Greenwich firefighters to benefit families in need from both communities. Reporter Parker Gavigan stated that because of money problems, "This weekend, you'll see firefighters from across town and West Greenwich, but you won't see about 50 firefighters from Central Coventry."
Gavigan went on to reference the fire district's recent financial trouble and the acquisition of court-appointed Special Master Richard Land who is working with the district to provide paychecks to employees and reverse the deficit. He continued: "'But the uncertainty is enough,' says David Gorman, to not participate in the annual Tis the Season boot drive."
In Gorman's e-mail request, he stated that "The story aired this evening depicted the Coventry firefighters as not willing to participate in the annual 'Tis the Season' boot drive to benefit needy families in Coventry and West Greenwich. This information is 100% inaccurate and false. The on-duty firefighters will participate if and when needed, as always."
Gorman went on to explain that because of the its current financial status, the Central Coventry Fire District will participate in Tis the Season, but is unable to spearhead the event and financially contribute a significant amount towards the purchase of toys and other items needed to run the drive, as it has done in the past.
"What we as Central Coventry Firefighters are not able to do this year is to take the lead, coordinate, and run the Tis the Season event," wrote Gorman. "That is the only thing that we have decided on. If we are asked to be at the event, we will be there."
The following is the complete e-mail from Capt. Gorman:
Request for retraction and correction
Concerning the story aired this evening relating to "Firefighters Shun Tradition" I request that the story be retracted and that a correction be made.
It appears that the interview between myself and Parker Gavigan was heavily edited, only to sensationalize a story that in all honesty was not even worthy to be a story. The story aired this evening depicted the Coventry firefighters as not willing to participate in the annual "tis the season" boot drive to benefit needy families in Coventry and West Greenwich. This information is 100% inaccurate and false. The on-duty firefighters will participate if and when needed, as always.
The story further depicted and portrayed the firefighters as receiving thousands of dollars from the community over the last few weeks only to turn their backs, another inaccuracy. Coventry Firefighters have raised and donated tens of thousands of dollars over the many years to community organizations and other charitable organizations and we will continue to do so. We are committed to this community, we are dedicated to our charitable organizations and we are ready to assist when and where we can. What we as Central Coventry Firefighters are not able to do this year is to take the lead, coordinate, and run the “tis the season” event. That is the only thing that we have decided on. If we are asked to be at the event, we will be there.
Understand that the “tis the season” boot drive is a town-wide event that the former Central Coventry Chief Robert Seltzer would oversee and coordinate. As the event coordinator he would work with Human services to shop for toys and to purchase other items and he would also coordinate efforts for setting up food and refreshments for the volunteers for the day of the boot drive. Most of these purchases were made with the fire district credit card; unfortunately, being in the position that the fire district is in, the district can no longer do such things. This is where we as firefighters have said we could not assist.
To mislead the public and to discredit the members of the Coventry Professional Fire Fighters was unfair, inaccurate, and moreover disrespectful to the members of the fire district and this union who have in recent weeks gone above and beyond what would be expected from any person.
David J. Gorman
Coventry Professional Fire Fighters , Local 3372