Bridgeport Fire Protection Bureau Reinstated
Following a long controversy which began on February 5, last, when an attempt was made by the members of the Board of Aldermen to wipe out the fire prevention bureau in the Bridgeport, Conn., fire department, abolish the machinery department and reduce in rank and pay, Clerk John J. Hines, this branch of the service along with the others affected, was re-established by vote of the board of fire commissioners on December 12 and on December 15 the men were restored to their former positions after serving in various fire houses during the ousting proceedings.
The result of this political attempt to disrupt several of the offices in the Bridgeport department has been watched with interest by fire officials in all parts of the country. On February 5 the Board of Aldermen at Bridgeport started the proceedings against the firemen by passing an ordinance abolishing the bureau, the machinery department, reducing the clerk in salary from $3,000 to that of a private which is $2,000 and reducing the department mason from the rank of captain to a lieutenant, which meant a loss in salary of $450 annually. This vote was passed by 16 to 8.
Public sentiment arose in favor of the firemen soon after the February 5 meeting and on February 19 the original motion to abolish the offices was rescinded, but this rescinding action was vetoed by Mayor Fred Atwater. The matter was taken further when the 13 men affected appealed to the superior court and a decision in favor of the firemen was handed down by Judge William B. Maltbie. Prior to the taking of the case to the courts, the Connecticut state legislature changed the charter of the city of Bridgeport which made the positions secure.
City Attorney John A. Cornell and Mayor Fred Atwater were not satisfied with Judge Maltbie’s finding and entered an appeal to the Connecticut supreme court of errors to test the decision of the lower tribunal. The case was scheduled for hearing in October but was postponed until the next supreme court sitting in January, 1924.
With the election in Bridgeport in November of Mayor F. W. Behrens, and a board of aldermen, the situation was completely changed and one of Mayor Behrens’s first official acts was to order City Attorney Cornell to withdraw his supreme court appeal. This move was made by Mr. Cornell thereby giving the fire commissioners the power to restore the men back to their former positions. At the December 12 meeting Commissioner John H. Finnegan moved to reimburse the men in the sum of $1,300 which was spent by them for council fees. Commissioner O. G. Righter, was against this motion and it was lost.
The ordinance creating the situation out of which grew the expense to the firemen. Commissioner Righter pointed out, came from the board of aldermen, and the proper procedure would be for the men themselves to appeal to that body for refund. Disposition of such an appeal could be referred to the board of fire commissioners for approval. The men affected will appeal to the aldermen for the money to a later meeting.