AP NEWS

Fire chief’s pick for battalion chief draws objections

March 13, 2019

Two Fort Wayne firefighters objected today to Fire Chief Eric Lahey’s decision to bypass them when he named a battalion chief.

Capt. Lance Dafforn was promoted to battalion chief by a unanimous 4-0 vote as the department’s merit commission supported Lahey’s contested pick.

At its last meeting, the merit commission required Lahey to re-interview candidates in person instead of relying on written answers to questions.

Firefighters pointed out then that the top two scorers of the top three candidates, Mike Miller and Matt Peckham, had not been chosen. The firefighters’ union contended that was “unprecedented.”

However, under the city ordinance, the chief has the power to promote within the top three.

After the meeting, Lahey said this was the first time he ever “felt that strongly” about not selecting the top candidate for a promotion.

He told the merit commission he felt Miller’s and Peckham’s past demonstrations of “poor judgment,” which sometimes resulted in discipline, weren’t consistent with promotion.

Both men disputed that characterization at the meeting, but not until after the vote.

Miller said two occasions of discipline were from more than 10 years ago and a recent occasion is subject to an unsettled appeal. He said he had received other promotions with the chief’s support. 

Peckham said he wanted to “clear my name.”

He said he had “consistently followed the rules and regulations” and “the slanders and statements (to the contrary) are false.”

He added: “The chief is choosing to promote the third most-qualified person, and... there is a drastic difference in scores.” 

Board members said it would be a good idea to work with the union to rework testing procedures and promotion policies in upcoming months to prevent future issues. 

“People who were unhappy were people who were skipped over. I understand their disappointment, but I did what I thought was right,” Lahey said after the meeting.

City ordinance allows Peckam and Miller to appeal to Allen County Circuit or Superior Court within 30 days, he said.  

Dafforn is now stationed at Station 12 on South Anthony Boulevard. He will be sworn in at 10 a.m. Friday at Citizens Square.

rsalter@jg.net