Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray publicly criticized Mayor Tom Tait at a city council meeting Tuesday over a phone call he had with Orange County Fire Authority Chief Jeff Bowman exploring the possibility of outsourcing the city’s fire department.
Murray questioned why Tait would talk to Bowman without notifying the city’s fire chief, employee unions and city manager.
Tait said he was driving down the highway, contemplating the city’s recent tax subsidy deals for luxury hotels and Disneyland. He said he recalled Santa Ana’s decision in 2012 to outsource its fire department to the county Fire Authority and wondered whether Anaheim would save money by doing the same.
So he called Bowman, a friend, and asked him about how much Anaheim would save.
“And I said, ‘do you think the firefighters would be interested?’ and he says, ‘I don’t know, I’ll ask,’” Tait said at the city council meeting. “So he put out a call, and I said, ‘if they’re not, I’m not interested.’”
According to Tait, Bowman reached out to the city firefighters’ union to gauge their level of interest in a preliminary study.
Murray, who put a discussion of Tait’s conversation on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, said Tait’s phone call and Bowman’s outreach to the fire union caused a “firestorm” of speculation and concern about whether the mayor is interested in outsourcing the whole department.
“It’s quite disappointing that both our fire chief, city manager and your colleagues had to hear about not just a discussion of ‘would this be feasible’ but literal instruction of another agency to reach out to one of our departments, and instruct them to vote on an executive level whether they would consider moving forward,” Murray said.
Complicating matters further is the fact the city is in the middle of negotiations with its fire union.
According to a city staff report, the city is “obligated to provide any…