Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert is still considering a retirement deal with former Fire Chief Mike McDonnell.
The deal became null and void on Friday August 30th after McDonnell requested changes to the Memo of Understanding which Stothert did not agree to. The mayor said now she decided to release the documents over what went on during the deal because she felt the public had a right to know.
Stothert told Channel Six, “There was additional language that Mike McDonnell added in on Thursday that I did not agree to. One was that we would pay his college tuition and then at 4:15 on Friday about 15 minutes before the deadline another thing which I didn't agree to and when I didn't agree to that language he said he wasn't going to sign it.”
The sparring involved comments the mayor had made after the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services had inspected the Omaha Fire Department Training Agency. The inspection report gave the training agency a "failure" rating - seven failing grades in nine categories reviewed.
According to the mayor's office, Stothert had said the failure is unacceptable. She's quoted as saying, "The current paramedic class has been the source of controversy and increased costs in the Omaha Fire Department budget. This is a very serious matter and we owe it to the taxpayers to resolve it immediately." She is further quoted as having said, "The city is prepared to take action that is appropriate which could include discipline and discontinuing the class."
The mayor's office said McDonnell wanted language included in the retirement agreement that the mayor's comments, "were in no way directed at McDonnell or his performance as Fire Chief." He asked for further clarification that the state had confirmed that the firefighters who are students currently in the paramedic training will be eligible to sit for the National Registry test upon completion of the Omaha Fire
Department's paramedic training program."
According to the mayor's office, McDonnell also asked for an amendment to the Memo of Understanding that would require the city to pay for his school tuition expenses in 2012 and 2013. The mayor rejected that.
The mayor said McDonnell refused to sign the original deal and on Friday it expired. She said then on Tuesday he submitted three options to the city attorney while she was in Chicago.
McDonnell told Channel Six Tuesday he is now willing to sign the original MOU. He said, “It's time for us to move forward as the city of Omaha and I'm saying mayor pick one of my three options which you've already signed one, you've already signed before, or give me one that you want me to sign, but I've never received a document from her, signed by her that I can sign."
Mayor Stothert said on Thursday, she, along with city attorneys, will look over what McDonnell proposed. She said that after the deal expired on Friday, they did let McDonnell know that they would keep him on administrative leave, but that they would start an investigation into his employment with the city of Omaha.
She adds although McDonnell says he's ready to sign the original MOU, it has already expired.
She'll still have to take some time to read the option he says he's submitted again.
“I would have to read it first and see what’s in it. It can’t be identical to the other one because it has expired, and it has language that has expired. I have to see it. I would not want to sign something that I didn’t read,” she says.
Bernie Kanger continues in his role as Interim Fire Chief.