I’ve been getting a fair number of e-mails about this post I put up about the creation of a new firefighting rank and a report that was produced by the city’s Personnel Department to justify the creation of the new position.

Of all the responses I’ve had, one e-mail I just received from reader Trevor Abney sticks out. A re-cap: I asked for reader’s views on the two-page report, which I posted online.

Here’s what Abney wrote:

Where is the detail that should be supporting the “recommendation” by Dehgani?  In the private sector, when my staff makes a recommendation or request for new spending, there had better be a cost-benefit analysis to go with it or I will be ushering them out of my office at the tip of my boot!  This report gives us NO IDEA:

A)  How many of the newly-classified “Firefighter III’s” we would actually need to hire?
B)  Are Firefighter II’s to be promoted or are new hires to be recruited?
C)  Does this mean an overall increase in the number of department personnel?
D)  What is the total new department spending as a result of these changes?  A 5% increase for existing personnel with no new hires means a much smaller increase in costs than creating all new positions that must be filled.

I managed to get a few answers to Abney’s questions. Let’s take them one by one.

  • In answer to A), There’s nothing in the report, and everyone I’ve spoken has been very vague about how many people will need to be promoted to the new rank. Assistant Fire Chief Javier Mainar told me the department probably needs about 141 Firefighter IIIs, that’s three for every one of the department’s fire stations — one per shift. But there’s no cap on how many people can be promoted to the new position in the Personnel Department’s report.

    Dehgani said the number of people who will be promoted to Firefighter III is not within the realm of his department’s analysis. That’s an operational matter to be dealt with by the department itself, he said, and it would be outside of his department’s realm to attempt to ascertain how many Firefighter IIIs the department needs.

  • In answer to B), the original request to study the new rank, proposed by the firefighters’ union and Fire Chief Tracy Jarman, states that Firefighter IIs with three years of experience will be eligible for promotion to the new position. There’s no mention of that in the Personnel Department’s report, however. Dehgani said it’s his “understanding” that the new rank will be filled by promoting Firefighter IIs, but he said that hasn’t yet been finalized.
  • Dehgani said the answer to C) depends on the answer to B). And, again, he said, it’s an operational issue. No analysis was done into whether the department would indeed be increasing its ranks by creating the new position, he said. That all depends on how the fire chief depends to allocate her budget.
  • And, in answer to D), Dehgani again deferred to the department and to the City Council. How much the Fire Department spends is determined by the budget allocated to it by the City Council, he said, and it would be outside of the scope of his department’s analysis to try and figure out how much the new position would cost the city.

Here’s what Abney had to say, in general, about the report:

Where is the backup that validates the need for this new position?  If a backlog of inspections exist, give some detail.  How many?  How far behind schedule?  Are there other reasons for this backlog such as inefficiencies that can be corrected?  What alternatives were considered and rejected?  Why?

If I were the one receiving this recommendation, I would be offended.  To me, it sounds like an offset to lessen the impact of the new union contract.  In this day and age, the need for new spending better be very well documented and supported!

Dehgani said that the report his department compiled was merely a summary of weeks of research done by two personnel analysts. Those analysts have spent a long time in meetings with members of the Fire Department and researching, for example, how other fire departments around the country organize their staffing.

“Your reader thinks that because the report is only two pages, the analysis was never completed,” Dehgani said. “I could have had somebody put in everything we found and it would have been 20 pages long.”

I have put in a request under the California Public Records Act for all of the background data and analysis the Personnel Department collected in putting together this report. Dehgani said his analysts called other departments and held meeting, so I have asked him to provide me with copies of the notes they took during those meetings and phone calls.


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