Veteran Ogdensburg firefighter suspended without pay, laid-off union member reinstated
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – Ogdensburg City Manager Stephen Jellie has restored one firefighter position in wake of two recent retirements, but has also suspended 32-year veteran Ron Bouchard without pay.
Bouchard was issued a 30-day suspension to an assistant chief in the department without past incident or notice, according to Union President Jason Bouchard.“As of 8:30 this morning, Assistant Chief Mr. Ronald Bouchard was suspended for 30 days, without pay. This discipline was, once again issued without warning or counseling. Seemingly as a way to silence Assistant Chief Bouchard, who also serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of our Union, City Manager Jellie seeks to make an example of Ron. Mr. Bouchard has continuously bargained and fought for our Union harder than anyone currently serving this city. We, the Local 1799, think that Mr. Jellie’s decision is retribution in action, and in no way serves our departmental mission, well-being, nor the purported good faith the city manager would like to establish with our Union,” Jason Bouchard said.
Jason says Ronald was suspend for doing his job.
“On Jan. 4, Mr. Bouchard and his crew responded to and quelled a structure fire. However, their actions did not meet Mr. Stephen Jellie’s newly, abruptly imposed, untrained directives. With a miniscule crew of only five, Assistant Chief Bouchard, a 32-year dedicated employee, mitigated the potential disaster. The quick thinking by he and his crew avoided something that could have been much worse,” Jason said.
Jason said the suspension, which was issued Jan. 12, came more than a week after the incident. He questioned why there was a delay and why he wasn’t counseled first, considering his unblemished 32-year record.
“Our Union is steadfast in our distrust of current city administration. To discredit and punish a 32-year veteran for performing his duties is unconscionable. This only proves that our unanimous distrust of this group is justified. Mr. Jellie and the four men he represents have waged an all-out war on our department, our service we provide, and our families. Local 1799 will not stand by as Mr. Jellie continues to discipline our members however he sees fit,” Jason said.
Jason also called for the public to show support for the suspended firefighter.
“I ask the public to harshly consider Mr. Jellie’s directives and more importantly ask the city manager what exactly, other than destroying our invaluable department, is he doing to better Ogdensburg? We will wait,” he said.
Jellie confirmed the suspension, but did not provide details.
On Tuesday Jellie issued the following statement.
“The City of Ogdensburg will reinstate the employment of one of the four remaining laid off firefighters, effective 13 January 2021 – the total number of laid off firefighters is now 3. The City continues to urge the IAFF Local 1799 President Jason Bouchard to meet and collectively work on a plan that enables the city to regain a strong financial standing and return all laid off firefighter personnel to duty. Since taking office in January 2020, the new Ogdensburg City Council has acted decisively to save the city from financial ruin, while working equally as hard to begin the revival of the city, and it is our sincere desire to have IAFF Local 1799 join us in those efforts.”