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Tribute to ex-fire chief opposed

The Baltimore Sun

The city's two fire unions plan to oppose a City Council bill filed this week to name a fire station after former department Chief William J. Goodwin Jr.

The legislation would rename Engine Company 41 on South Conkling Street after the former chief because he "served the city of Baltimore with distinction and honor for over 30 years," according to the bill sponsored by Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.

The station is where Goodwin started his career, D'Adamo said. Goodwin joined the department in April 1975 and was appointed chief in 2002.

"The guy has done a lot of good for the city and for Baltimore," D'Adamo said yesterday. "He had to make a lot of tough decisions."

D'Adamo said that he has not spoken with the former chief about the bill, which he filed Monday, the same day that Jim Clack started as interim chief. "I wanted to surprise [Goodwin]," he said.

Goodwin, who announced his resignation in November, is credited with computerizing the department, securing millions of dollars in homeland security funds and leading the department during the Howard Street Tunnel fire and the water taxi accident that killed three people when a boat capsized in the Inner Harbor.

But the past 18 months of his tenure were marred with controversy, including the deaths of a firefighter and a recruit in blazes that were fought in ways that violated national safety standards, several racially charged incidents and a promotional exam cheating scandal.

In that time, the chief's relationship with the unions soured, and they held multiple no-confidence votes in the chief's leadership.

"Goodwin destroyed the morale of the department; we became a national embarrassment, and our reputation was tainted," said Richard G. Schluderberg, the president of the firefighter's union.

He said that his organization voted Tuesday night to write a letter to council members opposing the bill and said that his members would picket City Hall if it moved forward.

Stephan G. Fugate, the head of the fire officers union, echoed those concerns.

Last year, D'Adamo introduced legislation to name a firehouse after Allan M. Roberts, a firefighter who died in a fire in Greektown. That legislation passed out of committee but was pulled before it came to the full council after concerns were raised about Roberts' past.

D'Adamo, citing respect for Roberts' family, declined to specify what the concerns were.

Instead, the city will rename a portion of the street in front of his firehouse for Engine Company 27 and Truck Company 26, in the 4300 block of Mannasota Ave. A ceremony renaming it as Fallen Fire Fighters Way is scheduled for today.

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