On May 5, 2017, allegations of racial bias and unequal treatment were levied against management of the NBFD and an investigation was launched. Fire Chief Thomas Ronalter ordered his entire staff to cooperate with the investigation. Chief Ronalter was quoted at that time stating, “the mayor is concerned and I share those concerns that anything like that would be happening in the fire department.”
As I know them, Mayor Stewart and Fire Chief Ronalter would never participate in themselves or allow any behavior by anyone reflective of racial bias or unequal treatment. They would not tolerate bias of any kind be it race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Lt. Preece, President of IAFF 992 also stated at that time that he has not seen by management or other members of the fire department any acts of racial discrimination.
Chief Ronalter has apologized for any unintentional slight or disrespect felt by the family of the Late Fire Chief Mark Carr, or by fellow department members, with regard to the installation of the formal picture of the late Chief Carr. The entire department, including the chief and his management staff, has been through diversity training, as should all city employees. The chief and management are working honorably and earnestly taking steps to educate as well as improve the working environment within the department. A continued opportunity, a chance to do so is in order.
Fast forward to Aug. 16, 2017 and the completion of an investigation conducted by Attorney Stephen Bonafonte. This investigation went far beyond the parameters of the allegations. No boundaries were set in place to contain the interviews within the parameters of the allegations.
My opinion is that critique of leadership and management style, and the accountability for, rests in the hands of the mayor and between the mayor and those in the management positions that serve under.
I sincerely believe in the character and integrity of Fire Chief Thomas Ronalter. The chief’s style of leadership sets a high bar in education, continual training, and safety, whether you are one of the most recent and diverse new hires over the past two years, reflective of our community, including women and those of various races and cultures, or whether you have longevity within the department.
I would say it takes a professional willingness to take the steps necessary or to make an effort to achieve those performance bars but I do believe the chief has set them in the genuine best interest of our NBFD. I am confident the department can and will move forward very positively under Chief Ronalter, as there have been numerous strides and improvements made since he was appointed.
Accusations based on perceived intent tarnishes our great, peaceful, harmonious accepting city for ALL people, our great city of New Britain, a rightly deserved All-American City. Tarnishing the reputation of the fire chief, potentially destroying a career, I find offensive and unacceptable. Chief Ronalter’s career spans 34 years rising within the ranks of our New Britain Fire Department where no racial allegations against him arose. Never in 34 years. He is an educated, well- trained, experienced, dedicated and committed chief, highly regarded among his peers, leading within a challenging environment, who with the approval of the mayor and council has elevated and improved the department. Thirty- four solidly reputable years.