KCK mayor says firefighter threatened him on social media; extra security on hand for Thursday night meeting
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Mark Holland, Mayor/CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., sent out a statement Thursday morning, calling for fellow commissioners to stand firm and ‘not allow a few people in our fire union to intimidate them.’
The statement came after Holland said a Kansas City, Kan., firefighter threatened him on social media. The Facebook post to which Holland refers came from firefighter Chris Wing. Wing posted to Facebook a recording of Holland announcing a commissioners’ meeting to discuss ‘widespread corruption in our fire department.’ Holland said the alleged corruption is jeopardizing the ‘life and safety of firefighters and citizens.’
In posting the audio of Holland, Wing also said ‘You might need security detail when you start witch hunts like so……’
According to Wyandotte County spokesman Edwin Birch, there will be extra security at Thursday night’s meeting because of the perceived threat and because of the ongoing friction.
There has been a battle brewing for years between the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. Recently, Fox 4 reported on the struggle between the two of how to best protect the city while keeping costs within the budget.
Then, an audit released this week called out more than two dozen firefighters for abuse of a legitimate practice called ‘trading time.’
Trading time is allowed under the contract between the Firefighter’s Union and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. According to the KCK firefighter contract, employees can trade up to 24 shifts a year. The idea is that if a firefighter “trades” with a co-worker, the person initiating the trade will still be paid for the day they took off, but will work for the person who worked for them at a future date.
The Unified Government report claims that only 6 out of 391 firefighters “traded” an equal number of hours, resulting in those firefighters being paid for time they did not work.
“This report reveals widespread corruption in our fire department and the taxpayers need to be made aware of it. The safety of our firefighters and our public has been compromised. Individuals have done this for their own financial gain. That is the definition of corruption,” said Holland in his statement on Wednesday.
The tension between the mayor and firefighters continued into Thursday morning when Holland saw Wing’s Facebook post. Wing is related to Kansas City, Kan., fire captain Bob Wing. The elder Wing (Bob Wing) was cited in the report as being at the top of the list for trading away shifts and receiving $64,000 for shifts he didn’t work, according to Holland and the report. Bob Wing is also business manager of the local fire union and president of the state fire union. He disputed Holland’s allegations of corruption.
“The fact of the matter is the report is not factual. Trading time in the KCK Fire Department does not cost tax payers one dollar and there is no corruption as indicated by Mayor Mark Holland,” said Bob Wing, Kansas City, Kan., fire captain.
Wing is allowed to trade away all of his shifts, but he is responsible for either covering future shifts, or paying the firefighter for the work, and must issue 1099 forms for any compensation.
Holland’s statement about feeling threatened by the Facebook post:
“Earlier this morning I reported to the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department a social media threat made to my physical safety by KCK Firefighter Chris Wing. Because this threat was made against an elected official, I also notified the Kansas Bureau of Investigations. A screen shot of the threat is attached to the email accompanying this statement. The threat was made in response to a robocall (represented in black on the screen shot) that I sent Wednesday evening alerting the public to a meeting I called for 7 pm this evening to discuss a recent report, issued at the end of 2017, that revealed corruption within our Fire Department. Wing stated: ‘You might need security detail when you start witch hunts like so…’
“The kind of threat that Chris Wing made will not be tolerated. To be sure, there are many, many good, hard working, honorable and brave firefighters on our staff. They put their lives on the line to keep us safe. But the threat Chris Wing made is intolerable. It is an example of the hostile mentality that pervades our Fire Union leadership. For years that leadership has controlled our Fire Department operations, yielding its power through a well-funded political machine that few politicians in this community have been willing to confront. That machine opposed me in the 2017 mayoral election for my willingness to hold it accountable for its corrupt practices. I paid the price for taking that principled stance by losing the election.
“Chris Wing is the son of KCK Fire Captain Bob Wing, who also serves as the business manager for IAFF No. 64. Bob Wing has been at the center of the corrupt practice of paying other firefighters to work shifts, a practice that has resulted in a loss of nearly $1 million dollars to our taxpayers and, more important, has jeopardized the safety of other firefighters and the public at large. Bob Wing was the top abuser of this practice, having paid others to work all of his shifts in 2017.
“In the wake of Chris Wing’s threat, I call on all of my fellow Commissioners to stand firm and not allow a few people in our Fire Union to intimidate them. No physical threat will ever stop me from exposing corruption like that detailed in the report that tracked the number of firefighters who paid other firefighters to not work their shifts. My hope for my community is that other elected officials will stand firm in the face of such threats.”
Mayor Holland has called for a special commissioner’s meeting Thursday night, where he will present this report.
Sources say several of the commissioners have conflicts and will not be attending the meeting, and there may not be enough who show up to do business. Mayor Holland also plans on proposing a new ordinance relating to compensation of Unified Government employees.