Fire union accuses chief of harassment, discrimination

DOWNEY -- The Downey Firemen's Association filed a tort claim against the city Monday, alleging "ongoing retaliation, harassment and discrimination" since the union voted no confidence in Chief Lonnie Croom last summer.

The claim, received by City Hall today, includes several allegations, including that Croom retaliated against the union by declining to fill a vacant battalion chief position, stalled promotions and launched unfounded investigations against firefighters.

City officials denied the charges.

Fire Capt. Jorge Villanueva claimed he was told in a performance evaluation that he was "too pro union" and to "toe the company line more," according to the claim.

The fire association also complained that Croom implemented a paramedic service delivery model without consulting his firefighters, and hired new firefighter-paramedics from outside the department.

The entire claim can be read here.

"I'm disappointed the Downey Fire Association has decided to sue the citizens of Downey in this complaint," said Councilman Alex Saab. "I'm confident that our residents will see through the smokescreen and make their own informed decisions on what the true motive behind this complaint is really about."

Councilman Mario Guerra also expressed his support for Croom.

"Our fire chief has done an amazing job, worked hard through the ranks to archive this honored position and I have full confidence in his ability to lead our fire department," Guerra said. "He has implemented many progressive reforms that have increased safety and medical response times in our city. Our city is blessed to have him leading our fine fire department. He is the true meaning of public servant and has done a great job as the Fire Chief for the Downey Fire Department and has the confidence of our entire council and community."

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