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Mark Richardson is a multimedia journalist, editor and writer who has worked in digital, print and broadcast media for three decades. He is a nationally recognized editor and reporter who has covered government, politics and the environment. A journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he was recently awarded a Foundation for Investigative Journalism grant and has three Associated Press Managing Editors awards for excellence in reporting.
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Fire chief offers resignation under pressure
Fire Chief J.J. Adame tendered his resignation Wednesday after failing to meet job performance standards set forward by city management six weeks ago. His resignation was effective immediately and he was paid a $45,773 lump sum severance by the city.
In making the announcement, City Manager Marc Ott – who has kept a low profile since taking over that job in February—made it clear that he has a definite vision for how he wants things done, and he felt Adame did not share that vision.
“I came here with a singular mission in regards to this great city, and that is to have it known as the best managed city in the country,” Ott said. “So when I look at personnel, when I do anything that has to do with city management, I’m looking at it in the context of pursuing that singular goal. That certainly was an undergirding factor in the decision that has been made in this case.”
Ott said Adame’s resignation was not a spur of the moment decision.
“In March, we visited with Chief Adame on issues of his leadership, effectiveness and the future of the Austin Fire Department,” he said. “At that time specific areas of improvement were identified. Over the course of the last several weeks, we have met with Chief Adame on a regular basis to discuss his progress. Regrettably, we have seen little progress and there continue to be some areas of concern.”
Ott said he has named Assistant Chief Jim Evans as acting fire chief, a position he held when Adame was hired two years ago. He said there would be a national search to find Adame’s replacement that he hoped would take about six months.”
“I think that I’m ultimately looking for the sort of leadership that I did not see displayed by this chief,” he said.
As part of his resignation, Adame signed a three-page agreement with the city that he will not make public statements about the circumstances of his departure or discuss any other aspect of the agreement. While the text of the agreement says it is to remain confidential, it is considered public information, and was released by the city Wednesday afternoon.
Sources at City Hall told In Fact Daily that one aspect of Adame’s performance that was a problem was bringing diversity to the Fire Department’s ranks. City statistics showed that the ethnic and gender makeup of the Fire Department changed little in two years shortly before he took the position and the March 15, 2008.
AFD statistics show that in Dec. 2005, there were 38 females and 956 males in the department, and in March 2008, there were 51 females and 981 males. The numbers also show that in Dec. 2005 there were 57 blacks and 150 Hispanics in AFD, and 58 blacks and 157 Hispanics in March 2008.
Adame, who was paid $155,937 a year, was hired in February 2006 after a 32-year career at the Corpus Christi Fire Department, including 18 years as chief.
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