Tate steps down as interim chief

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Tommy Tate said financial considerations were the driving factor in his decision to step down as interim fire chief, a move he made on Friday.

Tate is returning to shift work as a captain, the position he served in before taking the interim job, but will continue to oversee the day-to-day management of the department, Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel said Monday.

Manuel and Tate reached an agreement on Friday, according to Tate, that would allow for him to return to shift work and his part-time job with a private company. The agreement, Tate said, is for 60 days.

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The agreement, which Tate would not release, was sent to Mayor Cecil Williamson on Friday. Williamson was out of town and unavailable for comment on Monday afternoon.

Tate, who took over as interim chief in December, said he is still interested in the full-time position as fire chief, but that the city would have to meet certain financial obligations.

As a captain, Tate was paid $44,500 annually plus overtime. He said he made $48,000 in 2006. As interim fire chief, his salary was set at $48,000.

When former Fire Chief George Davenport retired, he was making $54,000 annually.

Tate said he originally asked for $62,000 but said he would accept the position for $58,000 annually, which is how much he said he needs to continue to meet his family obligations.

While he would not say exactly how much he made with his part-time job, he said it was considerably more than what he was seeking as fire chief. Furthermore, he said, he believes the increase in salary could be justified because of the additional work the new chief will face.

Tate said that during the more than five months he has acted as interim chief that the city has spent $25,000 in overtime to cover his shift and the captain&8217;s duties.

The negotiations over salary came when the Finance Committee made Tate an initial offer of $50,000. Since that time, Williamson has said that Tate turned down the job. He disputes that characterization.

Tate said he is not trying to play hardball and has no ill will toward city leaders. However, he said he must do what is best for his family.

Councilman Woody Collins said he hates the decision being about money but understands from where Tate is coming. At the same time, Collins, who is a member of the Finance Committee, said the city has to do what is in their best interest financially.

Collins did praise Tate for working with city leaders to make sure the department continued to run smoothly during the search.

Councilman Thomas Moore, who sits on the Personnel Committee, said on Monday that he was not aware of Tate&8217;s decision. He therefore declined comment on the search.

Councilman Melvin Yelverton, the only other councilman on the Personnel Committee, could not be reached for comment.