Red Wing Fire Chief Shannon Draper

Red Wing Fire Chief Shannon Draper. File photo

The Red Wing firefighters union unanimously approved a resolution of no confidence in Fire Chief Shannon Draper on May 6, the union announced Friday afternoon, July 12. The announcement came two days after Draper returned to the job following an unpaid suspension for offensive behavior.

Red Wing Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 2078, stated in a news release that members agreed May 6 to withhold publicizing the no-confidence vote in the hopes Red Wing City Council would take action.

"Unfortunately, the City Council chose to allow Chief Draper to return to work following a short suspension leaving us no other option, knowing that it may damage the reputation of the Department for which we proudly work," according to the release.

The announcement, signed by Red Wing Professional Firefighters president Peter Hanlin on behalf of the 24-member union, states firefighters no longer trust Draper, accusing him of lying, intimidation and retaliation.

"We see no means by which Shannon Draper can regain the trust of his employees or effectively lead a group of dedicated people who do not feel safe in his presence or working under his direction," the release continues.

Union members vowed to continue doing their jobs serving the Red Wing community.

Draper returned to his job as fire chief July 10 after City Council approved a two-week suspension June 24. In a disciplinary letter obtained by the Republican Eagle through a data request, the council cited violation of city policy, demeaning city employees and failing to meet the council's "expectations for performance and leadership" for the suspension.

The announcement by the firefighters union provides a clearer picture of the events leading up to Draper's suspension. Portions of an external investigation report turned over to the RE through the data request were redacted.

The union stated that it submitted a formal complaint to the city on April 18 accusing Draper of violating state labor law and the city's ethics policy. The complaint requested an investigation and for the city to "take appropriate action."

The investigation report indicated Draper was made aware of a personnel complaint in mid-April, and also that a reporter at the April 22 City Council meeting mentioned an unsubstantiated rumor that the firefighters union had already taken a vote of no confidence. On April 23 Draper called an all-department staff meeting a delivered an expletive-laden speech scolding anyone seeking to damage the fire department or him personally.

An audio recording of the meeting was given to the investigator.

In a transcript of the meeting, Draper talked about the fire department's shared goal of serving the Red Wing community and defended his time as chief, citing rules changes and the newly opened second fire station. He said he welcomed an investigation into the complaint lodged against him and hoped to learn from it, but said it would change the dynamics in the department.

The investigator concluded the speech could be interpreted as retaliatory and intimidate firefighters from participating in the complaint investigation.

The firefighters union called Draper's speech a "tirade" and "debacle," and alleged the meeting cost taxpayers $1,500 in overtime pay to recall off-duty personnel.

The union said it met May 6 to discuss the matter, which resulted in a vote of no confidence.

Draper could not be reached Friday evening for comment. He deferred comments on the suspension to City Hall in a phone interview July 11, but provided assurances about the fire department.

"We have good staff, we have good support from the community and City Council, and we're going to continue doing our job providing excellent service for the community," he said.

Draper became fire chief in August 2016. He has nearly three decades of firefighter experience and was previously fire chief in Vermillion, S.D. His annual gross salary is $106,766.40.

What's your reaction?