Hingham Firefighters Union Takes Vote Of No Confidence Against Chief
Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, August 17, 2020
Hingham Current File Photo / Kristen Arute
“On Tuesday, August 11th, 2020, the members of Hingham Firefighters Local 2398 held a meeting to discuss the current status of the union membership,” read the letter to Town Administrator Tom Mayo and the Board of Selectmen. “During this meeting a motion was made to hold a vote of ‘No Confidence’ against Steve Murphy.” The vote ultimately went to a secret ballot and passed unanimously.
The relationship between Chief Murphy and the firefighters of Hingham did not start off in this manner. “When Steve Murphy was first appointed to the position of Chief,” the letter said, “the union body was optimistic he held the safety and well being of the members in mind.” However, things soured over time when Murphy failed to follow through on his promises of regular meetings, neglected to address mold at Station 2 on North Street in a timely manner and didn’t use his training to guide the development of the department.
Instead, the letter states, Murphy seemed interested in “the betterment of his own career.” He allegedly did so by making trips to the National Fire Academy and teaching at the Mass Fire Academy. In recent months when leadership was arguably needed most, the union said that Chief Murphy was nowhere to be found. “Chief Murphy may have been ordered to do so,” said the letter, “but he made no efforts to maintain a leadership presence amongst the firefighters of this department or to continuously monitor the well being of this department during the more than three months he was absent from the station.”
The issue with the Thin Blue Line Flag being removed from the back of a fire truck was particularly upsetting. The firefighters union noted that not only was Chief Murphy unaware that the flag was hanging on the apparatus, but he never asked for input from his department as to why it was there or what it signified before signing an order denouncing it. In a subsequent Board of Selectmen meeting, community members expressed concerns that racism and white supremacy were seeping into the department.
“It is disgraceful to this Local that our Chief, who is expected to be the ultimate leader and protector of the fire department would sit in cowardice while these labels were being placed on a symbol of heroism,” the letter said in response to Murphy’s noticeable silence during the meeting. “A symbol that similarly could be used if our own department was to suffer such a tragedy.”
The letter summarized the reasons a vote of "No Confidence" had been taken, saying that it “is a result of lack of leadership, inability to communicate, failure to recognize the concerns of the department, fiscal decision making priorities, and general failure of the overall concern for the well-being and safety of the firefighters of Local 2398.” Before assuring the Selectmen and Tom Mayo that this vote would not impact their service to the residents of the Town of Hingham, the letter closed by saying that the union believes the fire department “deserves better leadership from the top.”