DES MOINES, Iowa -- The tension between Des Moines Fire Department Chief John TeKippe and the Des Moines IAFF Local Union #4 boiled over Monday in front of a full city council chambers.
IAFF #4 Union President Joe Van Haalan said, "The members of this department deserve better. This is why we stand before you and say overwhelmingly we have no confidence in Chief John TeKippe and his ability to lead the department." It was a statement Chief Tekippe defiantly disagreed with. He said, "We do have solid leadership. Being a leader isn't always about being popular."
Aside from telling the city council that from 2009-2015, the Des Moines Fire Department has responded in eight minutes or less to all fires 90 percent of the time. He also voiced that he has an open door policy to rectify any problems.
"I say it repeatedly and I'll say it today and everyday. I will meet everyday, all day, until we solve all of our issues." Last month, the Des Moines Firefighters polled employee confidence in Chief TeKippe and the results were resounding. "I'm concerned you are leading one of our departments and 94 percent of the people don't have any confidence in you?" said council member Joe Gatto.
While the survey was not in Chief TeKippe's favor, some council members were dissatisfied with the union's social media platform to criticize the chief. Council member Christine Hensley said, "That doesn't help you. It doesn't help the fire department and it doesn't help our citizens. You've gotten your message across now give the city manager an opportunity to work through this."
Mayor Frank Cownie said, "Make sure we are working together to find solutions. That's what we see on a day to day basis."
Regardless of how it gets done, President Van Haalan says a final outcome could affect much more than just the firefighters. "Safety, integrity, leadership and confidence are all things that determine how that service is delivered, to you the citizens of Des Moines, you are being cheated,"said Van Haalan.
The Des Moines Fire Department applied for a grant that could add 15 more firefighters. It expects to know the outcome by the end of the month. City council members have asked that the union give City Manager Scott Sanders and Chief John TeKippe 45 to 60 days to work issues out with Union President Joe Van Haalan.