December 20, 2007

Providence EMA Director Messier Fired

Monique Chartier

Citing a lack of confidence in the Director's ability to carry out his official duties in a future emergency, Mayor David Cicilline has announced that Leo Messier has been fired as Providence's Emergency Management Agency director.

Mr. Messier is perhaps best known for being a little too sanguine during last week's storm about how some Providence school children would get home on gridlocked, often impassable, streets.

That evening, Messier called the school bus situation “inconvenient.” But he said children “will get home eventually” because they have call phones to call their parents.

The bus ride (or non-ride) home that night of some school children is also on the agenda of the Providence City Council post-storm meeting tonight.

The City Council leadership, apparently unwilling to wait for a storm-response report commissioned by the mayor, has scheduled a special meeting for [tonight] to call department directors to account for why some children were stranded for up to six hours on school buses Thursday, among other problems.

The meeting will take place tonight at 6:00 pm in Council Chambers on the third floor of Providence City Hall.

UPDATE - Messier responds

Leo Messier is not accepting his termination quietly. In an interview with Jim Hummel of ABC 6 News, Mr. Messier states that he informed Mayor David Cicilline that traffic was gridlocked around the city but that he never received instruction from the Mayor upgrading the storm to an emergency or directing him to implement an emergency plan.

Who knew what when and what they did when they knew it is going to be an interesting component of the storm's aftermath.

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I can't help getting a sick feeling when I hear of these firings. The people in charge should be held responsible for the debacle last week. That means Governor Carcieri and Mayor Cicillini. Mistakes were made, learn from them, figure out how not to make those mistakes again, tighten up your ship and take responsibility for your actions. Suspend without pay, demote, retrain, issue a warning, do what you must, but reacting to a mob bent or revenge by taking the livlihood away from people to cover your own shortcomings is cowardly.

Warren was fired as a direct result of an interview with John Dipietro. Messier was fired due to remarks made and misquoted in a Providence Journal story. (see Jim Hummell's report tonite at 11.)

Two good men sacrificed to the media responsible for whipping up a lynch mob. Just who are our masters?

Posted by: michael at December 20, 2007 7:50 PM

I'm glad to see Cicilline making the right move.

Carcieri and Cicilline are accepting responsibility. That's exactly why they are firing Messier and Warren. Neither Carcieri nor Cicilline can perform the job of everyone who works for them. Their responsibility lies with choosing competent individuals who can perform assigned tasks and exercise responsible decision-making. It is the responsibility of Carcieri and Cicilline to fire those who do not meet that standard.

Yes, there is such a thing as learning from mistakes. That is suitable for people who may have made minor mistakes that can be corrected and improved upon.

But Warren didn't get fired because of a bad interview with DePetro. He got fired because he wasn't on the job when the snowstorm hit. He just happened to disclose this fact on DePetro. How many days a year does EMA operate? 5? 10? Is it too much to ask that the director show up at work on those 5-10 days?

By the way, I'm not too worried about his livilihood. He'll still be collecting a full pension funded by the good taxpayers of Cranston.

As for Messier, I'll wait to Hummell's report, but once again, I suspect he was fired for his poor decision-making and not for his misquote. Did he decline state assistance to help with the school bus problem? Did he exert proactive leadership throughout the day?

Cicilline needs to be comfortable with his EMA director's decision-making in the worst posssible scenarios: natural disaster, terrorist acts and mass casualty incidents. If Cicilline isn't comfortable, he would be doing Providence residents a disservice by continuing Messier's employment.

Posted by: Anthony at December 20, 2007 10:18 PM


The media hysteria created primarily by talk radio will not permit a review of what went on let us learn from our mistakes and move forward response from our political leaders. There must be blood left on the Roman Coliseum floor.
The perspective has gotten so over-the-top and ridiculous Dan Yorke thinks he's a war correspondent. Serious! Frank Caprio was on with Yorke and talking about his offer to pay towing charges for anyone caught in last Thursday's storm. Yorke likened Caprio's lightheaerted visit to 'half time during war coverage'. Did a triple take at the car radio upon hearing that nauseous bloviating. lol WOW!
Yorke's war comment was particularly distasteful since he's shown zero interest in hearing from the governor regarding his Iraq trip to visit Rhode Islanders exposed to R-E-A-L dangers everyday.
That meaningful topic simply doesn't carry the weight and import of snow hysteria.
Media in these parts has completely lost its' perspective on this singular event.
Providence needs to answer for kids left on buses.
Otherwise was a snowstorm with nasty gridlock.
All it ever was!

Posted by: Tim at December 20, 2007 10:20 PM

Well said Will.

The fallout from the snowfall is political gamesmanship, nothing more. The men fired are sacrificial lambs, nothing more. I don't worry for them, they themselves are political animals and understand the rules of the game as it is played in today's world. I worry for the rest of us who are being manipulated by the media and our supposed leaders.

I can barely listen to the news. Cianci's show is truly unbelievable. You would think his terms as mayor were perfect, the way he describes things. Talk about rose colored glasses.

I was stuck in the gridlock for four hours. Not once did it enter my mind that somebody should be fired for my inconvenience. What ran through my mind was how stupid I was to wait until 2:00 to leave Providence. And, how stupid those stuck with me were to wait until 2:00 to leave Providence. We all heard the same weather forecast. We all waited to be told what to do. It's called personal responsibility.

If I had a child on a bus for eight hours peeing in a bucket-shame on me. I would have found a way to get him home, period. This dependancy on government is scary, but what is truly frightening is our willingness to be lied to, tricked and be made fools of by the media and those in power.

Posted by: michael at December 21, 2007 12:41 AM

I'd be more likely to agree with you if the government refunded the tax money paid to fund snow plowing and salaries for emergency management "directors" who were either no shows at work (Warren) or didn't do anything during the storm (Messier).

If tax monies were refunded, I might agree taxpayers would have no right to complain. But the bottom line is that taxpayers paid for services that were not rendered.

If a greeter at Wal-Mart ducks out of work early without the approval of his boss, I'd expect him to be fired. I would expect no less a standard of behaviour from emergency management "executives".

And it's not "blood on the Coliseum floor." It's called "accountability".

I have no clue how we've gotten to the point where so-called public servants feel entitled to a taxpayer funded job regardless of performance, but it doesn't work that way in the real world.

It seems I run across fewer and fewer people who realize that "public service" means serving the public. Not getting a higher paying state job than they could possibly get in the private sector. Not using a public position as means to promote oneself.

No, public service should be about serving in a capacity that allows you to help better the community as a whole. But it seems like we've gone from the Age of Enlightenment to the Age of Entitlement.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2007 1:12 AM

Maybe a six inch snowstorm in December in New England wasn't on the radar screen of the EMA. I'm not saying they were right, I just think the whole thing was blown out of proportion by an overzealous media and the polititians responded like, well, polititians.

A six inch snowstorm shouldn't have turned into an "emergency." Police and the highway department should have had the thing under control. Just my opinion.

Posted by: michael at December 21, 2007 2:21 AM

"Police and the highway department should have had the thing under control."

Yes, they should have and their needs to be a thorough investigation of their activities that night.

While talk radio can be over the top sometimes, it has served a great public need for information & investigation. This state needs more Yorke's & Hummel's and less EMA Directors going home and police chief getting free gym workouts during a (minor) crisis.

This is in no way comparable to the Katrina disaster. However, it shows once again that like in New Orleans our bloated government can't even handle basic services for which we toil and pay taxes. They are good at redistributing our money and telling us how to live our lives, but performing primary duties...forget about it...

Maybe they can form a committee to appoint a committee to give us all approved snow shovels and we can all dig our way home together.

Posted by: tcc3 at December 21, 2007 9:50 AM

Here in Cranston we need an investigation to find out why, a week later my road STILL hasn't been plowed and is now destroying my suspension.

Posted by: Greg at December 21, 2007 10:39 AM

Michael, you said "I don't worry for them, they themselves are political animals and understand the rules of the game as it is played in today's world." Unless a scapegoat is now considered an animal! Warren and Messier are not political animals, they're long time public servants - a fireman and trooper. They're reputations are built upon serving and protecting. If mistakes were made, they were made up and down the chain of command. Do we fire everyone? Or do we take a decent team, work and confer, readjust and learn? Build a better program. It's my opinion that replacing Warren and Messier, only to still be led by the same, solves nothing. Political animals? I think not. They were fired because they DON"T know how to play the game! I wish RI and Providence had more like them!

Posted by: Robin at December 22, 2007 1:46 PM

Robin, you are right, bad choice of words. To get to their position they had some political finese, sadly that is how things work. Not knowing either of them, I have no reason to call them "political animals." To be honest I felt uncomfortable with that phrase right after I posted but it was too late to change it.

Posted by: michael at December 22, 2007 3:29 PM

the plain fact is that in providence the low tech response of police directing traffic at key intersections would have alleviated if not solved the gridlock-esserman was dismissive of the whole weather problem in both his arrogant response to reporters at 1 pm and his incomprehensible trip to the gym-i must be up front-i think he is a lousy police chief,never having been an actual law enforcement officer(he's been highly praised by matt jerzyk which ought to tell you something)-donnie evans abdicated his responsibility for the safety of the students-maybe he just doesn't get it,coming from houston,wher it never snows-whatever,he showed himself a miserable faailure-messier was easy to fire,so he went-he probably didn't have a big multi-year contract like the other two,plus it was always hard to figure a respectable former state police commander as part of the cicilline team-he probably wasn't comfortable there and not part of little david's inner circle(think about that -who'd want to be?)97070

Posted by: joe at December 23, 2007 11:35 AM
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